Hillier, Bevis 1940–
Hillier, Bevis 1940–
Born March 28, 1940, in Redhill, Surrey, England; immigrated to the United States, 1984; son of Jack Ronald (an author) and Mary Louise (an author) Hillier. Education: Attended Magdalen College, Oxford, 1959-62. Hobbies and other interests: Piano, collecting antiques.
Times, London, England, home news reporter, 1963-65, sale room correspondent, 1965-69, antiques correspondent, 1970-84, deputy literary editor, 1981-84; British Museum, London, editor of Museum Society Bulletin, 1968-70, public relations director, 1969-71; full-time writer, 1971-73; Connoisseur (magazine), London, editor, 1973-76; freelance editor, 1976-80; Telegraph Sunday (magazine), London, features editor, 1980-82; Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles, CA, associate editor, 1984—. Guest curator and organizer of Art Deco exhibition, Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 1971; visiting fellow, Huntington Library, 1983.
Society of Authors, Royal Society of Arts (fellow), English Ceramic Circle, Beefsteak Club (London, England), Garrick Club (London, England).
Gladstone Memorial prize, 1961.
Master Potters of the Industrial Revolution, Cory, Adams & Mackay (London, England), 1965.
Pottery and Porcelain, 1700-1914, Meredith (New York, NY), 1968.
Art Deco of the Twenties and Thirties, Dutton (New York, NY), 1968, revised edition, Schocken Books, 1985.
Posters, Stein & Day (New York, NY), 1969.
Cartoons and Caricatures, Dutton (New York, NY), 1970.
The World of Art Deco, Dutton (New York, NY), 1971.
(Compiler) 100 Years of Posters, Harper (New York, NY), 1972.
(Compiler and author of introduction) Punorama; or, The Best of the Worst: Victorian Puns, illustrated by Peter Mackarell, Whittington Press (Andoversford, England), 1974.
The Decorative Arts of the Forties and Fifties: Austerity Binge, C.N. Potter (New York, NY), 1975, published as Austerity Binge: The Decorative Arts of the Forties and Fifties, Studio Vista (London, England), 1975.
(With Brian Coe, Russell Ash, Helen Varley) Victorian Studio Photographs from the Collections of Studio Bassano and Elliott & Fry, Ash & Grant (London, England), 1975.
(Editor, with Mary Banham) A Tonic to the Nation: The Festival of Britain 1951, prologue by Roy Strong, Thames & Hudson (London, England), 1976.
Travel Posters, Dutton (New York, NY), 1976.
Victorian Studio Photographs, David R. Godine (Boston, MA), 1976.
(Editor) Dead Funny, Ash & Grant (London, England), 1976.
The New Antiques, Times Books (London, England), 1977.
Asprey of Bond Street, 1781-1981, Quartet Books (New York, NY), 1981.
The Simon and Schuster Pocket Guide to Antiques, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1981.
The Style of the Century, 1900-1980, Dutton (New York, NY), 1983, 2nd edition with new chapter by Kate McIntyre published as The Style of the Century, Watson-Guptill Publications (New York, NY), 1998.
(Compiler and author of introduction) John Betjeman: A Life in Pictures, J. Murray/Herbert Press (London, England), 1984.
Young Betjeman, J. Murray (London, England), 1988.
Art Deco Style, Phaidon (New York, NY), 1997.
John Betjeman: New Fame, New Love, J. Murray (London, England), 2002.
Betjeman: The Bonus of Laughter, John Murray (London, England), 2004.
James Reeve: An English Painter in Mexico, Revimundo (Mexico City, Mexico), 2005.
Deco Landmarks: Art Deco Gems of Los Angeles, Chronicle Books (San Francisco, CA), 2005.
John Betjeman: The Biography, John Murray (London, England), 2006.
Also author of introduction to Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Memorabilia: The Vintage Years, 1928-1938, Abrams (New York, NY). Regular reviewer for Sunday Times; contributor to Connoisseur, Apollo, Cornhill, Daily Telegraph, and Guardian. Editor, British Museum Society Bulletin, 1968-70.
Bevis Hillier is a journalist and antiques expert who is especially knowledgeable about styles of the early twentieth century, such as Art Deco and the art forms of posters, cartoons, and photography of that period. His 1997 book Art Deco Style was praised by Library Journal critic P. Steven Thomas for its "crisply written" style and "lively discussion" of the 1920s and 1930s.
An authority on the poet and critic John Betjeman, Hillier has written several volumes on the poet, including Young Betjeman and John Betjeman: New Fame, New Love. The first book, according to Times Literary Supplement contributor Samuel Hynes, "lingers in the mind as a meticulously detailed catalogue of the slights, humiliations and failures suffered by a shy outsider with a foreign name who desperately wants to be inside." The second volume details the period in which Betjeman achieved recognition; Hynes praised its comprehensiveness, concluding that readers "can sink back in a state of pleasant biographical fatigue, satisfied, after 600 pages, that we must know all there is to know about Betjeman's middle period."
