Philip Larkin is widely regarded as one of the greatest English poets of the 20th century. He started his career as a librarian at Wellington University while also studying to become a professional librarian. While doing so, he continued to pursue his literary goals, publishing his first collection of poems at the age of 23. The novel was followed by two more novels. After that, he focused on poetry, and at the age of 35, he published his second book of poems, ‘The Less Deceived.’ Despite the fact that it made him renowned, he took another nine years to publish his third collection, owing to his responsibilities as librarian at the University of Hull’s Brynmor Jones Library. Despite the fact that he wrote little, he became nearly a household name, a remarkable fit for a poet. His ‘Selected Letters,’ published posthumously in 1992 and comprising ugly outbursts against women, minorities, and the working class, nearly wrecked his image, branding him a sexist and racist. When he was finally resurrected 31 years after his death, he was given a spot in Westminster Abbey’s Poet’s Corner.
Childhood and Adolescence
Philip Arthur Larkin was born in Radford, near Coventry, England, on August 9, 1922. Sydney Larkin, his father, had a distinctive personality that combined a love of poetry with a degree of nihilism. He attended Nuremberg rallies twice as a supporter of Nazism. He was a self-made guy who subsequently rose to the position of Coventry City Treasure.
Eva Emily Larkin nee Day, his mother, was a quiet woman who desired to be looked after by her domineering husband. Philip was the younger of their two children, with a ten-year-old older sister named Catherine or Kitty.
The family relocated to a larger house near Coventry Railway Station when he was five years old. He did not, however, appear to have any fond childhood memories. Friends and family never paid them a visit, and life was cold and uninteresting.
Philips studied at home until he was eight years old, under the tutelage of his mother and sister. Following that, he was accepted into King Henry VIII Junior School, from which he transferred to King Henry VIII Senior School.
Philip began writing during his school years and contributed regularly to the school magazine. He also acquired a strong interest in jazz, which his father fostered by purchasing a drum set and a saxophone for him. He was elsewhere occupied, although he failed the School Certificate examination in 1938.
Despite his poor grades, he was allowed to continue his education. He began editing the school magazine at this point. Despite this, he must have taken his studies more seriously because he achieved well in the Higher School Certificate in 1940, gaining distinctions in English and History.
Philip Larkin attended St John’s College, Oxford, with English in October 1940, while the Second World War raged around him. He was unable to join the military owing to poor eyesight, but he was able to complete the entire course.
Larkin maintained his creative endeavors at Oxford, writing ‘Ultimatum’ in the Listener on November 28, 1940. This was his first poem to appear in a national publication. He used the alias Brunette Coleman for his prose and published a number of works under this guise.
In his pre-university years, Larkin was a meek and lonely boy, but soon after joining St John’s, he underwent a significant transformation. He met future novelist and poet Kingsley Amis and John Wain, possibly in 1942, with whom he forged a longtime connection.
They quickly created a group known as ‘The Seven.’ They got together on a regular basis to read and debate one other’s poems. They also drank a lot and played jazz. These gatherings would eventually give birth to ‘The Movement,’ which sought to establish the primacy of English poetry above modernist poetry.
Three of Larkin’s poems were published in Oxford Poetry in June 1943: ‘A Stone Church Damaged by a Bomb,’ ‘Mythological Introduction,’ and ‘I dreamed of an out-thrust arm of land.’ In the same year, he received a first-class honors diploma.
Early on in his career
Philip Larkin returned to Coventry soon after leaving Oxford and lived with his parents for a while. Finally, he started working as a librarian in Wellington, Shropshire, in November 1943. He continued to write and publish while working there, while also furthering his education by training to become a professional librarian.
‘Poetry from Oxford in Wartime’ published eleven of his poems in 1945. These poems were included in his debut book, ‘The North Ship,’ which was published later that year. His debut work, ‘Jill,’ was released in 1946. The story is set in wartime Oxford and was written between 1943 and 1944 while he was a student at St John’s College, Oxford. He was also appointed Assistant Librarian at the University College of Leicester in this year.
He found Thomas Hardy’s writings in 1946 and became one of his greatest admirers, learning from him how to use ordinary events as the basis for his poems. He later admitted that the discovery was a watershed moment in his career. His final novel, ‘A Girl in Winter,’ was released in 1947. Despite the fact that it was hailed as “a forerunner of grandeur” by scholars such as John James Osborne, he did not publish any more fiction after that, presumably due to a lack of inspiration.
Larkin finished his studies in 1949 and became an Associate of the Library Association. He was then named sub-librarian at The Queen’s University of Belfast in June 1950. He returned to producing poetry after taking up the position in September 1950.
He had few poetry published for the next five years, with much of his work being rejected by established publishers. Undaunted, he self-published ‘XX Poems,’ a modest collection of poems, in 1951.
Five of his poems were published in a chapbook by the Fantasy Press in 1954. His poems ‘Toads’ and ‘Poetry of Departures’ were probably published in the same year by the Marvel Press in a collection.
