Philip Larkin
Overview
Philip Arthur Larkin, CH
Order of the Companions of Honour
The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion....

, CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

, FRSL (9 August 1922 – 2 December 1985) is widely regarded as one of the great English poets of the latter half of the twentieth century. His first book of poetry, The North Ship
The North Ship
The North Ship is a collection of poems by Philip Larkin , and was published in 1945 by Reginald A. Caton's Fortune Press. It was reissued in 1966 by Faber and Faber Limited. In the 1945 version there are 31 items, numbered with Roman numerals. The last of these, "The North Ship" is a set of five...

, was published in 1945, followed by two novels, Jill
Jill (novel)
Jill is a novel by English writer Philip Larkin, first published in 1946 by The Fortune Press, and reprinted by Faber & Faber in 1964. It was written between 1943 and 1944, when Larkin was twenty-one years old and an undergraduate at St John's College, Oxford.The novel is set in the wartime Oxford...

 (1946) and A Girl in Winter (1947), but he came to prominence in 1955 with the publication of his second collection of poems, The Less Deceived
The Less Deceived
The Less Deceived, first published in 1955, was Philip Larkin's first mature collection of poetry, having been preceded by the derivative North Ship from The Fortune Press and a privately printed collection...

, followed by The Whitsun Weddings (1964) and High Windows
High Windows
High Windows is a collection of poems by English poet Philip Larkin, and was published in 1974 by Faber and Faber Limited. The readily available paperback version was first published in Britain in 1979...

 (1974).
Quotations

Our almost-instinct almost true:What will survive of us is love.

"An Arundel Tomb," The Whitsun Weddings (1964) [20 February 1956]

The glare of that much-mentioned brilliance, love,   Broke out, to showIts bright incipience sailing above,Still promising to solve, and satisfy,And set unchangeably in order. So   To pile them back, to cry,Was hard, without lamely admitting howIt had not done so then, and could not now.

"Love Songs in Age," The Whitsun Weddings (1964) [1 January 1957]

Get stewed:Books are a load of crap.

"A Study of Reading Habits," The Whitsun Weddings (1964) [20 August 1960]

Never such innocence,Never before or since,As changed itself to pastWithout a word — the menLeaving the gardens tidy,The thousands of marriages,Lasting a little while longer:Never such innocence again.

"MCMXIV," The Whitsun Weddings (1964)

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.   They may not mean to, but they do.They fill you with the faults they had   And add some extra, just for you.

"This Be The Verse," High Windows (1974) [April ? 1971]

The first day after a death, the new absence Is always the same; we should be careful Of each other, we should be kind While there is still time.

"The Mower," Humberside (Hull Literary Club magazine) (Autumn 1979) [12 June 1979]

Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth.

"A voice for our time," interview with Miriam Gross in The Observer, (16 December 1979); republished in Required Writing (1983) Faber and Faber

Encyclopedia
Philip Arthur Larkin, CH
Order of the Companions of Honour
The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion....

, CBE
Order of the British Empire
The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire is an order of chivalry established on 4 June 1917 by George V of the United Kingdom. The Order comprises five classes in civil and military divisions...

, FRSL (9 August 1922 – 2 December 1985) is widely regarded as one of the great English poets of the latter half of the twentieth century. His first book of poetry, The North Ship
The North Ship
The North Ship is a collection of poems by Philip Larkin , and was published in 1945 by Reginald A. Caton's Fortune Press. It was reissued in 1966 by Faber and Faber Limited. In the 1945 version there are 31 items, numbered with Roman numerals. The last of these, "The North Ship" is a set of five...

, was published in 1945, followed by two novels, Jill
Jill (novel)
Jill is a novel by English writer Philip Larkin, first published in 1946 by The Fortune Press, and reprinted by Faber & Faber in 1964. It was written between 1943 and 1944, when Larkin was twenty-one years old and an undergraduate at St John's College, Oxford.The novel is set in the wartime Oxford...

 (1946) and A Girl in Winter (1947), but he came to prominence in 1955 with the publication of his second collection of poems, The Less Deceived
The Less Deceived
The Less Deceived, first published in 1955, was Philip Larkin's first mature collection of poetry, having been preceded by the derivative North Ship from The Fortune Press and a privately printed collection...

, followed by The Whitsun Weddings (1964) and High Windows
High Windows
High Windows is a collection of poems by English poet Philip Larkin, and was published in 1974 by Faber and Faber Limited. The readily available paperback version was first published in Britain in 1979...

 (1974). He contributed to The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The newspaper was founded by Arthur B...

 as its jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 critic from 1961 to 1971, articles gathered together in All What Jazz: A Record Diary 1961–71 (1985), and he edited The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse (1973). He was the recipient of many honours, including the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry
Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry
The Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry is awarded for a book of verse published by someone in any of the Commonwealth realms. Originally the award was open only to British subjects living in the United Kingdom, but in 1985 the scope was extended to include people from the rest of the Commonwealth realms...

. He was offered, but declined, the position of poet laureate
Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom
The Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, also referred to as the Poet Laureate, is the Poet Laureate appointed by the monarch of the United Kingdom on the advice of the Prime Minister...

 in 1984, following the death of John Betjeman
John Betjeman
Sir John Betjeman, CBE was an English poet, writer and broadcaster who described himself in Who's Who as a "poet and hack".He was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture...

.

After graduating from Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

 in 1943 with a first in English language and literature, Larkin became a librarian. It was during the thirty years he served as university librarian at the Brynmor Jones Library
Brynmor Jones Library
The Brynmor Jones Library is the main library at the University of Hull. In 1967 it was named after Sir Brynmor Jones who initiated research in the field of Liquid Crystals at Hull and became Head of the Department of Chemistry in the 1930s...

 at the University of Hull
University of Hull
The University of Hull, known informally as Hull University, is an English university, founded in 1927, located in Hull, a city in the East Riding of Yorkshire...

 that he produced the greater part of his published work. His poems are marked by what Andrew Motion
Andrew Motion
Sir Andrew Motion, FRSL is an English poet, novelist and biographer, who presided as Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009.- Life and career :...

 calls a very English, glum accuracy about emotions, places, and relationships, and what Donald Davie
Donald Davie
Donald Alfred Davie was an English Movement poet, and literary critic. His poems in general are philosophical and abstract, but often evoke various landscapes.-Biography:...

 described as lowered sights and diminished expectations. Eric Homberger called him "the saddest heart in the post-war supermarket"—Larkin himself said that deprivation for him was what daffodils were for Wordsworth
William Wordsworth
William Wordsworth was a major English Romantic poet who, with Samuel Taylor Coleridge, helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature with the 1798 joint publication Lyrical Ballads....

. Influenced by W. H. Auden
W. H. Auden
Wystan Hugh Auden , who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet,The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also...

, W. B. Yeats, and Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.While he regarded himself primarily as a...

, his poems are highly structured but flexible verse forms. They were described by Jean Hartley, the ex-wife of Larkin's publisher George Hartley (The Marvell Press), as a "piquant mixture of lyricism and discontent", though anthologist Keith Tuma writes that there is more to Larkin's work than its reputation for dour pessimism suggests.
Larkin's public persona was that of the no-nonsense, solitary Englishman who disliked fame and had no patience for the trappings of the public literary life. The posthumous publication by Anthony Thwaite
Anthony Thwaite
Anthony Simon Thwaite, OBE, is an English poet and writer. He is married to the writer Ann Thwaite. He was awarded the OBE in 1992, for services to poetry. He was mainly brought up in Yorkshire and currently lives in Norfolk....

 in 1992 of his letters
Selected Letters of Philip Larkin, 1940–1985
The Selected Letters of Philip Larkin, 1940–1985 is a volume of Philip Larkin's personal correspondence, compiled by Anthony Thwaite, one of Larkin's literary executors, and published in 1992 by Faber and Faber, seven years after Larkin's death...

 triggered controversy about his personal life and political views, described by John Banville
John Banville
John Banville is an Irish novelist and screenwriter.Banville's breakthrough novel The Book of Evidence was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and won the Guinness Peat Aviation award. His eighteenth novel, The Sea, won the Man Booker Prize in 2005. He was awarded the Franz Kafka Prize in 2011...

 as hair-raising, but also in places hilarious. Lisa Jardine
Lisa Jardine
Lisa Anne Jardine CBE , née Lisa Anne Bronowski, is a British historian of the early modern period. She is professor of Renaissance Studies and Director of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters at Queen Mary, University of London, and is Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority...

 called him a "casual, habitual racist, and an easy misogynist
Misogyny
Misogyny is the hatred or dislike of women or girls. Philogyny, meaning fondness, love or admiration towards women, is the antonym of misogyny. The term misandry is the term for men that is parallel to misogyny...

", but the academic John Osborne argued in 2008 that "the worst that anyone has discovered about Larkin are some crass letters and a taste for porn softer than what passes for mainstream entertainment". Despite the controversy Larkin was chosen in a 2003 Poetry Book Society
Poetry Book Society
The Poetry Book Society was founded by T. S. Eliot and friends in 1953. Each quarter the Society selects one recently published collection of poetry for its members. The Society also publishes the quarterly poetry journal Bulletin, and it administers the competition for the annual T. S. Eliot Prize...

 survey, almost two decades after his death, as Britain's best-loved poet of the previous 50 years, and in 2008 The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

 named him Britain's greatest post-war writer.

In 2010, 25 years after his death, Larkin's adopted home city, Kingston upon Hull
Kingston upon Hull
Kingston upon Hull , usually referred to as Hull, is a city and unitary authority area in the ceremonial county of the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It stands on the River Hull at its junction with the Humber estuary, 25 miles inland from the North Sea. Hull has a resident population of...

 commemorated him with the Larkin 25
Larkin 25
Larkin 25 was an arts festival and cultural event in Kingston upon Hull, England, organised to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of the poet and University of Hull librarian, Philip Larkin...

 Festival which culminated in the unveiling of a statue of Larkin by Martin Jennings on 2 December 2010, the 25th anniversary of his death.

Early life and education

Philip Larkin was born on 9 August 1922 in Coventry
Coventry
Coventry is a city and metropolitan borough in the county of West Midlands in England. Coventry is the 9th largest city in England and the 11th largest in the United Kingdom. It is also the second largest city in the English Midlands, after Birmingham, with a population of 300,848, although...

