Betjeman: The Bonus of Laughter by Bevis Hillier - review by Allan Massie

Allan Massie

Less of the Tiresome Teddy

Betjeman: The Bonus of Laughter


John Murray 784pp £25 order from our bookshop

WITH THIS THIRD volume Bevis Hillier brings his monumental life of John Betjeman to a triumphant conclusion. It has taken him twenty-eight years, which is longer than a third of Betjeman's own life span. I call it triumphant because Hillier has retained his enthusiasm and admiration for his hero to the end. There is no sign, such as you find in many biographies, that the author has come to dislike, or at least resent, his subject. This biography is immensely detailed (a true work of scholarship), intelligent, generous, sympathetic, and often entertaining.

I wish I could say it was continuously interesting. But it isn't. Parts are very boring indeed. This is a consequence of Hillier's method: he has chosen to include everything, so there are chapters recounting Betjeman's campaigns-- themselves worthy enough - to prevent certain buildings from being pulled down. No

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