Museum to display Betjeman love letters
SECRET love letters written by Wantage poet John Betjeman are to go on show for the first time in a village museum.
The 70 letters and postcards have been given to the Tom Brown School Museum in Sir John’s former village of Uffington by the family of the former poet laureate’s secret mistress Margaret Geddes.
The letters were kept under her bed until she died in 2006.
Curator Sharon Smith said: “We are thrilled to be given this extraordinary file of original letters.
“They are very significant as they throw light on his life.
“I know Margaret refused to speak to his biographers when she was alive.
“They are very valuable really. To be given to our museum is a great privilege.”
She added: “The wish of this lady Margaret was that they would be made available for research after her death.
“She wouldn’t speak about them in her life time.”
Sir John’s daughter Candida Lycett Green helped Mrs Smith transcribe some of the letters.
The letters show Sir John had the four-year affair in the 1970s while he was married to wife Penelope and also in a long-term relationship with another mistress, Elizabeth Cavendish.
In one letter he wrote: “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.”
The letters will be on display at the Broad Street museum on October 27 and 28.
Highlights will be read at the Betjeman Literary Festival in Wantage on November 1.
They will then be stored at the Oxfordshire History Centre for safekeeping, and digital copies will be available at the Uffington museum.
Carl Boardman, of the Cowley Road History Centre, said: “This is a very exciting find, and we’re delighted to be looking after the letters on behalf of the museum.
“Betjeman is still deservedly popular today, and this correspondence throws light on his life and relationships.”