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Philip Larkin (Philip Arthur Larkin) Biography

(1922–85), (Philip Arthur Larkin), The North Ship, Jill, A Girl in Winter, The Less Deceived

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British poet and novelist, born in Coventry, educated at St John's College, Oxford. In 1943 he began his career in librarianship at Wellington in Shropshire; after working at University College, Leicester, and Queen's University, Belfast, he became Librarian of the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull in 1955, a post he held until his death. The North Ship (1945), his first collection of poetry, was republished in 1966 with an introduction in which Larkin spoke of ‘the predominance of Yeats’ among the influences governing his early verse; he concluded by noting the emergence of his great admiration for Thomas Hardy's poetry, a development which led towards the controlled conversational manner of his mature work. Jill (1946), the first of his two novels, is partially autobiographical in its account of the experiences of a young man on a scholarship at Oxford in wartime. A Girl in Winter followed in 1947, anticipating a recurrent motif in his poetry in its narrative of a solitary figure stoically confronting existence in an English provincial town. In 1955 his reputation as a poet was firmly established with the appearance of The Less Deceived. Robert Lowell remarked of the collection that ‘No post-war poetry has so caught the moment’, indicating the widespread regard in which Larkin came to be held as the most distinguished and representative poet of his day. His contribution to New Lines in 1956 brought him added notice as a leading member of the Movement, whose shrewdly colloquial tones and understated technical virtuosity are epitomized in his verse. The Whitsun Weddings (1964), his most highly valued collection, characteristically combined a pessimistically sceptical outlook, often tempered by a dry wit, with deeply apprehended affirmations of shared human values. His last collection of verse, High Windows (1974), employed a tone of great directness to heighten the emphasis on mortality underlying much of his previous work. Anthony Thwaite edited Larkin's Collected Poems (1988), which contains much previously unpublished material, and Selected Letters: 1940–1985 (1992). Required Writing (1983) is a collection of his essays and reviews, revealing his distaste for Modernism, which he saw as excluding the general reader. His reviews of jazz records, written for the Daily Telegraph during the 1960s, are contained in All What Jazz (1970). His chief work of editorship is The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse (1973). Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life (1993) is a biography by Andrew Motion.

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