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December 2018, Issue 471 David Forsyth on the Scottish clearances * Robin Simon on Lucian Freud * John Banville on the fathers of Wilde, Yeats and Joyce * Frances Spalding on Christina Rossetti * Munro Price on Napoleon * Anne Somerset on rival queens * Kevin Jackson on Kafka's manuscripts * Gillian Tindall on E Nesbit * Stuart Isacoff on Frédéric Chopin * Victoria Glendinning on flora * Robert Colls on the future of Labour * Donald Rayfield on revolutionary postcards * Henry Gee on dinomania * Anthony Cummins on John Lanchester * Saul David on Peterloo *  and much, much more…

Sean O'Brien

Philip Larkin: Letters Home 1936–1977

By James Booth

Writing to Monica Jones in 1954, Philip Larkin describes his mother, Eva: she is ‘nervy, cowardly, obsessional, boring, grumbling, irritating, self-pitying. It’s no use telling her to alter: you might as well ask a sieve to hold water.’ Larkin might be sketching a grim self-portrait on a gloomy Sunday afternoon for want of a poem to write. ‘On the other hand, she’s kind, unselfish, loving,’ he continues, before concluding, not quite coherently, ‘Am I, ultimately, on her side? God knows! In my heart of hearts I’m on no one’s side but my own.’ It takes a degree of resolution to set about reading a book of nearly seven hundred pages consisting largely of letters to an increasingly sad and isolated old lady. What Larkin may have claimed not to do for love he certainly did for duty, once a week and sometimes twice... read more

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