Philip Arthur Larkin was born on the 9th of August in 1922 in Radford, England. He was a fortunate child of Sydney Larkin, a Coventry City treasure, and his mother, Eva Emily Larkin. His early years were cloaked with the dominance of his father, which never let him enjoy the true entertainments of the childhood period. However, Sydney’s love for poetry influenced his son during his childhood. His father died in 1948, and his mother died in 1977.
Philip Larkin, a prolific literary figure, was homeschooled up to the age of eight. His well-read father introduced him to many great literary figures, including James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and D. H. Lawrence. Besides this, his mother and sister also helped him develop his creative abilities during his childhood until he was sent to Coventry’s King Henry VIII Junior School followed by King Henry VIII Senior School. He made regular contributions to the school magazine, The Coventrian. At eighteen, he passed the entrance exam of St John’s College, Oxford, and started studying English. Later, in 1940, he joined the Oxford University and earned a first-class honored degree. Later, he became a successful librarian, but never stopped reading and writing.
Philip Larkin, an influential figure of the twentieth century, fell seriously ill in 1985. He was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer the same year. Unfortunately, even after major surgery, his cancer became inoperable and had found to have spread pervasively. In his final decades, his poetic inspirational largely faded, when he wrote only a handful of poems. He died at the age of sixty-three on the 2nd of December, in 1985. He was buried at Cottingham Municipal Cemetery near Hull.
Some Important Facts about Philip Larkin
- In 1984, he declined an offer to become an English Poet Laureate, because he did not consider himself worthy.
- He had various illegitimate relationships with a string of women until he found a soul mate, Monica Jones, who became his lifelong companion.
- He was highly influenced by W. H. Auden, an English poet, and most of his poems followed his stylistic and technical achievements.
- A plaque acknowledging his achievements was placed in 2016 in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey, London.
- In 1948, he won the W.H. Smith Literary Award for a collection of his essays.
Philip Larkin successfully pursued two careers in life: first, he became a librarian and later enjoyed an esteemed life as a poet and writer. He started writing at a very young age and enjoyed unprecedented fame during his life. His first few poems published in The Listener on the 28th of November in 1940, followed by others, including “Mythological Introduction”, “I dreamed of an out-thrust arm of land” and “A Stone Church Damaged By A Bomb,” which were published in Oxford Poetry in 1993.
Later, in 1945, his ten poems appeared in Poetry from Oxford in Wartime followed by his two popular novels, A Girl in winter and Jill, which were published in the years 1946 and 1945, respectively. After these successful publications, he became a library assistant in 1946 at the University College of Leicester. In 1950, he became the Sub-Librarian at Queen’s University, Belfast. Despite being engaged with professional responsibilities, he successfully pursued his literary career, and in 1954 he published his next collection, The Less Deceived. His other publications include The Whitsun Weddings, High Windows, and Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982.
Philip Larkin enjoyed a successful literary life. During his childhood, his father introduced him to the great literary figures, which later played a pivotal role in his writing career. Using his unique style, he beautifully portrayed his ideas in his literary pieces. Since he belonged to the post-war era, he proved to be anti-heroic and anti-romantic in his work when it comes to the realistic projection of the human psyche and emotion. Most of his poetic pieces are the reflection of skepticism and plainness. Although he belonged to the movement that denied the experimental poetic approaches and focused on structured verses and anti-romantic projections. His works present a perfect blend of impressions from the 20th century symbolists such as Thomas Hardy, W. B. Yeats, and T. S. Eliot. Marked with the use of reflective tone, colloquial style, irony, symbolism, and metaphors, his poetry won universal recognition. The recurring themes in most of his writings are social rituals, isolation, pessimism, life, and death.
Some Important Works of Philip Larkin
- Best Poems: Some of his major poems include “Aubade”, High Windows”, “Faith Healing”, “Mr Bleaney”, “An Arundel Tomb”, “This Be The Verse” and “The Dance.”
- Other Works: Besides writing poetry, he also wrote fiction and nonfiction. Some of them include James Booth, A Girl in winter, Jill, All What Jazz: A Record Diary 1961–1971 and Thwaite, Anthony.
Philip Larkin’s Impact on Future Literature
Philip Larkin, with his unique abilities, left profound impacts on the global literature. After many years of his demise, his works still enjoy the same prestige. His witty ideas, with distinct literary qualities, won applause from his readers, critics, and other fellow writers. He successfully documented his ideas about life, death, and alienation in his writings. Today when modern writers write, more often, they try to imitate his style for the uniqueness his work demonstrates.
- “In everyone there sleeps
A sense of life lived according to love.
To some it means the difference they could make
By loving others, but across most it sweeps,
As all they might have done had they been loved.
That nothing cures.” (Faith Healing)
- “I’m terrified of the thought of time passing (or whatever is meant by that phrase) whether I ‘do’ anything or not. In a way I may believe, deep down, that doing nothing acts as a brake on ‘time’s – it doesn’t of course. It merely adds the torment of having done nothing, when the time comes when it really doesn’t matter if you’ve done anything or not.” (Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica)
- “Rather than words comes the thought of high windows:
The sun-comprehending glass,
And beyond it, the deep blue air, that shows
Nothing, and is nowhere, and is endless.” (High Windows)