Poetry News

Newly Unearthed Letters from Sir John Betjeman to his Secret Mistress to Go on Display

By Harriet Staff

From the Daily Mail:

For decades, Britain’s best-loved modern poet was torn between his love for three women – his faithful wife, Penelope; long-term mistress Lady Elizabeth Cavendish, a childhood friend of the Queen; and Margie Geddes, who was revealed to have been his lover only after she died in 2006.

Now, almost 30 years since the Poet Laureate’s death, details of their secret affair have been revealed for the first time following the emergence of more than 100 love letters Mrs Geddes had kept hidden under her bed.

The deeply touching notes show the intensity of Betjeman’s ardour during their liaison, where he writes of their ‘delicious and wonderful evenings’ together.

In one he says: ‘Darling Margie, I fear you are bound to haunt my mind for the rest of my life. I like this haunting. I feel I can rest in you and depend on you.’

In another, he writes: ‘I long to be in your arms and comforted and able to talk to you for hours alone... It is very selfish of me to demand so much of you in sympathy and warmth but as you have both I must rest in them.’

In a note sent in October 1970, he asks when his lover is free to have lunch with him, adding: ‘I long and ache to see you. Love Jo.B.’

Even before his marriage, Betjeman had a reputation as a ladies’ man and had been engaged three times. But it was not until the death of Mrs Geddes, aged 98, that it emerged the mother of two was not only a friend but his lover.

The affair was revealed by her son Andrew, who said it was her wish that, once she was gone, the world should learn the truth.

The letters will be part of a larger exhibition of "other forms" of Betjeman's work at Tom Brown’s School Museum in Uffington, Oxfordshire, where he once lived.

Full article here.

Originally Published: August 30th, 2012