BETJEMAN, Sir John, letters, autographs, documents, manuscripts

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Betjeman as poet and artist

BETJEMAN, Sir John (1906-1984). Poet.
Autograph manuscript signed ('John Betjeman') of his poem 'Treligga Cliffs, Delabole', 1 page folio, 15 May 1965, dedicated to Pip and Rosalind Hechle. Together with ten Autograph Letters Signed to members of the Oakley and Hechle families, 26 January 1960 to 20 January 1975, one with a sketch of a Cornish landscape, 6 postcards, 11 greetings cards and 2 signed watercolours by Betjeman.
'Dear Pip, dear Rosalind, these lines are written
To bring you back to Cornwall, South-west Britain.'
Betjeman's lifelong love for Cornwall is well known, beginning with childhood holidays with his parents in Trebetherick. Joan and Roland 'Rea' Oakley, to whom much of this collection of correspondence is addressed, were part of the Trebetherick 'gang' and remained friends for life.
'Those moments tasted, loved & never done
Of long surf breaking in the mid-day sun
The far-off blow hole booming like a gun
...
'And all the time that you are far away
Great seas will thunder down our rocky bay
And welcome you on your returning day'
This poem was published in a later collection as 'Cornish Cliffs' with several differences. It reflects his style of melancholy nostalgia, although none of his poetry of this later era reached the same individual popularity as earlier work.

Philip 'Pip' Hechle was evidently known or related to the Oakleys, his letter to Joan of 1 July 1964 alluding to the announcement of his engagement.
'... What glorious news! ... It is a most odd thing how often moments of stress, like you both & Pip had about the future of his job, that he suddenly gets a lasting job & engaged into the bargain to a girl you like. ...'
Pip Hechle was probably a relative of Anne Hechle, a renowned calligrapher who was also a personal friend of Betjeman's. She wrote out a fine presentation copy of his poem 'A Ballad of the Investiture', which was presented to Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother by Betjeman as Poet Laureate in 1977. Two postcards sent to the Hechles in 1971 from Australia refer to Anne Hechle and asking after her.

This correspondence spanning 15 years also reflects Betjeman's changing personal circumstances. Amongst the letters is an acceptance note from Mr and Mrs John Betjeman for the wedding of Pip and Rosalind and a further note referring to a monetary gift, but there are also many references throughout to Elizabeth (Cavendish), including a handwritten note from her on a postcard. His marriage had become troubled from the 1950s following his wife Penelope's conversion to Roman Catholicism, and they reached a joint decision to separate amicably, although they never formally divorced. He met Lady Elizabeth Cavendish in 1951, and their relationship lasted until his death.

Watercolour paintings by Betjeman rarely appear on the market.
[No: 26594]

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