Philip Larkin

1922 – 1985

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Philip Arthur Larkin was born on 9 August 1922, in Coventry, the only son Eva and Sydney Larkin. He attended the City’s King Henry VIII School between 1930 and 1940 where he helped to edit the school magazine, The Coventrian. He went to St. John’s College, Oxford, graduating in 1943 with a First Class Honours in English.

The first of his poems, Ultimatum, was published in The Listener in November 1940. In June 1943, three of his poems were published in Oxford Poetry. In November 1953 he was appointed Librarian at Wellington, Shropshire.

In 1945, ten of his poems, which later that year would be included in The North Ship, appeared in Poetry from Oxford in Wartime. Two novels, Jill and A Girl in Winter were published in 1946 and 1947 respectively.

In 1946, Larkin was appointed assistant Librarian at the University College of Leicester and in October 1950, he became Sub-Librarian at Queen’s University, Belfast, where, in 1951, he privately published a small collection, XX Poems.

He was appointed Librarian at the University of Hull in March 1955, and it was in October of that year that The Less Deceived was published. It was this collection that would be the foundation of his reputation as one of the foremost figures in 20th Century poetry. In 1965 he was awarded the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. He edited the Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse, which was published in 1973. His last collection High Windows was published in 1974. Aubade, his last great poem, was published in The Times Literary Supplement in December 1977. A collection of his essays and reviews in November 1983 as Required Writing: miscellaneous pieces 1955-1982, won the W.H. Smith Literary Award for 1984.

In 1975 he was awarded the CBE. He chaired the Booker Prize Panel in 1977, was made Companion of Literature in 1978, and served on the Literature Panel of the Arts between 1980 and 1982. He was made an Honorary Fellow of the Library Association in 1980. In 1982 the University of Hull made him a Professor. In 1984 he received an honorary D.Litt. from Oxford University, and was elected to the Board of the British Library. In 1984 he declined the position Poet. In 1985 he was admitted to hospital and when he was awarded the Order of the Companion of Honour he was unable, because of ill health, to attend the investiture. He died on 2 December 1985.

Location of plaque: Old Library, Queen’s Universary, Belfast

Date of unveiling: 17 November 2006

Report of Plaque unveiling available HERE