, the only son and younger child of Sydney Larkin (1884–1948), who came from Lichfield
Lichfield
Lichfield is a cathedral city, civil parish and district in Staffordshire, England. One of eight civil parishes with city status in England, Lichfield is situated roughly north of Birmingham...

, and his wife, Eva Emily Day (1886–1977) of Epping
Epping
Epping is a small market town and civil parish in the Epping Forest district of the County of Essex, England. It is located north-east of Loughton, south of Harlow and north-west of Brentwood....

. The family lived in Radford, Coventry
Radford, Coventry
Radford is a suburb and electoral ward of Coventry, located approximately 2 miles north of Coventry city centre. It is covered by the Coventry North West constituency.-Geography:...

 until Larkin was five years old, before moving to a large three-storey middle-class house complete with servants quarters near to Coventry railway station
Coventry railway station
Coventry railway station is situated about 250 yards to the south of junction 6 of the inner ring road in the city of Coventry, West Midlands, England...

 and King Henry VIII School, in Manor Road. Having survived the bombings of the Second World War their former house in Manor Road was demolished in the 1960s to make way for a road modernisation programme, the construction of an inner ring road. His sister Catherine, known as Kitty, was 10 years older than he was. His father, a self-made man who had risen to be Coventry City Treasurer, was a singular individual, 'nihilistically disillusioned in middle age', who combined a love of literature with an enthusiasm for Nazism
Nazism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

, and had attended two Nuremberg rallies during the mid-'30s. He introduced his son to the works of Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

, T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

, James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

 and above all D. H. Lawrence
D. H. Lawrence
David Herbert Richards Lawrence was an English novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter who published as D. H. Lawrence. His collected works represent an extended reflection upon the dehumanising effects of modernity and industrialisation...

. His mother was a nervous and passive woman, " a kind of defective mechanism...Her ideal is 'to collapse' and to be taken care of", dominated by her husband.

Larkin's early childhood was in some respects unusual: he was educated at home until the age of eight by his mother and sister, neither friends nor relatives ever visited the family home, and he developed a stammer. Nonetheless, when he joined Coventry's King Henry VIII Junior School he fitted in immediately and made close, long-standing friendships, such as those with James "Jim" Sutton, Colin Gunner and Noel "Josh" Hughes. Although home life was relatively cold, Larkin enjoyed support from his parents. For example, his deep passion for jazz
Jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

 was supported by the purchase of a drum kit and a saxophone
Saxophone
The saxophone is a conical-bore transposing musical instrument that is a member of the woodwind family. Saxophones are usually made of brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece similar to that of the clarinet. The saxophone was invented by the Belgian instrument maker Adolphe Sax in 1846...

, supplemented by a subscription to Down Beat
Down Beat
Down Beat is an American magazine devoted to "jazz, blues and beyond" to indicate its expansion beyond the jazz realm which it covered exclusively in previous years. The publication was established in 1934 in Chicago, Illinois...

. From the junior school he progressed to King Henry VIII Senior School. He fared quite poorly when he sat his School Certificate
School Certificate (UK)
The School Certificate was a United Kingdom educational attainment standard qualification, established in 1918. The School Certificate Examination was usually taken at age 16 and it was necessary to pass Mathematics, English and other subjects in order to gain the certificate...

 exam at the age of 16. Despite his results, however, he was allowed to stay on at school; two years later he earned distinctions in English and History, and passed the entrance exams for St John's College, Oxford
St John's College, Oxford
__FORCETOC__St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford, one of the larger Oxford colleges with approximately 390 undergraduates, 200 postgraduates and over 100 academic staff. It was founded by Sir Thomas White, a merchant, in 1555, whose heart is buried in the chapel of...

, to read English.

Larkin began at Oxford University in October 1940, a year after the outbreak of World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

. The old upper class traditions of university life had, at least for the time being, faded, and most of the male students were studying for highly truncated degrees. Due to his poor eyesight, Larkin failed his military medical examination and was able to study for the usual three years. Through his tutorial partner, Norman Iles, he met Kingsley Amis
Kingsley Amis
Sir Kingsley William Amis, CBE was an English novelist, poet, critic, and teacher. He wrote more than 20 novels, six volumes of poetry, a memoir, various short stories, radio and television scripts, along with works of social and literary criticism...

, who encouraged his taste for ridicule and irreverence and who remained a close friend throughout Larkin's life. Amis, Larkin and other university friends formed a group they dubbed "The Seven", meeting to discuss each other's poetry, listen to jazz, and drink enthusiastically. During this time he had his first real social interaction with the opposite sex, but made no romantic headway. In 1943 he sat his finals
Final examination
A final examination is a test given to students at the end of a course of study or training. Although the term can be used in the context of physical training, it most often occurs in the academic world...

, and, having dedicated much of his time to his own writing, was greatly surprised at being awarded a first-class honours degree
British undergraduate degree classification
The British undergraduate degree classification system is a grading scheme for undergraduate degrees in the United Kingdom...

.

Early career and relationships

In autumn 1943 Larkin was appointed librarian of the public library in Wellington, Shropshire
Wellington, Shropshire
Wellington is a town in the unitary authority of Telford and Wrekin and ceremonial county of Shropshire, England and now forms part of the new town of Telford. The population of the parish of Wellington was recorded as 20,430 in the 2001 census, making it the third largest town in Shropshire if...

. It was while working there that in the spring of 1944 he met his first girlfriend, Ruth Bowman, an academically ambitious 16-year-old schoolgirl. In autumn 1945, Ruth went to continue her studies at King's College London
King's College London
King's College London is a public research university located in London, United Kingdom and a constituent college of the federal University of London. King's has a claim to being the third oldest university in England, having been founded by King George IV and the Duke of Wellington in 1829, and...

; during one of his visits their friendship developed into a sexual relationship. By June 1946, Larkin was halfway through qualifying for membership of the Library Association
Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals
The Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals is a professional body representing librarians and other information professionals in the United Kingdom.-History:...

 and was appointed assistant librarian at University College, Leicester. It was visiting Larkin in Leicester and witnessing the university's Senior Common Room
Common Room (university)
In some universities in the United Kingdom — particularly collegiate universities such as Oxford, Cambridge and Durham — students and the academic body are organised into common rooms...

 that gave Kingsley Amis the inspiration to write Lucky Jim
Lucky Jim
Lucky Jim is an academic satire written by Kingsley Amis, first published in 1954 by Victor Gollancz. It was Amis's first novel, and won the Somerset Maugham Award for fiction...

 (1954), the novel that made Amis famous and to whose long gestation Larkin contributed considerably. Six weeks after his father's death from cancer in March 1948, Larkin proposed to Ruth, and that summer the couple spent their annual holiday touring Hardy country
Thomas Hardy's Wessex
The English author Thomas Hardy set all of his major novels in the south and southwest of England. He named the area "Wessex" after the medieval Anglo-Saxon kingdom that existed in this part of that country prior to the Norman Conquest. Although the places that appear in his novels actually exist,...

.

In June 1950 Larkin was appointed sub-librarian at Queen's University Belfast, a post he took up that September. Prior to his departure he and Ruth split up. At some stage between the appointment to the position at Queen's and the end of the engagement to Ruth, Larkin's friendship with Monica Jones
Monica Jones
Margaret Monica Beale Jones was an academic and long-term companion of the poet, Philip Larkin. Born in Llanelli, South Wales, she moved with her family to Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire when aged seven...

, a lecturer in English at Leicester, also developed into a sexual relationship. He spent five years in Belfast, which appear to have been the most contented of his life. While his relationship with Jones developed, he also had "the most satisfyingly erotic [affair] of his life" with Patsy Strang
Patsy Strang
Patricia Avis Strang Murphy was a sexual partner of English poet Philip Larkin in the early half of the 1950s. At the time, she was married to Colin Strang, a friend of Larkin's and a lecturer in the Philosophy Department at Queen's University, Belfast, where Larkin was Under-Librarian...

, who at the time was in an open marriage
Open marriage
Open marriage typically refers to a marriage in which the partners agree that each may engage in extramarital sexual relationships, without this being regarded as infidelity. There are many different styles of open marriage, with the partners having varying levels of input on their spouse's...

 with one of his colleagues. At one stage she offered to leave her husband to marry Larkin. From summer 1951 onwards Larkin would holiday with Jones in various locations around the British Isles. While in Belfast he also had a significant though sexually undeveloped friendship with Winifred Arnott, the subject of "Lines on a Young Lady's Photograph Album", which came to an end when she married in 1954. This was this period in which he gave Kingsley Amis extensive advice on the writing of Lucky Jim. Amis repaid the debt by dedicating the finished book to Larkin.

In 1955 Larkin became University Librarian at the University of Hull
University of Hull
The University of Hull, known informally as Hull University, is an English university, founded in 1927, located in Hull, a city in the East Riding of Yorkshire...

, a post he would hold until his death. For his first year he lodged in bedsit
Bedsit
A bedsit, also known as a bed-sitting room, is a form of rented accommodation common in Great Britain and Ireland consisting of a single room and shared bathroom; they are part of a legal category of dwellings referred to as Houses in multiple occupation....

s. In 1956, at the age of 34, he rented a self-contained flat on the top-floor of 32 Pearson Park, a three-storey red-brick house overlooking the park, previously the American Consulate. This, it seems, was the vantage point later commemorated in the poem High Windows. Of the city itself Larkin commented: "I never thought about Hull until I was here. Having got here, it suits me in many ways. It is a little on the edge of things, I think even its natives would say that. I rather like being on the edge of things. One doesn't really go anywhere by design, you know, you put in for jobs and move about, you know, I've lived in other places." In the post-war years, Hull University underwent significant expansion, as was typical of British universities during that period. When Larkin took up his appointment there, the plans for a new university library were already far advanced. He made a great effort in just a few months to familiarize himself with them before they were placed before the University Grants Committee; he suggested a number of emendations, some major and structural, all of which were adopted. It was built in two stages, and in 1967 it was named the Brynmor Jones Library
Brynmor Jones Library
The Brynmor Jones Library is the main library at the University of Hull. In 1967 it was named after Sir Brynmor Jones who initiated research in the field of Liquid Crystals at Hull and became Head of the Department of Chemistry in the 1930s...

 after the university's vice-chancellor
Chancellor (education)
A chancellor or vice-chancellor is the chief executive of a university. Other titles are sometimes used, such as president or rector....

.

