Books: Royal Paean

Since Charles II appointed John Dryden England's first Poet Laureate in 1668, the office has been occupied by a number of distinguished men, including Wordsworth, Tennyson, John Masefield and C. Day Lewis. But the job is no plum. As an officer of the royal household, a Poet Laureate ranks just above Bargemaster and Keeper of the Swans. By today's devaluated standards, his pay is $122.50 a year, plus $47.25 in lieu of a butt of sack—once part of the traditional stipend.

Last week Britain's literate and near-literate were howling to give the present P.L., Sir John Betjeman, the sack. The reason was...

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