Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica

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Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica

Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica

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I found myself watching out eagerly, as I read, for her next contribution to the exchange: ripping up Philip’s vague claims to socialism; pinpointing D. I know you are careful not to 'crowd' me, from motives or decency and pride, and heaven knows I don't want to be crowded, and yet it does to some degree play not into 'my' hands, but into the hands of whatever lies under my delay. He wrote in September 1959: "I do deeply feel 'somehow' there is a rabbit there too, doing the things you do; even lecturing on Hopkins. For me, the most illuminating but most difficult to read section of the book concerned the fallout of Larkin including the poem "Broadcast" in his collection "The Whitsun Weddings" - a poem he wrote about Maeve Brennan, a young fellow librarian at Hull. It's not really fair of me to make this 'parade of extraordinary frankness' - I don't like it myself - I wish I could decide things, fiercely and for good, and say them - instead of this almost-Russian verbiage, concealing I don't know what, probably nothing but funk.

Not only are they funny, sad and true; they are also charmingly replete with 1950s detail, evoking a world of curry-powder concoctions, rasping gas fires, and long but civilised train journeys. One short poem that started out as a self-parody (“The local snivels through the fields”) gets into the serious corpus. Much of the time, though, readers will be thinking that the "literary correspondence" is something we're well shot of – a postwar embarrassment, like child labour, meat rationing and outdoor toilets. In these letters, no less than in his poems, he stands rather nakedly before us only this time with a damp dish towel over his wrist, the room gone a bit too cold, thinking about listening to the radio from bed.In bed," the poet Ian Hamilton once told me, "you don't want to be too clear-headed about what you're doing. He organized every aspect of its planning and its building, acquiring for the purpose a vast amount of technical and architectural knowledge. Fascinating insight into the life of poet Philip Larkin revealed through a long-term correspondence. I still set aside the satirical potshots, such as “Annus Mirabilis” or “Self’s the Man,” as clever and manipulative exercises in light verse, most often designed (“Get out as early as you can/And don’t have any kids yourself”) as propaganda in defense of his own way of life.

Philip Larkin met Monica Jones at University College Leicester in autumn 1946, when they were both twenty-four; he was the newly-appointed assistant librarian and she was an English lecturer. In a review in 1959, looking back, he referred to his revelatory discovery that it was not people that he disliked but children: “their noise, their nastiness . Larkin would never have written so exhaustedly to Amis, or to Thwaite, or to Barbara Pym, or to Robert Conquest (the world-famous historian whom he monotonously belittles: "a cheerful idiot", "the feeblewit", "what an old bore Bob is").She was a formidable but not threatening reader, making it clear that her admiration for Larkin's poetry functioned separately from her personal feeling for him. N. Wilson, I disliked being told what to think, and sometimes saw Larkin, as he did, as a character perilously close to the uncle “shouting smut” in “The Whitsun Weddings. AT THIS POINT we need to remind ourselves that had Larkin not been a famous poet, the indecisiveness and self-interest dominating his relationships with women would have been of no great interest to posterity.

Peppered with wry humour and biting critiques, these letters are as much a social and cultural history as a reflection of his tenderness towards [Jones] .His unobtrusive cuts give a shape to the letters, bringing Larkin's clear-eyed observations of love, work and his surroundings to the fore. yr mark, do I mean – really be a real poet, I feel more sure of it than ever before, it is you who are the one . He has an affair with a person named Maeve, who he works with (she isn't his only affair, that rat), this is a source of discussion. No one would imagine me to be madly in love,” he wrote about his engagement, “and indeed I’m more ‘madly out of love’ than in love, so much so that I suspect all my isolationist feelings as possibly harmful and certainly rather despicable. I found that this added depth to some of the poems I have studied, and I did enjoy finding out a bit more about Larkin himself, the man behind the poetry.

I defy any man – even the most self-sufficient poodlefaker – to read the following without a twinge: "I think .

She accepted much else: his emotional sluggishness, and his morbid dread of effort in any sphere except poetry. The wrangle with Ruth lasted eight years; the wrangle with Monica would last for 35, leading to the same outcome. Larkin was Assistant Librarian there, later took a position in Belfast, and finally became the Librarian at the University of Hull. At one point in 1973 he laments that he hasn't written to her for a while ("sign we have been together"), as if the letter was the primary encounter.



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