Poet Laureate


John Betjeman, son of Ernest Edward Betjemann (a furniture manufacturer) and Mabel Bessie Dawson, was born at Parliament Hill Mansions, north London. John adopted his style of spelling the family name around the age of twenty-one (the name can be traced back to Dutch or German origin). After attending Byron House Montessori School, where he was briefly taught by T. S. Eliot, Betjeman went on to enroll in Magdalen College, Oxford where he studied for three years. After refusing his father's offer to enter the family business, Betjeman worked in various jobs including a position as private secretary to Sir Horace Plunkett, as an assistant editor of the Architectural Review, as a film critic of the London Evening Standard, and as the British Press attaché in Dublin during World Ward II. During this time Betjeman also proved to be a prolific writer. He published frequently during the 1930s and 1940s and achieved great success when the first edition of his Collected Poems (1958) sold over 100,000 copies. Readers were very receptive to Betjeman's work as it was easily accessible and presented them with the nearly forgotten pleasures of rhyme and metre - qualities that were rarely found in modern poetry. Furthermore, Betjeman's poetry focuses on the everyday experiences of his readers, another rarity amongst his contemporaries. By in the 1950's, Betjeman focused on book reviewing, broadcasting and writing poetry. His position as a broadcaster enabled him to attract public attention on his personal passion for architecture; he even managed to save many buildings that were being threatened with demolition. A celebrated national figure, John Betjeman received many honours, including being chosen as poet laureate in 1972 and receiving a knighthood in 1969. During his later years the poet suffered from the onset of Parkinson's disease, and after a series of strokes he died at his home in Trebetherick, Cornwall, on 19 May 1984.

  • Amis, Kingsley . “Betjeman, Sir John (1906–1984).” Rev. M. Clare Loughlin-Chow. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004.
  • Betjeman, John. Mount Zion; or, In Touch with the Infinite. London: James Press, 1931.
  • --. Continual Dew: A Little Book of Bourgeois Verse. London: J. Murray, 1937. PR6003 .E77 C65 1977 Robarts Library
  • (Under pseudonym Epsilon) Sir John Piers. Mullingar, Ireland: Westmeath Examiner, 1938.
  • --. Old Lights for New Chancels: Verses Topographical and Amatory. London: J. Murray, 1940.
  • --. New Bats in Old Belfries. London: J. Murray, 1945. PR6003 .E77 N4 Robarts Library
  • --. Slick but Not Streamlined: Poems and Short Pieces. Selected and with an introduction by W. H. Auden. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1947. aud .A844 Z5B48 1947 Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library
  • --. Selected Poems. Compiled and with an introduction by John Sparrow. London: J. Murray, 1948, 1952. PR6003 .E77 A6 1952 John M. Kelly Library at St. Michael's College
  • --. A Few Late Chrysanthemums: New Poems. London: Murray, 1954. PR6003 .E77 F4 1954 John M. Kelly Library at St. Michael's College
  • --. Poems in the Porch. London: S.P.C.K., 1954. PR6003 .E77 P6 John W. Graham Library at Trinity College
  • --. Collected Poems. Compiled and with an introduction by the Earl of Birkenhead. London: J. Murray, 1958; Boston, M.A.: Houghton, 1959; 3rd enlarged edition published as John Betjeman's Collected Poems. London: J. Murray, 1970; Boston, M.A.: Houghton, 1971; 4th edition, London: J. Murray, 1979. PR6003 .E77 A17 1963, PR6003 .E77 A17 1970, PR6003 .E77 A17 1972, PR6003 .E77 A17 1979 Robarts Library
  • --. John Betjeman (selected poems). London: E. Hulton, 1958.PR6003 .E77 A6 1958 Robarts Library
  • --. Poems. London: Vista Books, 1960. PR6003 .E77 A173John M. Kelly Library at St. Michael's College
  • --. Summoned by Bells (autobiography in verse). Boston, M.A.: Houghton, 1960; new edition, London: J. Murray, 1976. PR6003 .E77 Z52 1976 Robarts Library
  • --. A Ring of Bells. Selected and with an introduction by Irene Slade. London: J. Murray, 1962; Boston, M.A.: Houghton, 1963.
  • --. High and Low. London: J. Murray, 1966; Boston, M.A.: Houghton, 1967. PR6003 .E77 H5 1966 John M. Kelly Library at St. Michael's College
  • --. A Nip in the Air. London: J. Murray, 1974; New York, N.Y.: Norton, 1976. PR6003 .E77 N5 Robarts Library
  • --. Metro-land. New York, N.Y.: Warren, 1977.
  • --. The Best of Betjeman. Selected by John Guest. London: J. Murray, 1978. PR6003 .E77 A6 1978 John M. Kelly Library at St. Michael's College
  • --. Church Poems. London: J. Murray, 1981. PR6003 .E77 C5 Robarts Library
  • --. Uncollected Poems. London: J. Murray, 1982. PR6003 .E77 U6 1982 John M. Kelly Library at St. Michael's College

