Saturday 2 October 2010

Larkin Letters...

Philip Larkin letters to Monica: highlights from 1965-70
The Telegraph's literary editor, Gaby Wood, selects her favourite moments from Philip Larkin's letters to his lover Monica Jones from 1965-70.

02 Oct 2010

July 20 1965

32 Pearson Park, Hull

[…] I don’t know what to say about Maeve. […] I’ve always tried to get you to see me as unlikable, and now I must be getting near success. (Do you remember what must have been an early letter to you, certainly early in our affair, incoherently saying I was no good? I always feel I tried to warn you, insofar as a no good person could.) I feel that as long as I was faithful, you could somehow accept the unsatisfactoriness of our relation – we might not be married legally, but we were different & perhaps superior – at least your sacrifice of yourself to me was superior to frogmarching me or anyone to the altar rails. But when I am unfaithful – not technically but spiritually – you can only feel duped and made light of, quite apart from the awful upsetting emotion, and you are wondering, I suppose, just how far you can put up with it, from all points of view.

Not telling you of the affair in the first place, or of its wan latter recrudescences, was just infantile precaution – I didn’t want to hurt you, & I didn’t want to give it up. I had in consequence more trouble with Maeve, who had to accept my departures & your arrivals, & our holidays – usually she did so resignedly, but she occasionally told me off. You can see what a dislikable & discreditable position it was. It could only have been accepted by someone as weak & selfish as myself. […]

August 10 1965

21 York Road, Loughborough, Leics.

[…] I had a strange dream about you last night – I dreamed you were playing cricket for England! And very well. I saw you hook a boundary. […] I woke feeling tremendously proud of you & in love with you. Isn’t that strange? I hardly ever dream of you, or anyone else, but this was very strong. I can remember now the sense of seeing you “out there”, wanting to help you, then as you cracked the ball to the boundary realising you didn’t need help. It was all marvellously romantic. […]

April 28 1966

32 Pearson Park, Hull

[…] Well, [academic and critic, FR] Leavis was no great strain, no more than anyone else, but what a ghastly little man! He seemed to me rather like a Beckett who’d read Lawrence & wasn’t Irish: a compulsive talker – one of the bores of the century, I’d say – and really a typical Oxbridge don, cocky, smart, full of petty cattiness. Oh dear. […] I’ve never met a man so full of himself. Stupid little sod, the ideas rattling in him like peas. […] I’m awfully glad to reflect that I don’t possess a single book by him. Not a single book. […]

November 27 1968

32 Pearson Park, Hull

Dearest bun,

Morning, noon & bloody night,

Seven sodding days a week,

I slave at filthy work, that might

Be done by any book-drunk freak.

This goes on till I kick the bucket:


Nice to be a pawet, ya knaw, an express ya feelins. Eh? The last line should be screamed in a paroxysm of rage.


Love, darling. P.

November 15 1970

Beechwood House, Set 3, Iffley Turn, Oxford

[…] I really meant to start by telling you about Kingsley’s visit but I suppose it wd take far too long to describe it all – he & [his second wife, Elizabeth] Jane came up on Wednesday, or Thursday, & stayed a night at the Randolph & he gave a reading in Balliol Hall the same evening. He stood me lunch, Martin [Amis] making up the party: he looked & behaved like Mick Jagger, but was curiously good about offering his cigarettes round & standing up when EJ joined/rejoined the company, so there may be some good in the lad. Am wondering whether to have him in to All Souls: stiff cocks wd upset the table. Kingsley’s reading was very poor, I thought: got hardly any laughs, wch was absurd, but it was his own fault. He adopts an absurd AE H[ousman] sort of manner, wch as you may imagine didn’t at once commend itself to the audience. […]

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