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By A. N. Wilson

John Betjeman was once via a long way the most well-liked poet of the 20 th century; his gathered poems bought greater than million copies. As poet laureate of britain, he turned a countrywide icon, yet at the back of the general public guy have been doubts and demons. The poet most sensible identified for writing hymns of compliment to athletic middle-class women at the tennis courts led a tempestuous emotional existence. for a lot of his fifty-year marriage to Penelope Chetwode, the daughter of a box marshal, Betjeman had a courting with Elizabeth Cavendish, the daughter of the Duke of Devonshire and lady-in-waiting to Princess Margaret. Betjeman, a religious Anglican, was once laid low with guilt in regards to the storms this emotional triangle caused.

Betjeman, released to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of the poet's beginning, is the 1st to exploit totally the enormous archive of non-public fabric when it comes to his deepest existence, together with actually 1000's of letters written by way of his spouse approximately their existence jointly and aside. the following too are chronicled his many friendships, starting from "Bosie" Douglas to the younger satirists of personal Eye, from the Mitford sisters to the loopy Gang. it is a social gathering of a much-loved poet, a courageous campaigner for structure in danger, and a hugely well known public performer. Betjeman was once the vintage instance of the depression clown, whose unhappiness stumbled on its excellent temper track within the hymns of a poignant Anglicanism.

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Anna Seward: A Constructed Life 28 thought him a persona non grata. T he E yam parish had a history of intermittent problems with D issenters, which caused T homas much anguish. In 1776, his young curate, the short-sighted and profoundly deaf Peter Cunningham,73 wrote to him with the good news that St. Lawrence’s was more crowded than usual because there were no more Methodist preachers in E yam Chapel. 75 Taking into consideration Seward’s love of sharing a good story, it is completely out of character for her to ignore this fascinating one, unless she did indeed write about W illiam Seward and was censored posthumously by her family or her editor.

It is quite remarkable, however, particularly when taking her predilection for anecdotes into consideration, that she writes nothing of her celebrated U ncle W illiam, who had the extraordinary distinction of becoming known as the first Methodist martyr. Originally a successful City broker in Exchange Alley, William was a kindly philanthropist who worked solidly for the London Charity Schools. He converted to Methodism when he met Charles W esley in 1738 and became closely involved with the early E vangelistic campaigns when the religion was still very much part of the Church of England.

47 When the plague struck in 1666 and the natural reaction was to shut up one’s house and flee the area, the villagers, led by their rector William Mompesson, remained to face the outbreak so as to confine the disease to the immediate area. Seward wrote that the nature of the mountainous countryside made it impossible for the villagers to be forcibly interned, ‘a regiment of soldiers ... could not have detained them against their will’. T hey chose to remain and their strategy worked, but at a cost of many lives.

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