[Sir] John Betjeman

Life
1906-84; the English poet, architectural historian and wartime cultural attaché in Dublin; displayed growing Irish sympathy and established many connections amid the remaining Anglo-Irish gentry whose homes he treated alternately with admiration and affectionate ridicule, remarking on dilapidated Georgian country houses and the misguided burning of some of them; an IRA plan to assassinate him was abandoned as his real character became better understood; the Irish govt. gave a farewell dinner at his departure; Irish works incl. Ghastly Good Taste and some poems, e.g., ‘Netterville, Netterville ...’; he also wrote a study of Francis Semple, the architect of Austin Clarke’s Black Church and other noted Irish buildings including the GPO. ODNB OCEL

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Criticism
See Maurice Craig’s Dublin 1660-1860, and refs. in Mark Bence-Jones’s Ascendancy. Frank ’Connor quotes, ‘Sunday in Ireland’ (Book of Ireland, [var. edns.] p.27-28).

Note: Betjeman is a leading character in Arthur O‘Riordan‘s Improbably Frequency (Dublin Th. Festival 2004), a musical drama on Erwin Schrödinger et al. in Emergency Ireland [World War II], and is treated at some length in Robert Cole, Propaganda, Censorship and Irish Neutrality in the Second World War [International Communications] (Edinburgh UP 2006) and Clair Wills, That Neutral Island: A Cultural History of Ireland During the Second World War (London: Faber & Faber 2007).

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Commentary
Bernard Adams, Denis Johnson (Lilliput Press 2002), writes: ‘John Betjeman (who had now “gone native” to the extent of opening and closing his letters from the British Embassy in Irish) write to the Controller of Programmes in London advocating a looser rein for Johnston’ (p.211), and further: ‘Betjeman had taken to calling himself “Seán”.’ (p.213.)

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