Larkin's letters to Monica published for the first time

19 October 2010

Larkin-Cover1The Larkin collection at the Bodleian Library is brought out to light in a new book, Letters to Monica, edited by Anthony Thwaite and published by Faber and Faber in association with the Bodleian Library.

Philip Larkin met Monica Jones at University College, Leicester, in autumn 1946, when they were both twenty-four; he was the newly appointed Assistant Librarian and she was an English lecturer. In 1950 Larkin moved to Belfast, and thence to Hull, while Monica remained in Leicester, becoming by turns his correspondent, lover and closest confidante, a relationship which lasted over forty years until the poet’s death in 1985.

This remarkable unpublished correspondence only came to light after Monica Jones’s death in 2001, and consists of nearly two thousand letters, postcards and telegrams, which chronicle – day by day, sometimes hour by hour – every aspect of Larkin’s life and the convolutions of their relationship. The letters deal extensively with other writers, living and dead (D. H. Lawrence, Hardy, Katherine Mansfield, Kipling, Dickens, Kingsley Amis), and with the experiences that shaped Larkin’s poems. Their impressionistic immediacy – liberally sprinkled with Larkin’s cartoons – and their relaxed privacy offer a view of the poet’s personality and its resources which was often screened from his other epistolary relationships. Letters to Monica offers a richly characteristic selection from Larkin’s side of the correspondence, and one which tells both sides of their story.

Philip Larkin was born in 1922 and grew up in Coventry. In 1955 he became Librarian of the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull, a post he held until his death in 1985. He was the best-loved poet of his generation and the recipient of innumerable honours, including the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry and the WH Smith Award.

The Larkin collection at the Bodleian Library comprises nearly 2000 letters, cards, poems and photographs sent by Larkin between 1946 and 1984 to his friend and confidante, Monica Jones. The papers were acquired by the Library in 2006 through Bernard Quaritch, Ltd. with the generous help of the Friends of the National Libraries and other benefactors, including St John’s College and All Souls College, Oxford, the Friends of the Bodleian and the V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

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