Page last updated at 12:54 GMT, Thursday, 17 April 2008 13:54 UK

Betjeman's 'muse' dies aged 92

Joan Jackson
Sir John met "Miss J Hunter Dunn" in the 1930s

The woman who inspired one of Sir John Betjeman's most famous poems has died at the age of 92.

Joan Jackson was immortalised in print as Miss J Hunter Dunn in Sir John's 1941 poem, A Subaltern's Love Song.

Mrs Jackson, who first met Sir John while working at the Ministry of Information in the 1930s, died at a London nursing home last week.

Her son, Edward, told The Times: "She never said she was proud to be his muse but she did not consider it a joke."

He added: "She just said that John was a nice man."

'Important role'

In A Subaltern's Love Song, the poet is transfixed by Miss J Hunter Dunn while playing tennis against her.

He wrote: "Miss J Hunter Dunn, Miss J Hunter Dunn, Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun."

The poem results in the tennis playing duo attending a dance and subsequently becoming engaged.

She was certainly his muse as far as that poem was concerned
John Heald, the Betjeman Society

But in reality the young Miss Dunn got married and became Mrs Jackson, before going to live abroad, returning with her family to the UK in the 1960s.

John Heald, chairman of the Betjeman Society, said that "Miss J Hunter Dunn" had played an important role in Sir John's life as a poet.

He said: "She induced in him a feeling of happiness and well being that permeates through a lot of his work.

"She really was important to him, they did remain close - they met frequently and they did dine together from time to time."

He added: "She was certainly his muse as far as that poem was concerned - he rather liked attractive women."

Sir John, who died in 1984, was made Poet Laureate in 1972.

His other works included the poem Slough, with the famous opening lines: "Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough, it isn't fit for humans now."




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