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News > Arts & Culture > Literature > Being Betjeman by Jonathan Smith

Being Betjeman by Jonathan Smith

"It's not a biography, it's not an autobiography, it's not a play … it's just a book!"
9 Dec 2020

Jonathan Smith’s, Being Betjeman(n) published in November 2020

Jonathan Smith (Common Room 67-02) has written a new book, now available on Amazon and direct through Galileo Publishers

Source: Galileo Publishing

When did you last hear of a poetry book selling in the millions? Well, since 1958 when John Betjeman’s Collected Poems was first published, sales have exceeded 2.5 million and are still going strong.  When he died in 1984, still as Poet Laureate, he was by far the nation’s favourite poet (as Philip Larkin acknowledged). Thanks to his work as a broadcaster and architectural campaigner he was also a celebrity. However his life was full of insecurities, frustrations and busted relationships, and in terms of his work, his comments that ‘he was not taken seriously by the TLS’ said it all.

Jonathan Smith, author of many successful novels, but also a playwright and educationalist, wrote two radio plays dramatising Betjeman’s life which were first broadcast on the BBC in 2017 and which have now been combined into a single narrative, part biography, part fiction but providing an extraordinary – and above all, highly entertaining – journey into the mind and the life of John Betjeman.

The book follows the poet from his time at Oxford where he wandered around clutching a teddy bear, then having been kicked out, to the well trodden route of Prep School master (he was taken on as a cricket coach, knowing absolutely nothing about the game). Then onto his unfortunate marriage to Penelope Chetwode an English travel writer, and the only daughter of Field Marshal Lord Chetwode, who sadly was more interested in horses than humans.

Being Betjeman(n) is a gem of a book which provides the reader with a highly entertaining foray into the world of one of Britain’s most loved literary (and much more!) figures.

In Jonathan’s own words: “It’s not a biography, it’s not an autobiography, it’s not a play … it’s just a book!”

Hear the author discussing the book in a podcast created by the Philip Larkin Society: Jonathan Smith (novelist, playwright and teacher) by Tiny In All That Air • A podcast on Anchor


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