One of Larkin's colleagues at Hull said he became a great figure in post-war British librarianship. Ten years after the new library's completion, Larkin computerized records for the entire library stock, making it the first library in Europe to install a GEAC
Geac Computer Corporation
Geac Computer Corporation, Ltd was a producer of enterprise resource planning, performance management, and industry specific software based in Markham, ON. It was acquired by Infor Global Solutions in March 2006 for US$1 billion....

 system, an automated online circulation system. Richard Goodman wrote that Larkin excelled as an administrator, committee man and arbitrator. "He treated his staff decently, and he motivated them", Goodman said. "He did this with a combination of efficiency, high standards, humour and compassion." From 1957 until his death, Larkin's secretary was Betty Mackereth. All access to him by his colleagues was through her, and she came to know as much about Larkin's compartmentalized life as anyone. During his 30 years there, the library's stock sextupled, and the budget expanded from £4,500 to £448,500, in real terms a twelvefold increase.

Later life

In February 1961 Larkin's friendship with his colleague Maeve Brennan became romantic, despite her strong Roman Catholic beliefs. In spring 1963 Brennan persuaded him to go with her to a dance for university staff, despite his preference for smaller gatherings. This seems to have been a pivotal moment in their relationship, and he memorialised it in his longest (and unfinished) poem "The Dance". Around this time, also at her prompting, Larkin learnt to drive and bought a car – his first, a Singer Gazelle
Singer Gazelle
The Singer Gazelle name has been applied to two generations of motor cars from the British manufacturer the Rootes Group, using the Singer marque...

. Meanwhile Monica Jones, whose parents had died in autumn 1959, bought a holiday cottage in Haydon Bridge
Haydon Bridge
Haydon Bridge is a village in Northumberland, England, with a population of about 2000. Its most distinctive features are the two bridges crossing the River South Tyne; the picturesque original bridge for which the village was named and a modern bridge which used to carry the A69 road...

, near Hexham
Hexham
Hexham is a market town and civil parish in Northumberland, England, located south of the River Tyne, and was the administrative centre for the Tynedale district from 1974 to 2009. The three major towns in Tynedale were Hexham, Prudhoe and Haltwhistle, although in terms of population, Prudhoe was...

, which she and Larkin visited regularly. His poem "Show Saturday" is a description of the 1973 Bellingham
Bellingham, Northumberland
Bellingham is a village in Northumberland, to the north-west of Newcastle upon Tyne and is situated on the Hareshaw burn at its confluence with the River North Tyne. Hareshaw Linn is a waterfall on the Hareshaw Burn near Bellingham. It is pronounced Bell-ing-jumFamous as a stopping point on the...

 show in the North Tyne valley.

In 1964, in the wake of the publication of The Whitsun Weddings, Larkin was the subject of an episode of the arts programme Monitor
Monitor (TV series)
Monitor was a BBC arts programme that was launched on 1 September 1958 and ran until 1965.Huw Wheldon was the first editor from 1958 to 1964. He was also the principal interviewer and anchor...

, directed by Patrick Garland
Patrick Garland
thumb|right|200pxPatrick Garland is a British actor, writer, and director.Garland started Poetry International in 1963 with Ted Hughes and Charles Osborne. He was a director and producer for the BBC's Music and Arts Department , and worked on its Monitor series...

. The programme, which shows him being interviewed by fellow poet John Betjeman
John Betjeman
Sir John Betjeman, CBE was an English poet, writer and broadcaster who described himself in Who's Who as a "poet and hack".He was a founding member of the Victorian Society and a passionate defender of Victorian architecture...

 in a series of locations in and around Hull
Kingston upon Hull
Kingston upon Hull , usually referred to as Hull, is a city and unitary authority area in the ceremonial county of the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It stands on the River Hull at its junction with the Humber estuary, 25 miles inland from the North Sea. Hull has a resident population of...

, allowed Larkin to play a significant part in the creation of his own public persona; one he would prefer his readers to imagine.

Larkin's role in the creation of Hull University's new Brynmor Jones Library had been important and demanding. Soon after the completion of the second and larger phase of construction in 1969, he was able to redirect his energies. In October 1970 he started work on compiling a new anthology, The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse (1973). He was awarded a Visiting Fellowship at All Souls College, Oxford
All Souls College, Oxford
The Warden and the College of the Souls of all Faithful People deceased in the University of Oxford or All Souls College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England....

 for two academic terms, allowing him to consult Oxford's Bodleian Library
Bodleian Library
The Bodleian Library , the main research library of the University of Oxford, is one of the oldest libraries in Europe, and in Britain is second in size only to the British Library...

, a copyright library. Larkin was a major contributor to the re-evaluation of the poetry of Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.While he regarded himself primarily as a...

, which, in comparison to his novels, had been overlooked; in Larkin's "idiosyncratic" and "controversial" anthology, Hardy was the poet most generously represented. There were twenty-seven poems by Hardy, compared with only nine by T. S. Eliot
T. S. Eliot
Thomas Stearns "T. S." Eliot OM was a playwright, literary critic, and arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century. Although he was born an American he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.The poem that made his...

; the other poets most extensively represented were W. B. Yeats
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms...

, W. H. Auden
W. H. Auden
Wystan Hugh Auden , who published as W. H. Auden, was an Anglo-American poet,The first definition of "Anglo-American" in the OED is: "Of, belonging to, or involving both England and America." See also the definition "English in origin or birth, American by settlement or citizenship" in See also...

 and Rudyard Kipling
Rudyard Kipling
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature...

. Larkin included six of his own poems—the same number as for Rupert Brooke
Rupert Brooke
Rupert Chawner Brooke was an English poet known for his idealistic war sonnets written during the First World War, especially The Soldier...

. In the process of compiling the volume he had been disappointed not to find more and better poems as evidence that the clamour over the Modernists had stifled the voices of traditionalists. The most favourable responses to the anthology were those of Auden
Auden
Auden is a surname, and may refer to:* George Augustus Auden , English physician* John Bicknell Auden , English geologist and explorer* W. H. Auden , Anglo-American poet...

 and John Betjeman, while the most hostile was that of Donald Davie
Donald Davie
Donald Alfred Davie was an English Movement poet, and literary critic. His poems in general are philosophical and abstract, but often evoke various landscapes.-Biography:...

, who accused Larkin of "positive cynicism" and of encouraging "the perverse triumph of philistinism, the cult of the amateur ... [and] the weakest kind of Englishry". After an initial period of anxiety about the anthology's reception, Larkin enjoyed the clamour.

In 1971 Larkin regained contact with his schoolfriend Colin Gunner, who had led a picaresque life. Their subsequent correspondence has gained notoriety as in these letters "Larkin was particularly frank about political and personal opinions", expressing right-wing views and using racist language. In the period from 1973 to 1974 Larkin became an Honorary Fellow of St John's College, Oxford
St John's College, Oxford
__FORCETOC__St John's College is a constituent college of the University of Oxford, one of the larger Oxford colleges with approximately 390 undergraduates, 200 postgraduates and over 100 academic staff. It was founded by Sir Thomas White, a merchant, in 1555, whose heart is buried in the chapel of...

 and was awarded honorary degree
Honorary degree
An honorary degree or a degree honoris causa is an academic degree for which a university has waived the usual requirements, such as matriculation, residence, study, and the passing of examinations...

s by Warwick
University of Warwick
The University of Warwick is a public research university located in Coventry, United Kingdom...

, St Andrews
University of St Andrews
The University of St Andrews, informally referred to as "St Andrews", is the oldest university in Scotland and the third oldest in the English-speaking world after Oxford and Cambridge. The university is situated in the town of St Andrews, Fife, on the east coast of Scotland. It was founded between...

 and Sussex
University of Sussex
The University of Sussex is an English public research university situated next to the East Sussex village of Falmer, within the city of Brighton and Hove. The University received its Royal Charter in August 1961....

 universities. In January 1974 Hull University informed Larkin that they were going to dispose of the building on Pearson Park in which he lived. Shortly afterwards he bought a detached two-storey 1950s house in a street called Newland Park which was described by his university colleague John Kenyon as "an entirely middle-class backwater". Larkin, who moved into the house in June of that year, thought the four-bedroom property "utterly undistinguished" and reflected, "I can't say it's the kind of dwelling that is eloquent of the nobility of the human spirit".

Shortly after splitting up with Maeve Brennan in August 1973, Larkin attended W. H. Auden's memorial service at Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church or house of Christ, and thus sometimes known as The House), is one of the largest constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England...

, with Monica Jones as his official partner. However, in March 1975 the relationship with Maeve restarted, and three weeks after this he initiated a secret affair with Betty Mackereth, who served as his secretary for 28 years, writing the long-undiscovered poem "We met at the end of the party" for her. Despite the logistical difficulties of having three relationships simultaneously, the situation continued until March 1978. From then on he and Jones were a monogamous couple.

In December 2010, as part of the commemorations of the 25th anniversary of Larkin's death, the BBC broadcast a programme entitled Philip Larkin and the Third Woman focusing on his affair with Mackereth in which she spoke for the first time about their relationship. It included a reading of a newly discovered secret poem, Dear Jake and revealed that Mackereth was one of the inspirations for his writings.

Final years and death

In 1982 Larkin turned sixty. This was marked most significantly by a collection of essays entitled Larkin at Sixty
Larkin at Sixty
Larkin at Sixty is a collection of original essays and poems published to celebrate the sixtieth birthday of the English poet Philip Larkin...

, edited by Anthony Thwaite
Anthony Thwaite
Anthony Simon Thwaite, OBE, is an English poet and writer. He is married to the writer Ann Thwaite. He was awarded the OBE in 1992, for services to poetry. He was mainly brought up in Yorkshire and currently lives in Norfolk....

 and published by Faber and Faber
Faber and Faber
Faber and Faber Limited, often abbreviated to Faber, is an independent publishing house in the UK, notable in particular for publishing a great deal of poetry and for its former editor T. S. Eliot. Faber has a rich tradition of publishing a wide range of fiction, non fiction, drama, film and music...

. There were also two television programmes: an episode of The South Bank Show
The South Bank Show
The South Bank Show was a television arts magazine show, originally made by London Weekend Television , presented by Melvyn Bragg, broadcast on ITV and seen in over 60 countries worldwide — including Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States...

 presented by Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg, Baron Bragg FRSL FRTS FBA, FRS FRSA is an English broadcaster and author best known for his work with the BBC and for presenting the The South Bank Show...

 in which Larkin made off-camera contributions, and a half-hour special on the BBC that was devised and presented by the Labour Shadow Cabinet Minister Roy Hattersley
Roy Hattersley
Roy Sydney George Hattersley, Baron Hattersley is a British Labour politician, author and journalist from Sheffield. He served as Deputy Leader of the Labour Party from 1983 to 1992.-Early life:...

