Philip Larkin - Biography and Works

Philip Larkin is a noted British poet, novelist and critic. He was born in Coventry, England, and educated at the University of Oxford. Larkin treats the modern English setting in a withdrawn and non-sentimental manner, but often with considerable feeling.

Philip Larkin (1922- 1985)

In 1946, Larkin discovered the poetry of Thomas Hardy and became a great admirer of his poetry, learning from Hardy how to make the commonplace and dreary details of his life the basis for extremely tough, unsparing, and memorable poems. With his second volume of poetry, The Less Deceived (1955), Larkin became the preeminent poet of his generation, and a leading voice of what came to be called “The Movement,” a group of young English writers who rejected the prevailing fashion for neo-Romantic writing in the style of Yeats and Dylan Thomas.

Like Hardy, Larkin focused on intense personal emotion but strictly avoided sentimentality or self-pity. In 1964, he confirmed his reputation as a major poet with the publication of The Whitsun Weddings, and again in 1974 with High Windows: collections whose searing, often mocking, wit does not conceal the poet’s dark vision and underlying obsession with universal themes of morality, love and human solitude. Deeply anti- social and a great lover of American jazz, Larkin never married and conducted an uneventful life as a librarian in the provincial city of Hull, where he died in 1985. His works include The North Ship (1945), a collection of verse in the style of W. B. Yeats; The Less Deceived (1955), which established Larkin as a fine anti-romantic poet of great wit, sophistication, and compassion; and High Windows (1974), in which many poems reflect Larkin’s concerns about death. His novels, Jill and A Girl in Winter demonstrate Larkin’s sensitivity and versatility. Larkin was also a jazz critic. Required Writing is a volume of his miscellaneous essays.

No other poet presents the welfare-state world of post-imperial Britain so vividly, so unsparingly, and in the last analysis so tenderly. Much has been written of Larkin’s Hardyesque pessimism, his depiction of loneliness, age, and death; however, the many negatives in his poems imply positives, out of reach of the ironic and self-deprecating speaker, but available perhaps to others more fortunate, elsewhere. His output was small; but his four volumes of poetry and his controversial anthology The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse (1973) testify to the continuing vitality of a native English tradition, the tradition of Chaucer, Wordsworth, and Hardy, distinct from the imported modernist tradition of Eliot and Pound.

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Shrestha, Roma. "Philip Larkin - Biography and Works." BachelorandMaster, 16 Nov. 2013,

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