Collins Guide to Parish Churches of England and Wales Including the Isle of Man
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A leading modern champion of the values of an older England, John Betjeman was born in Highgate, London, to a well-off merchant family. The loneliness and suffering of his upbringing, first under nursemaids and then at a series of schools, often surface in his poetry. He went to Magdalene College, Oxford, where he belonged to the same smart social set as Evelyn Waugh. Deliberately free from the difficulties of much modern verse, Betjeman's poetry harks back to a more accessible British tradition that includes Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Thomas Hardy. With quiet wit he resisted the debasements of modern mass culture in favor of an older England simpler, more rural, and more religious than the current one. Both W. H. Auden and Philip Larkin especially admired his work, and Auden even edited a selection of it. His harsher critics have found him unintellectual and sentimental. His poetry has achieved a huge circulation in Great Britain, with the Collected Poems (1958) reputedly selling more than 100,000 copies. Considered a national institution, he succeeded Cecil Day Lewis as poet laureate in 1972. Betjeman worked in a variety of media and achieved wide public attention as host for a television series on the history of British architecture, one of his prime interests. He wrote a great deal on architecture, especially for the Architectural Review. Betjeman died in 1984.