.

In 1983 Jones was hospitalised with shingles
Herpes zoster
Herpes zoster , commonly known as shingles and also known as zona, is a viral disease characterized by a painful skin rash with blisters in a limited area on one side of the body, often in a stripe...

. The severity of her symptoms, including its effects on her eyes, distressed Larkin. As her health declined, regular care became necessary: within a month she moved into his Newland Park home and remained there for the rest of her life.
At the memorial service for John Betjeman, who died in July 1984, Larkin was asked if he would accept the post of Poet Laureate
Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom
The Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom, also referred to as the Poet Laureate, is the Poet Laureate appointed by the monarch of the United Kingdom on the advice of the Prime Minister...

. He declined, not least because he felt he had long since ceased to be a writer of poetry in a meaningful sense. The following year Larkin began to suffer from oesophageal cancer. On 11 June 1985 he underwent surgery, but his cancer was found to have spread and was inoperable. On 28 November he collapsed and was readmitted to hospital. He died four days later, on 2 December 1985, at the age of 63, and was buried at the Cottingham
Cottingham, East Riding of Yorkshire
Cottingham is a village and civil parish in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It lies just to the north-west of the city of Kingston upon Hull...

 municipal cemetery near Hull. His headstone reads "Philip Larkin 1922–1985 Writer".

Larkin had asked on his deathbed that his diaries be destroyed. The request was granted by Jones, the main beneficiary of his will, and Betty Mackereth; the latter shredded the unread diaries page by page, then had them burned. His will was found to be contradictory regarding his other private papers and unpublished work; legal advice left the issue to the discretion of his literary executors, who decided the material should not be destroyed. When she died on 15 February 2001, Jones, in turn, left one million pounds to St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral
St Paul's Cathedral, London, is a Church of England cathedral and seat of the Bishop of London. Its dedication to Paul the Apostle dates back to the original church on this site, founded in AD 604. St Paul's sits at the top of Ludgate Hill, the highest point in the City of London, and is the mother...

, Hexham Abbey
Hexham Abbey
Hexham Abbey is a place of Christian worship dedicated to St Andrew and located in the town of Hexham, Northumberland, in northeast England. Since the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1537, the Abbey has been the parish church of Hexham.-History:...

, and Durham Cathedral
Durham Cathedral
The Cathedral Church of Christ, Blessed Mary the Virgin and St Cuthbert of Durham is a cathedral in the city of Durham, England, the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Durham. The Bishopric dates from 995, with the present cathedral being founded in AD 1093...

.

Juvenilia and early works

From his mid-teens Larkin "wrote ceaselessly", producing both poetry, initially modelled on Eliot and W. H. Auden, and fiction: he wrote five full-length novels, each of which he destroyed shortly after completion. While he was at Oxford University he had a poem published for the first time: "Ultimatum" in The Listener. Around this time he developed a pseudonymous alter ego for his prose, Brunette Coleman
Brunette Coleman
Brunette Coleman was a pseudonym used by the poet and writer Philip Larkin . In 1943, towards the end of his time as an undergraduate at St John's College, Oxford, he wrote several works of fiction, verse and critical commentary under that name...

. Under this name he wrote two novellas, Trouble at Willow Gables and Michaelmas Term at St Brides (2002), as well as a supposed autobiography and an equally fictitious creative manifesto called "What we are writing for". Richard Bradford has written that these curious works show "three registers: cautious indifference, archly overwritten symbolism with a hint of Lawrence and prose that appears to disclose its writer's involuntary feelings of sexual excitement".

After these works Larkin started his first published novel Jill
Jill (novel)
Jill is a novel by English writer Philip Larkin, first published in 1946 by The Fortune Press, and reprinted by Faber & Faber in 1964. It was written between 1943 and 1944, when Larkin was twenty-one years old and an undergraduate at St John's College, Oxford.The novel is set in the wartime Oxford...

 (1946). This was published by Reginald A. Caton
Reginald Caton
Reginald Ashley Caton was an English publisher, variously described as 'eccentric', 'raffish', a 'miser' and a 'rogue publisher'. He appears as a literary character, especially in novels by Kingsley Amis....

, a publisher of barely legal pornography, who also issued serious fiction as a cover for his core activities. Around the time that Jill was being prepared for publication, Caton inquired of Larkin if he also wrote poetry. This resulted in the publication, three months before Jill, of The North Ship
The North Ship
The North Ship is a collection of poems by Philip Larkin , and was published in 1945 by Reginald A. Caton's Fortune Press. It was reissued in 1966 by Faber and Faber Limited. In the 1945 version there are 31 items, numbered with Roman numerals. The last of these, "The North Ship" is a set of five...

 (1945), a collection of poems written between 1942 and 1944 which showed the increasing influence of Yeats
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms...

. Immediately after completing Jill, Larkin started work on the novel A Girl in Winter (1947), completing it in 1945. This was published by Faber and Faber
Faber and Faber
Faber and Faber Limited, often abbreviated to Faber, is an independent publishing house in the UK, notable in particular for publishing a great deal of poetry and for its former editor T. S. Eliot. Faber has a rich tradition of publishing a wide range of fiction, non fiction, drama, film and music...

 and was well received, The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times
The Sunday Times is a British Sunday newspaper.The Sunday Times may also refer to:*The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times *The Sunday Times...

 calling it "an exquisite performance and nearly faultless". Subsequently he made at least three concerted attempts at writing a third novel, but none went further than a solid start.

Mature works

It was during Larkin's five years in Belfast that he reached maturity as a poet. The bulk of his next published collection of poems The Less Deceived
The Less Deceived
The Less Deceived, first published in 1955, was Philip Larkin's first mature collection of poetry, having been preceded by the derivative North Ship from The Fortune Press and a privately printed collection...

 (1955) was written there, though eight of the twenty-nine poems included were from the late 1940s. This period also saw Larkin make his final attempts at writing prose fiction, and he gave extensive help to Kingsley Amis with Lucky Jim
Lucky Jim
Lucky Jim is an academic satire written by Kingsley Amis, first published in 1954 by Victor Gollancz. It was Amis's first novel, and won the Somerset Maugham Award for fiction...

, which was Amis's first published novel. In October 1954 an article in The Spectator
The Spectator
The Spectator is a weekly British magazine first published on 6 July 1828. It is currently owned by David and Frederick Barclay, who also owns The Daily Telegraph. Its principal subject areas are politics and culture...

 made the first use of the title The Movement
The Movement (literature)
The Movement was a term coined by J. D. Scott, literary editor of The Spectator, in 1954 to describe a group of writers including Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, Donald Davie, D.J. Enright, John Wain, Elizabeth Jennings, Thom Gunn, and Robert Conquest...

 to describe the dominant trend in British post-war literature. Various poems by Larkin were included in a 1953 PEN
International PEN
PEN International , the worldwide association of writers, was founded in London in 1921 to promote friendship and intellectual co-operation among writers everywhere....

 Anthology that also included poems by Amis and Robert Conquest
Robert Conquest
George Robert Ackworth Conquest CMG is a British historian who became a well-known writer and researcher on the Soviet Union with the publication in 1968 of The Great Terror, an account of Stalin's purges of the 1930s...

, and Larkin was seen to be a part of this grouping. In 1951 Larkin compiled a collection called XX Poems which he had privately printed in a run of just 100 copies. Many of the poems in it subsequently appeared in his next published volume.

In November 1955 The Less Deceived was published by The Marvell Press, an independent company in Hessle
Hessle
Hessle is a town and civil parish in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England, situated west of Kingston upon Hull city centre. Geographically it is part of a larger urban area which consists of the city of Kingston upon Hull, the town of Hessle and a number of other villages but is not part of the...

 near Hull. At first the volume attracted little attention, but in December it was included in The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

 list of Books of the Year. From this point the book's reputation spread and sales blossomed throughout 1956 and 1957. During his first five years in Hull the pressures of work slowed Larkin's output to an average of just two-and-a-half poems a year, but this period saw the writing of some of his best-known poems, such as "An Arundel Tomb
An Arundel Tomb
"An Arundel Tomb" is a poem by Philip Larkin, published in 1964 in his collection The Whitsun Weddings. It comprises 7 verses of 6 lines each, each rhyming abbcac....

", "The Whitsun Weddings" and "Here".

In 1963 Faber and Faber reissued Jill, with the addition of a long introduction by Larkin that included much information about his time at Oxford University
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

 and his friendship with Kingsley Amis. This acted as a prelude to the release the following year of The Whitsun Weddings, the volume which cemented his reputation; almost immediately after its publication he was granted a Fellowship of the Royal Society of Literature
Royal Society of Literature
The Royal Society of Literature is the "senior literary organisation in Britain". It was founded in 1820 by George IV, in order to "reward literary merit and excite literary talent". The Society's first president was Thomas Burgess, who later became the Bishop of Salisbury...

. In the years that followed Larkin wrote several of his most famous poems, followed in the 1970s by a series of longer and more sober poems, including "The Building" and "The Old Fools". All of these appeared in Larkin's final collection, High Windows
High Windows
High Windows is a collection of poems by English poet Philip Larkin, and was published in 1974 by Faber and Faber Limited. The readily available paperback version was first published in Britain in 1979...

, which was published in June 1974. Its more direct use of language meant that it did not meet with uniform praise; nonetheless it sold over twenty thousand copies in its first year alone. For some critics it represents a falling-off from his previous two books, yet it contains a number of his much-loved pieces, including "This Be The Verse
This Be The Verse
"This Be The Verse" is a lyric poem in three verses of four iambic tetrameter on an alternating rhyme scheme, by the English poet Philip Larkin...

" and "The Explosion", as well as the title poem. "Annus Mirabilis" (Year of Wonder), also from that volume, contains the frequently quoted observation that sexual intercourse began in 1963, which the narrator claims was "rather late for me": this despite Larkin having started his own sexual career in 1945. Bradford, prompted by comments in Maeve Brennan's memoir, suggests that the poem commemorates Larkin's relationship with Brennan moving from the romantic to the sexual.

Later in 1974 he started work on his final major published poem, "Aubade". It was completed in 1977 and published in the 23 December issue of The Times Literary Supplement
The Times Literary Supplement
The Times Literary Supplement is a weekly literary review published in London by News International, a subsidiary of News Corporation.-History:...

