Archive materials from the John Betjeman Library

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

This small collection contains manuscripts of stray archival materials found loose within the working library collection. Included are: letters and cards (from Betjeman himself, and also to Betjeman from family, friends, literary and other acquaintances including aspiring poets, publishers and fans); draft articles and reviews, drawings; notes; and manuscript poem drafts/fragments (mostly unpublished), the majority of which have been partially (because of the illegibility of his handwriting!) transcribed and listed. Also included are original and copy typescripts and manuscripts of unpublished works (mainly literary, but also including some photograph albums) by friends and acquaintances of Betjeman, many of them signed by the author - these are fully transcribed.

Many of the books in the library have also been heavily annotated by Betjeman (with jottings, rough notes, poem fragments etc.), and these inscriptions have also been partially listed and transcribed.

Administrative / Biographical History

Sir John Betjeman (1906-1984), poet, broadcaster and architectural historian, was the son of E. E. Betjeman and was educated at Marlborough College before going up to Magdalen College, Oxford in 1925. He married Penelope Valentine Hester (ne Chetwode) in 1933, and the couple had one son and a daughter. He began publishing poetry and pieces on topography and architecture, subjects which continued to occupy him throughout his life, in the Twenties and obtained a job at The Architectural Review in 1930. Betjeman succeeded Cecil Day Lewis as Poet Laureate in 1972, and he was to hold the position until his death. He has been described as a 'national monument', the most popular poet Laureate of the twentieth-century. Certainly his poetry, including a verse autobiography Summoned by Bells (1960), reached a wide audience, and he raised the public profile of architectural history, particularly that of English Parish Churches, through his published writings and his popular television broadcasts on this topic.

Betjeman accompanied his family on holidays in Trebetherick, North Cornwall, as a boy and he retained a life-long affection for and association with the region which is reflected in his publications, including Victorian and Edwardian Cornwall from Old Photographs, compiled by John Betjeman and A.L. Rowse (1976) and Betjeman's Cornwall (1984).

An immensely well-known and well-loved public figure, Betjeman was friends with a great many poets and writers of his day, including the novelist Kingsley Amis, the writer and critic Cyril Connolly, the cricket commentator John Arlott, and the Sitwell family, as well as many younger writers, including the man who was to succeed him as Poet Laureate, Ted Hughes. Betjeman's working library includes many books gifted and inscribed to Betjeman by these, and other prominent literary and public figures of the twentieth-century. He was knighted in 1969, awarded a CBE in 1960, and a CLitt in 1968.

Conditions Governing Access

Usual EUL arrangements apply.

Note

The majority of loose items found contained within the Library have been retained within book on which they were originally found. You will therefore need to give the book reference code in order to request the item (e.g. BL 1104).

Listed by Charlotte Berry, Archivist, 13 May 2004 and encoded into EAD 28 May 2004.

Other Finding Aids

Detailed lists, transcripts and indexes are available on request.

Conditions Governing Use

Usual EUL restrictions apply.

Custodial History

The working library of Betjeman has been held at the University of Exeter Library (Special Collections) since 1997: EUL MS 117 contains manuscripts of stray archival materials found loose within the working library collection.

Related Material

EUL MS 240 (a small collection of literary papers of John Betjeman, purchased by the Library) is also available at Exeter University Special Collections. The largest collection of Betjeman papers is held at the University of Victoria Library, Canada.

Papers of Betjeman are also found in many other repositories, including the following: British Library, University of Oxford (Bodleian Library; St. Edmund Hall, Merton, Pembroke, Christ Church, Worcester Colleges), University of Cambridge (University Library, King's, Clare, Emmanuel, Magdalene and Clare Colleges), University of Leeds (Brotherton Library), University of Durham, University of Hull, University of Reading, University College London, Trinity College Dublin, Cheltenham College, Eton School, Clifton College (Bristol), Northamptonshire Record Office, Birmingham Reference Library, Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution, London Metropolitan Archives, National Sound Archive, BBC Written Archives Centre, Royal Society of Literature, Royal Institution, Tate Gallery, British Library, National Library of Wales, National Library of Scotland and the State University of New York, Buffalo, USA.

Bibliography

Not known.