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What larks with Larkin! - A N Wilson

Features | By AN Wilson


On the great poet’s centenary, A N Wilson pays tribute to his gentle, brilliant friend – one of the funniest people he’s ever met

I gasp at my amazing luck – to have been a friend of Philip Larkin. He’d have been 100 this year on 9th August, had not drink, melancholy, cancer and despair got to him first, on 2nd December 1985, when he was just 63. One of his most haunting poems, about the Arundel Tomb in Chichester Cathedral, suggests that ‘our almost instinct’ might be ‘almost true – what will survive of us is love’. Larkin was less lucky. What survived of him were hundreds of letters. One of his literary executors, a minor poet and hack editor called Anthony Thwaite, decided in 1992 to publish a selection of them. Thwaite was a friend of Larkin’s but, presumably, like a lot of moderately intelligent persons, utterly devoid of any common sense. He cannot have wanted his friend’s reputation to be torpedoed, though this was the inevitable consequence of putting into print...


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