. After "Aubade" Larkin wrote only one poem that has attracted close critical attention, the posthumously-published and intensely personal "Love Again".

Poetic style

Larkin's poetry has been characterized as combining "an ordinary, colloquial style", "clarity", a "quiet, reflective tone", "ironic understatement" and a "direct" engagement with "commonplace experiences", while Jean Hartley summed his style up as a "piquant mixture of lyricism and discontent".

Larkin's earliest work showed the influence of Eliot, Auden and Yeats, and the development of his mature poetic identity in the early 1950s coincided with the growing influence on him of Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy
Thomas Hardy, OM was an English novelist and poet. While his works typically belong to the Naturalism movement, several poems display elements of the previous Romantic and Enlightenment periods of literature, such as his fascination with the supernatural.While he regarded himself primarily as a...

. The "mature" Larkin style, first evident in The Less Deceived, is "that of the detached, sometimes lugubrious, sometimes tender observer", who, in Hartley's phrase, looks at "ordinary people doing ordinary things". Larkin's mature poetic persona is notable for its "plainness and scepticism". Other recurrent features of his mature work are sudden openings and "highly-structured but flexible verse forms".
Terence Hawkes has argued that while most of the poems in The North Ship are "metaphoric in nature, heavily indebted to Yeats's symbolist lyrics", the subsequent development of Larkin's mature style is "not ... a movement from Yeats to Hardy, but rather a surrounding of the Yeatsian moment (the metaphor) within a Hardyesque frame". In Hawkes's view, "Larkin's poetry ... revolves around two losses": the "loss of modernism", which manifests itself as "the desire to find a moment of epiphany", and "the loss of England, or rather the loss of the British Empire, which requires England to define itself in its own terms when previously it could define 'Englishness' in opposition to something else."

In 1972 Larkin wrote the oft-quoted "Going, Going", a poem which expresses a romantic fatalism
Fatalism
Fatalism is a philosophical doctrine emphasizing the subjugation of all events or actions to fate.Fatalism generally refers to several of the following ideas:...

 in its view of England that was typical of his later years. In it he prophesies a complete destruction of the countryside, and expresses an idealised sense of national togetherness and identity: "And that will be England gone ... it will linger on in galleries; but all that remains for us will be concrete and tyres". The poem ends with the blunt statement, "I just think it will happen, soon."

Larkin's style is bound up with his recurring themes and subjects, which include death and fatalism, as in his final major poem "Aubade". Poet Andrew Motion
Andrew Motion
Sir Andrew Motion, FRSL is an English poet, novelist and biographer, who presided as Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009.- Life and career :...

 observes of Larkin's poems that "their rage or contempt is always checked by the ... energy of their language and the satisfactions of their articulate formal control", and contrasts two aspects of his poetic personality—on the one hand an enthusiasm for "symbolist moments" and "freely imaginative narratives", and on the other a "remorseless factuality" and "crudity of language". Motion defines this as a "life-enhancing struggle between opposites", and concludes that his poetry is typically "ambivalent": "His three mature collections have developed attitudes and styles of ... imaginative daring: in their prolonged debates with despair, they testify to wide sympathies, contain passages of frequently transcendent beauty, and demonstrate a poetic inclusiveness which is of immense consequence for his literary heirs."

Prose non-fiction

Larkin was a notable critic of modernism
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

 in contemporary art and literature. His scepticism is at its most nuanced and illuminating in Required Writing, a collection of his book reviews and essays, and at its most inflamed and polemical in his introduction to his collected jazz reviews, All What Jazz, drawn from the 126 record-review columns he wrote for The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph
The Daily Telegraph is a daily morning broadsheet newspaper distributed throughout the United Kingdom and internationally. The newspaper was founded by Arthur B...

 between 1961 and 1971, which contains an attack on modern jazz that widens into a wholesale critique of modernism in the arts. Despite the reputation Larkin not unwillingly acquired as an enemy of modernism, recent critical assessments of Larkin's writings have identified them as possessing some modernist characteristics.

Reception history

When first published in 1945, The North Ship received just one review, in the Coventry Evening Telegraph
Coventry Evening Telegraph
The Coventry Telegraph is a local English tabloid newspaper. Originally called The Midland Daily Telegraph, it was founded in 1891 by William Isaac Iliffe as Coventry's first daily newspaper, a four-page broadsheet newspaper originally sold for a half penny...

, which concluded "Mr Larkin has an inner vision that must be sought for with care. His recondite imagery is couched in phrases that make up in a kind of wistful hinted beauty what they lack in lucidity. Mr Larkin's readers must at present be confined to a small circle. Perhaps his work will gain wider appeal as his genius becomes more mature?" A few years later, though, the poet and critic Charles Madge
Charles Madge
Charles Madge , was an English poet, journalist and sociologist, now most remembered as a founder of Mass-Observation.As a sociologist, he co-founded Mass-Observation with Tom Harrisson in 1937, an endeavour which would occupy more of his time than literature...

 came across the book and wrote to Larkin with his compliments. When the collection was reissued in 1966 it was presented as a work of juvenilia, and the reviews were gentle and respectful; the most forthright praise came from Elizabeth Jennings
Elizabeth Jennings
Elizabeth Jennings was an English poet.-Life and career:Jennings was born in Boston, Lincolnshire. When she was six, her family moved to Oxford, where she remained for the rest of her life. Couzyn, Jeni Contemporary Women Poets. Bloodaxe, pp. 98-100. There she later attended St Anne's College...

 in The Spectator: "few will question the intrinsic value of The North Ship or the importance of its being reprinted now. It is good to know that Larkin could write so well when still so young."

The Less Deceived was first noticed by The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

, who included it in its List of Books of 1955. In its wake many other reviews followed; "most of them concentrated ... on the book's emotional impact and its sophisticated, witty language." The Spectator felt the collection was "in the running for the best published in this country since the war"; G. S. Fraser, referring to Larkin's perceived association with The Movement
The Movement (literature)
The Movement was a term coined by J. D. Scott, literary editor of The Spectator, in 1954 to describe a group of writers including Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, Donald Davie, D.J. Enright, John Wain, Elizabeth Jennings, Thom Gunn, and Robert Conquest...

 felt that Larkin exemplified "everything that is good in this 'new movement' and none of its faults". The TLS
The Times Literary Supplement
The Times Literary Supplement is a weekly literary review published in London by News International, a subsidiary of News Corporation.-History:...

 called him "a poet of quite exceptional importance", and in June 1956 the Times Educational Supplement was fulsome: "As native as a Whitstable oyster, as sharp an expression of contemporary thought and experience as anything written in our time, as immediate in its appeal as the lyric poetry of an earlier day, it may well be regarded by posterity as a poetic monument that marks the triumph over the formless mystifications of the last twenty years. With Larkin poetry is on its way back to the middlebrow public." Reviewing the book in America the poet Robert Lowell
Robert Lowell
Robert Traill Spence Lowell IV was an American poet, considered the founder of the confessional poetry movement. He was appointed the sixth Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress where he served from 1947 until 1948...

 wrote, "No post-war poetry has so caught the moment, and caught it without straining after its ephemera. It's a hesitant, groping mumble, resolutely experienced, resolutely perfect in its artistic methods."

However, in time, there was a counter-reaction: David Wright wrote in Encounter
Encounter (magazine)
Encounter was a literary magazine, founded in 1953 by poet Stephen Spender and early neoconservative author Irving Kristol. The magazine ceased publication in 1991...

 that The Less Deceived suffered from the "palsy of playing safe"; in April 1957 Charles Tomlinson
Charles Tomlinson
Alfred Charles Tomlinson, CBE is a British poet and translator, and also an academic and artist. He was born and raised in Penkhull in the city of Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.-Life:...

 wrote a piece for the journal Essays in Criticism, "The Middlebrow Muse", attacking The Movement's poets for their "middle-cum-lowbrowism", "suburban mental ratio" and "parochialism"—Larkin had a "tenderly nursed sense of defeat". In 1962 A. Alvarez
Al Alvarez
Al Alvarez is an English poet, writer and critic who publishes under the name A. Alvarez and Al Alvarez....

, the compiler of an anthology entitled The New Poetry
The New Poetry
The New Poetry was a poetry anthology edited by Al Alvarez, published in 1962 and in a revised edition in 1966. It was greeted at the time as a significant review of the post-war scene in English poetry....

, famously accused Larkin of "gentility, neo-Georgian pastoralism, and a failure to deal with the violent extremes of contemporary life".
When The Whitsun Weddings was released Alvarez continued his attacks in a review in The Observer
The Observer
The Observer is a British newspaper, published on Sundays. In the same place on the political spectrum as its daily sister paper The Guardian, which acquired it in 1993, it takes a liberal or social democratic line on most issues. It is the world's oldest Sunday newspaper.-Origins:The first issue,...

, complaining of the "drab circumspection" of Larkin's "commonplace" subject-matter. However, praise outweighed criticism. John Betjeman felt Larkin had "closed the gap between poetry and the public which the experiments and obscurity of the last fifty years have done so much to widen." In The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books is a fortnightly magazine with articles on literature, culture and current affairs. Published in New York City, it takes as its point of departure that the discussion of important books is itself an indispensable literary activity...

 Christopher Ricks
Christopher Ricks
Sir Christopher Bruce Ricks, FBA is a British literary critic and scholar. He is the William M. and Sara B. Warren Professor of the Humanities at Boston University and Co-Director of the Editorial Institute at Boston University, and was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford from 2004...

 wrote of the "refinement of self-consciousness, usually flawless in its execution" and Larkin's summoning up of "the world of all of us, the place where, in the end, we find our happiness, or not at all." He felt Larkin to be "the best poet England now has."

In his biography Richard Bradford writes that the reviews for High Windows showed "genuine admiration" but notes that they typically encountered problems describing "the individual genius at work" in poems such as "Annus Mirabilis", "The Explosion" and "The Building" while also explaining why each were "so radically different" from one another. Robert Nye in The Times overcame this problem "by treating the differences as ineffective masks for a consistently nasty presence".

In Larkin at Sixty
Larkin at Sixty
Larkin at Sixty is a collection of original essays and poems published to celebrate the sixtieth birthday of the English poet Philip Larkin...

