Even in John Betjeman’s centenary year, journalists still constantly refer to him as ‘the nation’s teddy bear’. But, as this lively biography demonstrates, a better description would be ‘the nation’s favourite only child’. Like many an only child, Betjeman throughout his life craved to be pampered and petted and, above all, noticed. To achieve the first two of these objectives he deployed an irresistibly self-mocking charm. To achieve the third he cultivated the sort of harmless eccentricity that, even in his adult years, had him carrying around, as his inseparable companion, a teddy bear called Archie.