Tag Archives: John Betjeman

An intriguing  letter from an unidentified  friend of W.H.Davies to Ivor Brown

Betjeman mentioned letter 001Found in a pile of papers around a year ago at Jot HQ is this draft of a barely decipherable ( hence the gaps and possible misreadings of words ) and incomplete letter written in pencil on the back of a typed Roneoed page headed ‘ The Association of British Chambers of Commerce/5thOctober, 1942/Parliamentary Bulletin No 462A/Information by question and answer. The draft letter is addressed to ( Ivor ) Brown, author of A Word in your Ear( 1942), a book that explores the history of certain words. The writer cannot be identified from any clues in the letter , though what clues there are might open up paths for Jot fans who are familiar with Cheltenham and the Cotswolds. Any with information are welcome to write in.


Dear Mr Brown,

Allow one old Cheltonian some 15 years your senior to thank you for the pleasure I have got from A Word in your Ear  in addition to the pleasure  from many similar examples  of lexical intercourse. There is much I should like to refer to, one; the fact that Nesh is a not uncommon word amongst the poor country people. As to clout too, my father, a Cotswolder from Daglingworth & like my son, an old Cheltonian , never spoke of Cleeve Hill, but always of Cleeve Court. I much enjoyed the quotation from Betjeman, but have never come across Silver ( ? ). Cheltenham has however produced one fellow poet (  ).Frederick Myers is much underrated for his poetry which is swamped by his Psychical fame. It should be remembered, if only for the lines originally on a grave at Grindelwald , but also on the memorial in Wasdale churchyard on the four men killed on Scafell Pinnacle some 30 years ago:-


           On moment stood they as the angels stand

           High in the stainless imminence of air;

           The next they were not, to their fatherland

           Translated unaware.


I do not see my book & my son’s as a classic to rank near him, being myself too ( ?  ) in verse to be under any illusion. If you can spare a moment with them you may amused by my ( ?   ) jingle & by The Dear Inn, which laments the closing of the great coaching inn above Naunton on the Cheltn. – Stow road, done, so it was said, by the squire of Guiting, who disliked his farm labourers frequenting it. My son’s little book was written originally as a Gunner before he got his commission in the R.A. He was my partner here & is now in Egypt. You may like my poem to our dear old friend W. H. Davies, the Welsh poet & ‘Super-tramp’. (I had to do most of his affairs & attended his cremation) as we saw him so often sitting surrounded by his beloved pictures– mainly portraits of himself & his magnificent Epstein hair.
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Sir John Betjeman’s last poem

Found - a broadside poem poem of twenty lines in honour of the famous old central London church St.Mary-le-Strand. It dates from about 1980 and is signed by John Betjeman in what one cataloguer calls his 'frail hand of old age'. It was published from his address at 29 Radnor Walk, SW3 and was part of the campaign to raise funds for the restoration of this masterpiece of baroque.

This copy came with a letter from the church to a professor at Ilorin University, Nigeria. The secretary of the trust, a Ms Anne Butters, thanks him for his £20 donation and informs him  that JB's publisher, John Murray, says that this was the last poem he ever wrote. So far unknown to 'go ogle' (as he may have called it) and not in any major UK library, it is decidedly scarce...
A single sheet of imitation parchment paper, printed in black on recto only. 296 x 206mm.


Shall we give Gibbs the go by
Great Gibbs of Aberdeen,
Who gave the town of Cambridge
The Senate House Serene;
Every son of Oxford
Can recognise he's home
When he sees upon the skyline
The Radcliffe's mothering dome.
Placid about the chimney pots
His sculptured steeples soar,
Windowless he designs his walls
Above the traffic's roar.

When ever you put stone on stone
You edified the scene,
Your chaste baroque was on its own,
Great Gibbs of Aberdeen.
A Tory and a Catholic
There's nothing quite so grand
As the baroque of your chapel
Of St Mary in the Strand.