, amongst the portraits by friends and colleagues such as Kingsley Amis, Noel Hughes and Charles Monteith and dedicatory poems by John Betjeman, Peter Porter
Peter Porter (poet)
Peter Neville Frederick Porter, OAM was a British-based Australian poet.-Life:Porter was born in Brisbane, Australia, in 1929. His mother, Marion, died of a burst gall-bladder in 1938. He attended the Church of England Grammar School and left school at 18, and went to work as a trainee journalist...

 and Gavin Ewart
Gavin Ewart
Gavin Buchanan Ewart was a British poet best known for contributing to Geoffrey Grigson's New Verse at the age of seventeen.-Life:...

, the various strands of Larkin's output were analysed by critics and fellow poets: Andrew Motion, Christopher Ricks
Christopher Ricks
Sir Christopher Bruce Ricks, FBA is a British literary critic and scholar. He is the William M. and Sara B. Warren Professor of the Humanities at Boston University and Co-Director of the Editorial Institute at Boston University, and was Professor of Poetry at the University of Oxford from 2004...

 and Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer. He lives in Dublin. Heaney has received the Nobel Prize in Literature , the Golden Wreath of Poetry , T. S. Eliot Prize and two Whitbread prizes...

 looked at the poems, Alan Brownjohn
Alan Brownjohn
Alan Charles Brownjohn FRSL is an English poet and novelist.He was born in London and educated at Merton College, Oxford. He taught until 1979, when he became a full-time writer...

 wrote on the novels, and Donald Mitchell
Donald Mitchell (writer)
Donald Mitchell is a British writer on music, particularly known for his books on Gustav Mahler and Benjamin Britten and for the book The Language of Modern Music, published 1963....

 and Clive James
Clive James
Clive James, AM is an Australian author, critic, broadcaster, poet and memoirist, best known for his autobiographical series Unreliable Memoirs, for his chat shows and documentaries on British television and for his prolific journalism...

 looked at his jazz criticism.

Critical opinion

In 1980 Neil Powell could write that "It is probably fair to say that Philip Larkin is less highly regarded in academic circles than either Thom Gunn
Thom Gunn
Thom Gunn, born Thomson William Gunn , was an Anglo-American poet who was praised both for his early verses in England, where he was associated with The Movement and his later poetry in America, even after moving toward a looser, free-verse style...

 or Donald Davie
Donald Davie
Donald Alfred Davie was an English Movement poet, and literary critic. His poems in general are philosophical and abstract, but often evoke various landscapes.-Biography:...

". But more recently Larkin's standing has increased. "Philip Larkin is an excellent example of the plain style in modern times," writes Tijana Stojkovic. Robert Sheppard asserts that "It is by general consent that the work of Philip Larkin is taken to be exemplary". "Larkin is the most widely celebrated and arguably the finest poet of the Movement," states Keith Tuma, and his poetry is "more various than its reputation for dour pessimism and anecdotes of a disappointed middle class suggests".

Stephen Cooper's book Philip Larkin: Subversive Writer suggests the changing temper of Larkin studies. Cooper argues that "The interplay of signs and motifs in the early work orchestrates a subversion of conventional attitudes towards class, gender, authority and sexual relations". Cooper identifies Larkin as a progressive writer, and perceives in the letters a "plea for alternative constructs of masculinity, femininity and social and political organisation". Cooper draws on the entire canon of Larkin's works, as well as on unpublished correspondence, to counter the image of Larkin as merely a racist, misogynist reactionary. Instead he identifies in Larkin what he calls a "subversive imagination". He highlights in particular "Larkin's objections to the hypocrisies of conventional sexual politics that hamper the lives of both sexes in equal measure".

In similar vein to Cooper, Stephen Regan notes in an essay entitled "Philip Larkin: a late modern poet" that Larkin frequently embraces devices associated with the experimental practices of Modernism
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

, such as "linguistic strangeness, self-conscious literariness, radical self-questioning, sudden shifts of voice and register, complex viewpoints and perspectives, and symbolist intensity".

A further indication of a new direction in the critical valuation of Larkin is S. K. Chatterjee's statement that "Larkin is no longer just a name but an institution, a modern British national cultural monument".

Chatterjee's view of Larkin is grounded in a detailed analysis of his poetic style. He notes a development from Larkin's early works to his later ones, which sees his style change from "verbal opulence through a recognition of the self-ironising and self-negating potentiality of language to a linguistic domain where the conventionally held conceptual incompatibles – which are traditional binary oppositions between absolutes and relatives, between abstracts and concretes, between fallings and risings and between singleness and multiplicity – are found to be the last stumbling-block for an artist aspiring to rise above the impasse of worldliness". This contrasts with an older view that Larkin's style barely changed over the course of his poetic career. Chatterjee identifies this view as being typified by Bernard Bergonzi
Bernard Bergonzi
Bernard Bergonzi is a British literary scholar, critic and poet. He is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Warwick and an expert on T. S. Eliot.He was born in London and studied at the University of Oxford...

's comment that "Larkin's poetry did not ... develop between 1955 and 1974". However, for Chatterjee, Larkin's poetry responds strongly to changing "economic, socio-political, literary and cultural factors".
Chatterjee argues that "It is under the defeatist veneer of his poetry that the positive side of Larkin's vision of life is hidden". This positivity, suggests Chatterjee, is most apparent in his later works. Over the course of Larkin's poetic career, "The most notable attitudinal development lay in the zone of his view of life, which from being almost irredeemably bleak and pessimistic in The North Ship, became more and more positive with the passage of time".

The view that Larkin is not a nihilist
Nihilism
Nihilism is the philosophical doctrine suggesting the negation of one or more putatively meaningful aspects of life. Most commonly, nihilism is presented in the form of existential nihilism which argues that life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value...

 or pessimist, but actually displays optimism in his works, is certainly not universally endorsed, but Chatterjee's lengthy study suggests the degree to which old stereotypes of Larkin are now being transcended. Representative of these stereotypes is Bryan Appleyard
Bryan Appleyard
Bryan Appleyard is a British journalist and author.- Career :Appleyard was educated at Bolton School and King’s College, Cambridge and after graduating with a degree in English, he became Financial News Editor and Deputy Arts Editor from 1976 to 1984 at The Times. Subsequently he became a...

's judgement (quoted by Maeve Brennan) that of the writers who "have adopted a personal pose of extreme pessimism and loathing of the world ... none has done so with quite such a grinding focus on littleness and triviality as Larkin the man". Recent criticism of Larkin demonstrates a more complex set of values at work in his poetry and across the totality of his writings.

The debate about Larkin is summed up by Matthew Johnson, who observes that in most evaluations of Larkin "one is not really discussing the man, but actually reading a coded and implicit discussion of the supposed values of 'Englishness' that he is held to represent". Changing attitudes to Englishness are reflected in changing attitudes to Larkin, and the more sustained intellectual interest in the English national character, as embodied in the works of Peter Mandler
Peter Mandler
Peter Mandler is an historian at the University of Cambridge. He focuses on 19th and 20th century British history, particularly cultural history and the history of the social sciences...

 for instance, pinpoint one key reason why there is an increased scholarly interest in Larkin.

A summative view similar to those of Johnson and Regan is that of Robert Crawford, who argues that "In various ways, Larkin's work depends on, and develops from, Modernism." Furthermore, he "demonstrates just how slippery the word 'English' is".

Despite these recent developments, Larkin and his circle are nonetheless still firmly rejected by modernist critics and poets. For example, the poet Andrew Duncan
Andrew Duncan (poet)
Andrew Duncan is a British poet, critic, and editor. The author of at least seven books of poetry, including Anxiety Before Entering a Room Selected Poems 1977–99...

, writing of The Movement
The Movement (literature)
The Movement was a term coined by J. D. Scott, literary editor of The Spectator, in 1954 to describe a group of writers including Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, Donald Davie, D.J. Enright, John Wain, Elizabeth Jennings, Thom Gunn, and Robert Conquest...

 on his pinko.org website, notes that "there now seems to be a very wide consensus that it was a bad thing, and that Movement poems are tedious, shallow, smug, sententious, emotionally dead, etc. Their successors in the mainstream retain most of these characteristics. Wolfgang Gortschacher's book on Little Magazine Profiles ... shows ... that there was a terrific dearth of magazines during the 50s—an impoverishment of openings which correlates with rigid and conservative poetry, and with the hegemony of a few people determined to exclude dissidents." Peter Riley
Peter Riley
Peter Riley is a contemporary English poet, essayist, and editor. Riley is known as a Cambridge poet, part of the group vaguely associated with J. H. Prynne which today is acknowledged as an important epicenter of innovative poetry in the United Kingdom. Riley was an editor and major contributor...

, a key player in the British Poetry Revival
British Poetry Revival
The British Poetry Revival is the general name given to a loose poetry movement in Britain that took place in the 1960s and 1970s. The revival was a modernist-inspired reaction to the Movement's more conservative approach to British poetry.-Beginnings:...

, which was a reaction against The Movement's poets, has also criticised Larkin for his uncritical and ideologically narrow position: "What after all were Larkin and The Movement but a denial of the effusive ethics of poetry from 1795 onwards, in favour of 'This is what life is really like' as if anyone thought for a second of representing observable 'life'. W.S. Graham and Dylan Thomas
Dylan Thomas
Dylan Marlais Thomas was a Welsh poet and writer, Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 11 January 2008. who wrote exclusively in English. In addition to poetry, he wrote short stories and scripts for film and radio, which he often performed himself...

 knew perfectly well that 'life' was like that, if you nominated it thus, which is why they went elsewhere."

Posthumous reputation

Larkin's posthumous reputation was deeply affected by the publication in 1992 of Anthony Thwaite
Anthony Thwaite
Anthony Simon Thwaite, OBE, is an English poet and writer. He is married to the writer Ann Thwaite. He was awarded the OBE in 1992, for services to poetry. He was mainly brought up in Yorkshire and currently lives in Norfolk....

's edition of his letters and, the following year, his official biography, Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life by Andrew Motion
Andrew Motion
Sir Andrew Motion, FRSL is an English poet, novelist and biographer, who presided as Poet Laureate of the United Kingdom from 1999 to 2009.- Life and career :...

. These revealed his obsession with pornography
Pornographic magazine
Pornographic magazines, sometimes known as adult magazines, sex magazines or top-shelf magazines are pornographic magazines that contain content of a sexual nature. Adult magazines are mainly aimed towards men, and in some parts of the world, many men's first sight of a naked woman has been in an...

