Bevis Hillier, author of a three-volume biography of the poet John Betjeman, has confessed he was responsible for sending a hoax letter, apparently written by Betjeman, to fellow biographer and bitter rival A N Wilson. Wilson printed it in the book, without noticing a niggling detail the Sunday Times caught:
The Sunday Times broke the story:
The letter begins: “Darling Honor, I loved yesterday. All day I’ve thought of nothing else. No other love I’ve had means so much.”
Later on in the letter the poet waxed that “love has given me a miss for so long and now this miracle has happened. Sex is a part of it, of course.”
Betjeman then ended the letter: “Tinkerty-tonk, my Darling. I pray I’ll hear from you tomorrow. If I don’t I’ll visit your office in a fake beard. All love, JB.”…
…The trick was so successful that the letter has been published in Wilson’s new book Betjeman as evidence of the poet’s previously unknown “fling”.
The giveaway — and a clue that a bitter rival of Wilson’s may be behind the trick — is that the capital letters at the beginning of the sentences in the letter spell out a vivid personal insult to the biographer.”
They spell out ‘A N Wilson is a shit’, to be precise, which have been Bevis Hillier’s sentiments towards Wilson ever since the latter slammed Hillier’s three-volume biography of Betjeman, before embarking on his own version. As several gleeful reporters pointed out, the “Betjeman letter” was sent to Wilson by a lady who identified herself as Eve de Harben, which is an anagram for “Ever Been Had”.
Hillier, who may or may not be a good biographer, but is on current evidence an excellent acrostics man, is unrepentant. Wilson hasn’t said much about the affair–he’s busy trying to recall copies of his Betjeman biography.