Hillier continues his study of the late English poet laureate in Betjeman: The Bonus of Laughter and John Betjeman: The Biography. The completed trilogy, stated Observer critic Peter Conrad, "is an admirable, venerable achievement—devoted and compassionate but sharply perceptive about the man's foibles and his petty vices; valiant in defending his poetry against sniffy modernists yet prepared to admit that he often produced weary doggerel; omniscient in its account of the society that changed around him and effaced its architectural past as he aged." Hillier's monumental work, concluded a Contemporary Review contributor, "helps us see behind the myth to view both its creator and his manner of creation."
Hillier also attracted considerable media attention when he admitted forging a letter (purportedly written by Betjeman to Honor Tracy, a colleague, in 1944) and sending it to fellow Betjeman biographer and literary critic A.N. Wilson. "The Sunday Times reported last week how A.N. Wilson had included in his new book a letter purportedly written by Sir John Betjeman to a mistress," Richard Brooks stated in the Sunday Times. "The biographer had failed to notice that the first letter of each sentence spelt ‘A.N. Wilson is a shit’." According to Brooks, Hillier pulled the literary prank on Wilson after the critic published an unfavorable review of John Betjeman: New Fame, New Love. The two works were authorized by different people: Hillier was given his commission by Betjeman himself, while Wilson received his charge from the poet's children. In addition, Wilson produced and published his biography of Betjeman in about a year, while Hillier's three-volume work appeared in parts over more than a decade. "What annoyed me more than anything was that he said: Hillier is not really a writer at all," Hillier told Ben Fenton in the Telegraph. "He's entitled to that opinion, but my livelihood has been writing since I left university, so I wasn't too thrilled."
Betjeman, as revealed by both Hillier and Wilson, was a collection of contradictions: a major poet, he produced some truly awful verse in his last years; as a grown man, he deserted his wife and the mother of his two children to retreat into a second childhood with his mistress, the daughter of a peer. He famously traveled in public with his teddy bear Archie. "Utterly terrified of many things (social humiliation, bad reviews, death); capable of great vanity; shy, yet a compulsive show-off; benighted by religious doubt; frightened, I suspect, of for one moment standing still; implacably opposed to concrete lamp-posts," wrote Sam Leith in the Spectator, "… he was a complex character and an uneasy one, with a near-bottomless need to be loved. Kind, humorous and in his way very brave, he managed, at any rate, to supply that need." Despite this, Hillier demonstrates in his work, Betjeman was a major force in shaping the modern perception of poetry and the appreciation for England's heritage of Victorian culture. "He had a wholly original vision, and he followed it courageously, undeterred by mockery and detraction," declared John Carey in the Sunday Times. "Single-handedly, he overcame the British public's aversion to poetry (both the 1958 Collected Poems and his verse autobiography Summoned by Bells were bestsellers) and his campaign for Victorian architecture and artwork changed the taste of a nation."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Biography, spring, 2003, Samuel Hynes, review of John Betjeman: New Fame, New Love, p. 348.
Contemporary Review, May, 2005, review of Betjeman: The Bonus of Laughter, p. 313.
Economist, November 3, 1984, review of John Betjeman: A Life in Pictures, p. 105.
History Today, June, 1984, review of The Style of the Century, 1900-1980, p. 60; October, 1984, review of John Betjeman, p. 64.
Hobbies, February, 1982, review of The Simon and Schuster Pocket Guide to Antiques, p. 77.
Independent, December 17, 2004, Roger Lewis, "Cracks in the Façade."
Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2007, review of John Betjeman.
Library Journal, October 1, 1983, review of The Style of the Century, 1900-1980, p. 1869; July, 1985, review of John Betjeman, p. 73; May 1, 1998, P. Steven Thomas, review of Art Deco Style, p. 97.
London Review of Books, March 31, 2005, "The Undesired Result," p. 27.
New Yorker, June 24, 1985, V.S. Pritchett, review of John Betjeman, p. 94.
Observer, October 31, 2004, Peter Conrad, "Chortling Cherub with a Raging Heart."
Publishers Weekly, September 30, 1983, Genevieve Stuttaford, review of The Style of the Century, 1900-1980, p. 101; May 3, 1985, review of John Betjeman, p. 57.
Spectator, May 21, 2005, "Being at Home Abroad," p. 39; July 8, 2006, "Betjeman's World of Trains and Buttered Toast"; August 19, 2006, Sam Leith, "A Not So Cuddly Teddy Bear."
Sunday Times, October 17, 2004, John Carey, review of Betjeman; September 3, 2006, Richard Brooks, "Betjeman Biographer Confesses to Literary Hoax."
Telegraph, August 26, 2006, Ben Fenton, "Betjeman's Biographers Let the Bickering Begin."
Times Higher Education Supplement, April 11, 2003, Timothy Mowl, review of John Betjeman, p. 24.
Times Literary Supplement, January 17, 2003, Samuel Hynes, review of John Betjeman, p. 5; December 3, 2004, "Smelt by the Discerning," p. 36.
Yankee, December, 1981, Geoffrey Elan, review of The Simon and Schuster Pocket Guide to Antiques, p. 184.