A. N. Wilson Betjeman.
Farrar, Strauss & Giroux, 384 pages, $27
John Betjeman Collected Poems.
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 528 pages, $27
As all the world now knows, Bevis Hillier, whose three-volume life of Sir John Betjeman (1906–1984) has just appeared in a one-volume centenary-year abridgement, has fooled A. N. Wilson into printing a “hitherto unknown” love letter purporting to be by Betjeman, but actually composed by Hillier himself, including some none-too-subtle clues to its inauthenticity. The motive was revenge for a lukewarm review Wilson had written of Hillier’s second volume, and also, perhaps, jealousy that Wilson had access to the family and to papers denied to Hillier. The American edition of the book is prefaced by a note from Wilson, pointing out the error but disdaining even to name “the person who now claims authorship of the trick.”