Philip Larkin




Philip Arthur Larkin is buried in the Cottingham Municipal Cemetery, Eppleworth Road, Cottingham, Hull, England. (plot 81).

Gravestone of Philip Larkin
Photograph by James L Orwin
(The Larkin Society)

Larkin was educated at King Henry VIII School Coventry and St. John's College Oxford. While at Oxford he met fellow writer Kingsley Amis and they two became close friends; both writers were later associated with the Movement. After university, Larkin worked as a librarian in Shropshire, Leicester and Belfast before moving to Hull in 1955 where he was appointed as Head Librarian at the university's Brynmor Jones Library.

He remained in Hull until his death in 1985 and it provided the setting for many of his best known poems including Here, Toads and The Whitsun Weddings. Larkin originally lived in a rented flat at 32, Pearson Park and later moved into his own house at 105, Newland Park, Cottingham Road - just opposite the university.

Larkin's first mature book of poetry (not including the Yeats influenced The North Ship) was The Less Deceived which was published in 1955 by the Marvell Press - a small, independent Hull-based publisher. His subsequent collections: The Whitsun Weddings (1964) and High Windows (1974) were published by Faber and Faber. Larkin claimed that it was reading the poems of Thomas Hardy that enabled him to break away from Yeats and develop his own unique voice. Early in his career he also wrote two novels: Jill (1946) and Girl in Winter (1947).

W.H. Auden once asked Larkin: 'Do you like living in Hull?' to which Larkin replied in characteristically gloomy fashion: 'I don't suppose I'm unhappier there than I should be any where else.'

From an early age Larkin was obsessed by his own mortality and many of his poems are about death - including his late (ironically entitled) masterpiece Aubade.

Larkin gave the impression of being a confirmed bachelor - reinforced by the lines 'Sexual intercourse began/ In nineteen sixty-three/ (Which was rather late for me)' from his poem Annus Mirabilis - but the reality was more complex. At one time he was involved with three women: Monica Jones - who he'd met in Leicester and two of his colleagues from Hull: Maeve Brennan and his secretary.

After the death of John Betjeman in 1984, Larkin was offered the position of Poet Laureate but turned it down because, by then, he was no longer writing poetry. The post was offered to Ted Hughes  instead, who accepted it.

Larkin died of cancer of the oesophagus in The Nuffield Hospital, Hull on December 2nd, 1985.

See also enjambment, irony,  and 'Poets on Poetry'.

What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Ah, solving that question
Brings the priest and the doctor
In their long coats
Running over the fields.

The Philip Larkin Society






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