, his racism
Racism
Racism is the belief that inherent different traits in human racial groups justify discrimination. In the modern English language, the term "racism" is used predominantly as a pejorative epithet. It is applied especially to the practice or advocacy of racial discrimination of a pernicious nature...

, his increasing shift to the political right wing, and his habitual expressions of venom and spleen. In 1990, even before the publication of these two books, Tom Paulin wrote that Larkin's "obscenity is informed by prejudices that are not by any means as ordinary, commonplace, or acceptable as the poetic language in which they are so plainly spelled out." The letters and Motion's biography fueled further assessments of this kind, such as Lisa Jardine
Lisa Jardine
Lisa Anne Jardine CBE , née Lisa Anne Bronowski, is a British historian of the early modern period. She is professor of Renaissance Studies and Director of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters at Queen Mary, University of London, and is Chair of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority...

's comment in The Guardian that "The Britishness of Larkin's poetry carries a baggage of attitudes which the Selected Letters now make explicit". On the other hand, the revelations were dismissed by the novelist, Martin Amis
Martin Amis
Martin Louis Amis is a British novelist, the author of many novels including Money and London Fields . He is currently Professor of Creative Writing at the Centre for New Writing at the University of Manchester, but will step down at the end of the 2010/11 academic year...

, in The War Against Cliché
The War Against Cliché
The War Against Cliché is an anthology of essays, book reviews and literary criticism from the British author Martin Amis. The collection received the National Book Critics Circle award in 2001.-Title:...

, arguing that the letters in particular show nothing more than a tendency for Larkin to tailor his words according to the recipient. This idea is developed in Richard Bradford's biography: he compares the style Larkin used in his correspondence with the author Barbara Pym
Barbara Pym
Barbara Mary Crampton Pym was an English novelist. In 1977 her career was revived when two prominent writers, Lord David Cecil and Philip Larkin, nominated her as the most underrated writer of the century...

 with that he adopted with his old schoolfriend Colin Gunner. Commenting on Letters to Monica
(2010) Graeme Richardson states that this collection "goes some way towards the restoration of Larkin's tarnished image...reveal(ing) Larkin as not quite the sinister, black-hearted near-rapist everyone thought it was OK to abuse in the 90s."

Trying to resolve Larkin's contradictory opinions on race in his book Such Deliberate Disguises: The Art of Philip Larkin, the writer Richard Palmer quotes a letter Larkin wrote to Betjeman, as if it exposes "all the post-Motion and post-Letters furore about Larkin’s 'racism' as the nonsense it is":
"The American Negro is trying to take a step forward that can be compared only to the ending of slavery in the nineteenth century. And despite the dogs, the hosepipes and the burnings, advances have already been made towards giving the Negro his civil rights that would have been inconceivable when Louis Armstrong was a young man. These advances will doubtless continue. They will end only when the Negro is as well-housed, educated and medically cared for as the white man."
Reviewing Palmer's book, John G. Rodwan, Jr. wonders "if this does not qualify as the thought of a true racist: 'I find the state of the nation quite terrifying. In 10 years’ time we shall all be cowering under our beds as hordes of blacks steal anything they can lay their hands on.' Or this: 'We don’t go to cricket
Cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

 Test matches
Test cricket
Test cricket is the longest form of the sport of cricket. Test matches are played between national representative teams with "Test status", as determined by the International Cricket Council , with four innings played between two teams of 11 players over a period of up to a maximum five days...

 now, too many fucking niggers about.'"

Despite controversy about his personal life and opinions, Larkin remains one of Britain's most popular poets. In 2003, almost two decades after his death, Larkin was chosen as "the nation's best-loved poet" in a survey
Opinion poll
An opinion poll, sometimes simply referred to as a poll is a survey of public opinion from a particular sample. Opinion polls are usually designed to represent the opinions of a population by conducting a series of questions and then extrapolating generalities in ratio or within confidence...

 by the Poetry Book Society
Poetry Book Society
The Poetry Book Society was founded by T. S. Eliot and friends in 1953. Each quarter the Society selects one recently published collection of poetry for its members. The Society also publishes the quarterly poetry journal Bulletin, and it administers the competition for the annual T. S. Eliot Prize...

, and in 2008 The Times
The Times
The Times is a British daily national newspaper, first published in London in 1785 under the title The Daily Universal Register . The Times and its sister paper The Sunday Times are published by Times Newspapers Limited, a subsidiary since 1981 of News International...

 named Larkin as the greatest British post-war writer. Three of his poems, "This Be The Verse", "The Whitsun Weddings" and "An Arundel Tomb", featured in the Nation's Top 100 Poems as voted for by viewers of the BBC
BBC
The British Broadcasting Corporation is a British public service broadcaster. Its headquarters is at Broadcasting House in the City of Westminster, London. It is the largest broadcaster in the world, with about 23,000 staff...

's Bookworm in 1995. Media interest in Larkin has increased in the twenty-first century. Larkin's collection The Whitsun Weddings is one of the available poetry texts in the AQA
Assessment and Qualifications Alliance
AQA is an Awarding Body in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It compiles specifications and holds examinations in various subjects at GCSE, AS and A Level and offers vocational qualifications. AQA is a registered charity and independent of the Government...

 English Literature A Level syllabus, while High Windows is offered by the OCR board
OCR (examination board)
OCR is an examination board that sets examinations and awards qualifications . It is one of England, Wales and Northern Ireland's five main examination boards....

. The Philip Larkin Society
Philip Larkin Society
The Philip Larkin Society is a charity dedicated to preserving the memory and works of the British poet, novelist and jazz critic Philip Larkin.-History:...

 was formed in 1995, ten years after the poet's death. Buses in Hull
Kingston upon Hull
Kingston upon Hull , usually referred to as Hull, is a city and unitary authority area in the ceremonial county of the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It stands on the River Hull at its junction with the Humber estuary, 25 miles inland from the North Sea. Hull has a resident population of...

 displayed extracts from his poems in 2010.

Recordings

In 1959, The Marvell Press published Listen presents Philip Larkin reading The Less Deceived (Listen LPV1), an LP record on which Larkin recites all the poems from The Less Deceived in the order they appear in the printed volume. This was followed, in 1965, by Philip Larkin reads and comments on The Whitsun Weddings (Listen LPV6), again on The Marvell Press's record label (though the printed volume was published by Faber and Faber). Once again the poems are read in the order in which they appear in the printed volume, but with Larkin including introductory remarks to many of the poems. A recording of Larkin reading the poems from his final collection, High Windows, was published in 1975 as British poets of our time. Philip Larkin; High Windows: poems read by the author (edited by Peter Orr) on the Argo record label (Argo PLP 1202). As with the two previous recordings, the sequencing of the poems is the same as in the printed volume.

Larkin also appears on several audio poetry anthologies: The Jupiter Anthology of 20th Century English Poetry – Part III (JUR 00A8), issued in 1963 and featuring "An Arundel Tomb" and "Mr Bleaney" (this same recording was issued in the United States in 1967 on the Folkways record label as Anthology of 20th Century English Poetry – Part III (FL9870)); The Poet Speaks record 8 (Argo PLP 1088), issued in 1967 and featuring "Wants", "Coming", "Nothing to be Said", "Days" and "Dockery and Son"; On Record (YA3), issued in 1974 by Yorkshire Arts Association and featuring "Here", "Days", "Next, Please", "Wedding-Wind", "The Whitsun Weddings", "XXX", "XIII" (these last two poems from The North Ship); and Douglas Dunn and Philip Larkin, issued in 1984 by Faber and Faber (A Faber Poetry cassette), featuring Larkin reading 13 poems including, for the first time on a recording, "Aubade".

Despite the fact that Larkin made audio recordings (in studio conditions) of each of his three mature collections, and separate recordings of groups of poems for a number of audio anthologies, he somehow gained a reputation as a poet who was reluctant to make recordings in which he read his own work. While Larkin did express a dislike of the sound of his own voice ("I come from Coventry, between the sloppiness of Leicester and the whine of Birmingham, you know—and sometimes it comes out"), the evidence indicates that this influenced more his preference not to give public readings of his own work, than his willingness to make audio recordings of his poems.

In 1980, Larkin was invited by the Poets' Audio Center, Washington, to record a selection of poems from the full range of his poetic output for publication on a Watershed Foundation cassette tape. The recording was made in February 1980 (at Larkin's own expense) by John Weeks, a sound engineer colleague from the University of Hull. Although negotiations between Larkin, his publishers and the Watershed Foundation collapsed, the recording (of Larkin reading 26 poems selected from his four canonical volumes of poetry) was sold – by Larkin – to Harvard University's Poetry Room in 1981. In 2004, a copy of this recording was uncovered in the Hornsea
Hornsea
Hornsea is a small seaside resort, town and civil parish in the East Riding of Yorkshire, England at the eastern end of the Trans Pennine Trail.-Overview:According to the 2001 UK Census, Hornsea parish had a population of 8,243....

 garage studio of the engineer who had made the recording for Larkin. (Subsequently, Larkin's own copy of the recording was found in the Larkin Archive at the University of Hull) News of the “newly discovered” recording made the headlines in 2006, with extracts being broadcast in a Sky News
Sky News
Sky News is a 24-hour British and international satellite television news broadcaster with an emphasis on UK and international news stories.The service places emphasis on rolling news, including the latest breaking news. Sky News also hosts localised versions of the channel in Australia and in New...

 report. A programme examining the discovery in more depth, The Larkin Tapes, was broadcast on BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4
BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

 in March 2008. The recordings were issued on CD by Faber and Faber in January 2009 as The Sunday Sessions.

In contrast to the number of audio recordings of Larkin reading his own work, there are very few appearances by Larkin on television. The only programme in which he agreed to be filmed taking part is Down Cemetery Road (1964), from the BBC Monitor series, in which Larkin was interviewed by John Betjeman. The filming took place in and around Hull (with some filming in North Lincolnshire), and showed Larkin in his natural surroundings: his flat in Pearson Park, the Brynmor Jones Library; and visiting churches and cemeteries. The film was more recently broadcast on BBC Four
BBC Four
BBC Four is a British television network operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation and available to digital television viewers on Freeview, IPTV, satellite and cable....

.

In 1982, as part of celebrations for his sixtieth birthday, Larkin was the subject of The South Bank Show
The South Bank Show
The South Bank Show was a television arts magazine show, originally made by London Weekend Television , presented by Melvyn Bragg, broadcast on ITV and seen in over 60 countries worldwide — including Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden and the United States...