Receiving An Appreciation
Philip Larkin returned to England in 1955 and began work as a librarian at the University of Hull on March 21, 1955. He spent the majority of his time in the library, with his office serving as his study, where he worked on both official and personal projects.
‘The Less Deceived,’ his second book of poems, was released by the Marvel Press in October 1955. The majority of the poems in this collection were written in Belfast, with the exception of eight that were written in the 1940s. It cemented his reputation as a poet.
He moved into his own self-contained flat on the top floor of a three-story house in 1956 and began working there. His next book, however, would not be published until 1964. One cause could be that he became overly preoccupied with library upgrades.
As a librarian
A plan for a new university library had already been made by the time Larkin took up the position of librarian at Hull. After going over it, he made many suggestions, all of which were accepted. He gradually established himself as a major figure in postwar British librarianship.
Later, his coworkers reported that he was a great administrator. He inspired his team not only by establishing a high bar, but also by treating them with respect and humor, infusing his orders with a sense of humour and compassion.
During his 30-year tenure, the library budget grew from £4,500 to £448,500, including a six-fold increase in stock. In addition, he computerized all records, making it Europe’s first library to implement an automated online circulation system.
Later in life
Philip Larkin continued to create poems in addition to his formal work, albeit at a far slower pace. Indeed, he may have only written two-and-a-half poems every year for the first several years. He began writing monthly reviews of jazz CDs for the Daily Telegraph in 1961.
Faber and Faber reprinted his debut novel, ‘Jill,’ in 1963, with a new preface by the author. Larkin discussed his time at Oxford as well as his acquaintance with Kinsley Amis.
‘The Whitsun Wedding,’ his third collection of poems, was released on February 28, 1964. The book was an instant success, selling 4,000 copies in two months and including some of his best-known poems such as ‘The Whitsun Weddings,’ ‘Days,’ ‘Mr Bleaney,’ ‘MCMXIV,’ and ‘An Arundel Tomb.’
‘All What Jazz: a Record Diary 1961-1968’, a collection of his jazz assessments, was published in 1970. However, he continued to write evaluations until 1971, and a later edition, subtitled ‘All What Jazz: a Record Diary 1961-1971,’ collected them all.
He also edited the ‘Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse,’ published in 1973, at some point. During this time, he continued to produce poems, and his last collection, ‘High Windows,’ was released in 1974. He began writing on ‘Aubade,’ his final major work released during his lifetime, in 1974.
However, it on December 23, 1977. After ‘Aubade,’ he only composed one more critically lauded poem, ‘Love Again,’ but it was only after his death that this intensely intimate poem was published. A collection of his writings and reviews was his most recent publication. It was released in November 1983 under the title ‘Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982.’
His Major Projects
Philip Larkin is most known for his three collections of poetry, the first of which was ‘The Less Deceived’ (1955). The Times Literary Supplement named it Book of the Year, instantly establishing him as a leading poet of his generation and a leading voice of “The Movement.”
‘The Whitsun Weddings,’ his second major piece, was released nine years later, in 1964. His reputation as a poet was confirmed by the anthology, which contained thirty-two of his works.
Some of his most famous poems, such as ‘High Windows’ and ‘This Be The Verse,’ are included in ‘High Windows,’ which was released in 1974. However, due to its darker tone, it did not receive universal approval. Despite this, it sold over 20,000 copies in its first year.
Achievements & Awards
Philip Larkin received the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry in 1965.He received the Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire in 1975. (CBE) He was awarded the German Shakespeare Prize in 1976.
He was named a Companion of Literature in 1978.Larkin was made an Honorary Fellow of the Library Association in 1980.The University of Hull promoted him to Professor in 1982.In 1984, he was elected to the Board of the British Library and received an honorary D.Litt. from the University of Oxford.
He was also offered the position of Poet Laureate in the same year, but he declined.He was given the Order of the Companions of Honor on June 15, 1985.
Personal History and Legacy
Philip Larkin did not marry, however he did have a number of women in his life. Ruth Bowman, a sixteen-year-old academically driven schoolgirl whom he met in 1944, was the first of them. They married in 1948, but they divorced shortly after he went to Belfast in 1950.
Monica Jones, an English lecturer, Maeve Brennan, a colleague at Hull, and Betty Mackereth, his secretary at Hull, were among his long-term friends. Monica Jones was the major beneficiary of his will among them. Oesophageal cancer was found in Philip Larkin in 1985. Despite the fact that he had surgery on June 11, 1985, his cancer had progressed and had become inoperable.
He collapsed on November 28, 1985, and was readmitted to Hull Hospital. He instructed Monica Jones and Betty Mackereth to delete his diary while he was there. Betty tore the diaries apart page by page before torching them.
At the age of 63, he passed away on December 2, 1985. He was laid to rest in the municipal cemetery in Cottingham, near Hull. “Philip Larkin 1922–1985 Writer,” reads the white gravestone at his tomb, which is located on the cemetery’s left side.
Larkin was given a memorial in Westminster Abbey’s ‘Poets’ Corner’ thirty-one years after his death, with his ledger stone unveiled on December 2, 2016.
Estimated Net Worth
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