Robert Bridges was born October 23, 1844, in Walmer, Kent. Educated at Eton College from 1854 to 1863, at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, from 1863 to 1867, where he took a B.A., and finally at St. Bartholomew's Hospital, London, where he completed his M.B. in 1874. He served as a physician successively in London at St. Bartholomew's Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Children on Great Ormond Street, and at the Great Northern Hospital, Holloway, before retiring from his medical practice in 1882 to live at Yattendon. Two years later, on September 3, 1884, he married Monica Waterhouse. They had three children, Elizabeth, Margaret, and Edward. Before retirement he had published four books of verse, but afterwards his writing took up much more of his energy. In 1893 he published a study of Milton's prosody. By 1905 a collection of his poetry and verse plays occupied six volumes. He edited the works of poets such as Mary Coleridge and Digby Mackworth Dolben, but he also befriended one of the greatest Victorian poets, then utterly known, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and after his death, edited and published his collected poems in 1918. This act od dedicated friendship alone puts modern English poetry in debt to Bridges. Oxford University awarded him a D. Litt. in 1912, and a year later he became Poet Laureate and co-founded, with Henry Bradley and Walter Raleigh, the Society for Pure English. Bridges experimented with quantitative hexameters and unrhyming verse late in his life, when he lived near Oxford. His The Testament of Beauty (1929), in four cantos, is the pre-eminent long philosophical poem in English before T. S. Eliot's The Four Quartets. Bridges died on April 21, 1930, in Chilswell, Oxford. Here are Bridges' principal books of poetry:

  • Bridges, Robert. Poems. London: Pickering, 1873. end .B753 A155 Fisher Rare Books Library
  • --. The Growth of Love. London: Bumpus, 1876. Revised edn. Oxford: Daniel, 1889. end .B753 G76 1890 Fisher Rare Books Library
  • --. Eros & Psyche. London: Bell, 1885. PR4161 .B6 N38 Robarts Library. Revised edn. 1894. end .B753 E76 1894 Fisher Rare Books Library
  • --. The Shorter Poems. London: Bell, 1890-94.
  • --. Shorter Poems Book V. Oxford: H. Daniel, 1893.
  • --. Poetical Works. 6 vols. London: Smith, Elder, 1898-1905.
  • --. Poetical Works. London: Oxford University Press, 1912.
  • --. October and Other Poems, with Occasional Verses on the War. London: Heinemann, 1920. PR4161 .B6 O38 Robarts Library
  • --. New Verse: Explanations of the Prosody of My Late Syllabic Free Verse. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1925. end .B753 N48 1925 Fisher Rare Books Library
  • --. The Tapestry. London, 1925.
  • --. The Testament of Beauty. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1929. PR 4161 .B6T4 Robarts Library

For more about Bridges' works and life, see

  • Hamilton, Lee Tamplin. Robert Bridges: An Annotated Bibliography, 1873-1988. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1991. Z 8119.2 .H36 Robarts Library
  • Phillips, Catherine. Robert Bridges: A Biography. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. PR 4161 .B6Z82 Robarts Library
  • --. “Bridges, Robert Seymour (1844-1930).” Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004.
Index to poems
  • Gill, Stephen. "Wordsworth, William (1770–1850)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed. Ed. Lawrence Goldman. May 2010.