. Although Larkin declined the invitation to appear in the programme, he recorded (on audio tape) "a lot of poems" specifically for it. Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg
Melvyn Bragg, Baron Bragg FRSL FRTS FBA, FRS FRSA is an English broadcaster and author best known for his work with the BBC and for presenting the The South Bank Show...

 commented, in his introduction to the programme, that the poet had given his full cooperation. The programme, broadcast on 30 May, featured contributions from Kingsley Amis, Andrew Motion and Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett
Alan Bennett is a British playwright, screenwriter, actor and author. Born in Leeds, he attended Oxford University where he studied history and performed with The Oxford Revue. He stayed to teach and research mediaeval history at the university for several years...

. Bennett was also filmed reading several Larkin poems a few years later, in an edition of Poetry in Motion, broadcast by Channel 4
Channel 4
Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority , the station is now owned and operated by the Channel...

 in 1990.

Fiction based on Larkin's life

In 1999, Oliver Ford Davies
Oliver Ford Davies
-Biography:From the King's School, Canterbury, he won a scholarship to Merton College, Oxford, where he read History and became President of the Oxford University Dramatic Society . He was awarded the Laurence Olivier Award in 1990 for Best Actor in a New Play for Racing Demon...

 starred in Ben Brown's play Larkin With Women at the Stephen Joseph Theatre
Stephen Joseph Theatre
The Stephen Joseph Theatre is a theatre in the round in Scarborough, North Yorkshire, England that was founded by Stephen Joseph and was the first theatre in the round in Britain....

, Scarborough, reprising his role at the Orange Tree Theatre
Orange Tree Theatre
The Orange Tree Theatre is a 172-seat theatre at 1 Clarence Street, Richmond in south west London, built specifically as a theatre in the round....

, London in 2006. The play was published by Larkin's usual publishers, Faber and Faber. Set in the three decades after Larkin's arrival in Hull, it explores his long relationships with Monica Jones, Maeve Brennan and Betty Mackereth. Another Larkin inspired entertainment, devised and starring Sir Tom Courtenay
Tom Courtenay
Sir Thomas Daniel "Tom" Courtenay is an English actor who came to prominence in the early 1960s with a succession of films including The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner , Billy Liar , and Dr. Zhivago . Since the mid-1960s he has been known primarily for his work in the theatre...

, was given a pre-production performance on the afternoon of Saturday 29 June 2002 at Hull University's Middleton Hall. Courtenay performed his one-man play Pretending to Be Me as part of the Second Hull International Conference on the Work of Philip Larkin. In November that year, Courtenay debuted the play at the West Yorkshire Playhouse
West Yorkshire Playhouse
The West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds, England is a theatre which opened in March 1990 as part of the regeneration of the Quarry Hill area of the city...

, later transferring the production to the Comedy Theatre in London's West End. An audio recording of the play, which is based on Larkin's letters, interviews, diaries and verse, was released in 2005. In June 2010, Courtenay returned to the University of Hull to give a performance of a newly revised version of Pretending to Be Me called Larkin Revisited in aid of the Larkin statue appeal as part of the Larkin 25 festival.

In July 2003, BBC Two
BBC Two
BBC Two is the second television channel operated by the British Broadcasting Corporation in the United Kingdom. It covers a wide range of subject matter, but tending towards more 'highbrow' programmes than the more mainstream and popular BBC One. Like the BBC's other domestic TV and radio...

 broadcast a play entitled Love Again—its title also that of one of Larkin's most painfully personal poems—dealing with the last thirty years of Larkin's life (though not shot anywhere near Hull). The lead role was played by Hugh Bonneville
Hugh Bonneville
Hugh Richard Bonneville Williams, known professionally as Hugh Bonneville , is an English stage, film, television and radio actor.-Education:...

, and in the same year Channel 4
Channel 4
Channel 4 is a British public-service television broadcaster which began working on 2 November 1982. Although largely commercially self-funded, it is ultimately publicly owned; originally a subsidiary of the Independent Broadcasting Authority , the station is now owned and operated by the Channel...

 broadcast the documentary Philip Larkin, Love and Death in Hull.

In April 2008, BBC Radio 4 broadcast a play by Chris Harrald entitled Mr Larkin's Awkward Day
Mr Larkin's Awkward Day
Mr Larkin's Awkward Day is a comedy radio play by Chris Harrald, broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on Tuesday, 29 April 2008 as the Afternoon Play, repeated on 25 January 2010. The producer was Steven Canny. It won the Gold Award for Drama at the Sony Radio Academy Awards in 2009...

, recounting the practical joke
Practical joke
A practical joke is a mischievous trick played on someone, typically causing the victim to experience embarrassment, indignity, or discomfort. Practical jokes differ from confidence tricks in that the victim finds out, or is let in on the joke, rather than being fooled into handing over money or...

 played on him in 1957 by his friend Robert Conquest, a fellow poet.

A university friend, the St. John's' organ scholar Edmund Crispin
Edmund Crispin
Edmund Crispin was the pseudonym of Robert Bruce Montgomery , an English crime writer and composer.-Life and work:Montgomery was born in Chesham Bois, Buckinghamshire...

, wrote an Oxford-based detective novel The Moving Toyshop
The Moving Toyshop
The Moving Toyshop is a comic crime novel by Edmund Crispin, published in 1946. The novel features the detective and Oxford don, Gervase Fen.It is dedicated to the poet Philip Larkin, Crispin's contemporary at St. John's College, Oxford...

 (1946) in which a professor of English literature observes, on being handed an essay entitled "The influence of Sir Gawain on Arnold's Empedocles on Etna", "Good heavens. That must be Larkin: the most indefatigable searcher-out of pointless correspondence the world has ever known".

Memorials

Memorials to Larkin in Kingston upon Hull
Kingston upon Hull
Kingston upon Hull , usually referred to as Hull, is a city and unitary authority area in the ceremonial county of the East Riding of Yorkshire, England. It stands on the River Hull at its junction with the Humber estuary, 25 miles inland from the North Sea. Hull has a resident population of...

, where he worked and wrote much of his poetry, are the Larkin Building at the University of Hull housing teaching facilities and lecture rooms and the Philip Larkin Centre for Poetry and Creative Writing which hosts a regular programme of literary events.

In 2010 the city marked the 25th anniversary of his death with the Larkin 25
Larkin 25
Larkin 25 was an arts festival and cultural event in Kingston upon Hull, England, organised to mark the 25th anniversary of the death of the poet and University of Hull librarian, Philip Larkin...

 Festival. A video was commissioned to illustrate Larkin's poem "Here", his hymn to Hull and the East Riding of Yorkshire
East Riding of Yorkshire
The East Riding of Yorkshire, or simply East Yorkshire, is a local government district with unitary authority status, and a ceremonial county of England. For ceremonial purposes the county also includes the city of Kingston upon Hull, which is a separate unitary authority...

. Forty decorated toad
Toad
A toad is any of a number of species of amphibians in the order Anura characterized by dry, leathery skin , short legs, and snoat-like parotoid glands...

 sculptures entitled "Larkin with Toads" were displayed in the city in tribute to Larkin's poem "Toads" on 17 July 2010.
A life-size bronze statue of Larkin by sculptor Martin Jennings
Martin Jennings
Martin Jennings is a British Sculptor born in 1957 working in the figurative tradition. His statue of John Betjeman at St. Pancras Station was unveiled in 2007 and the statue of Philip Larkin at Hull Paragon Interchange station was launched in 2010....

 was unveiled at Hull Paragon Interchange on 2 December 2010, closing the Larkin 25 events. It is inscribed, "That Whitsun I was late getting away", from the poem, The Whitsun Weddings
The Whitsun Weddings (poem)
"The Whitsun Weddings" is one of the best known poems by British poet Philip Larkin. It was written and rewritten and finally published in the 1964 collection of poems, also called The Whitsun Weddings. It is one of three poems that Larkin wrote about train journeys.The poem comprises eight verses...

. Funding for the £100,000 statue, designed by Martin Jennings, was raised at charity events and auctions with support from Hull City Council
Hull City Council
Hull City Council is the governing body for the unitary authority and city of Kingston upon Hull. It was created in 1972 as the successor to the Corporation of Hull, which was also known as Hull Corporation....

. The unveiling was accompanied by Nathaniel Seaman's Fanfare for Larkin, composed for the occasion.

Poetry

    • "Church Going"
    • "Toads"
    • "Maiden Name"
    • "Born Yesterday" (written for the birth of Sally Amis
      Sally Amis
      Sally Myfanwy Amis was the youngest child of the writer Sir Kingsley Amis, and his wife, Hilary "Hilly" Bardwell, now Lady Kilmarnock...

      )
    • "Lines on a Young Lady's Autograph Album"
    • "The Whitsun Weddings
      The Whitsun Weddings (poem)
      "The Whitsun Weddings" is one of the best known poems by British poet Philip Larkin. It was written and rewritten and finally published in the 1964 collection of poems, also called The Whitsun Weddings. It is one of three poems that Larkin wrote about train journeys.The poem comprises eight verses...

      "
    • "An Arundel Tomb
      An Arundel Tomb
      "An Arundel Tomb" is a poem by Philip Larkin, published in 1964 in his collection The Whitsun Weddings. It comprises 7 verses of 6 lines each, each rhyming abbcac....

      "
    • "A Study of Reading Habits"
    • "Home is So Sad"
    • "Mr Bleaney
      Mr Bleaney
      "Mr Bleaney" is a poem written by British poet Philip Larkin. It was written in May 1955, was first published in The Listener on 8 September 1955, and later collected in the book The Whitsun Weddings in 1964....

      "
    • "This Be The Verse
      This Be The Verse
      "This Be The Verse" is a lyric poem in three verses of four iambic tetrameter on an alternating rhyme scheme, by the English poet Philip Larkin...

      "
    • "Annus Mirabilis"
    • "The Explosion"
    • "The Building"
    • "High Windows"
    • "Aubade" (first published 1977)
    • "Party Politics" (last published poem)
    • "The Dance" (unfinished & unpublished)
    • "Love Again" (unpublished)
    • The North Ship
    • The Less Deceived
    • The Whitsun Weddings
    • High Windows
    • Two appendices of all other published poems, including XX Poems

Audio and television

  • Harrald, Chris. Mr Larkin's Awkward Day, BBC Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

    , 29 April 2008. Repeated BBC Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

    , 25 January 2010.


Further reading



External links

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