Monica Jones arrived at University College, Leicester (later the University of Leicester), as a probationary lecturer in its then two-person English literature faculty in January 1946. The young librarian Philip Larkin followed eight months later. Their relationship proper began in 1950, survived Larkin’s five-year sojourn in Belfast and his removal to Hull, and continued, with varying degrees of intensity, until Larkin’s death in 1985. Only for a brief period towards the very end of it did the pair cohabit. Jones lasted for another decade and a half, inherited the majority of the proceeds of Larkin’s increasingly lucrative estate (£70,000 a year at one point) and would have been aware of, if she did not actually read, Anthony Thwaite’s Selected Letters of Philip Larkin (1992) and Andrew Motion’s official biography, A Writer’s Life (1993).
John Sutherland, Emeritus Lord Northcliffe Professor at UCL, entered the story in the early 1960s when, as a Leicester undergrad, he began to attend Jones’s lectures. Marked down as her prize pupil, the ‘heavenly Sutherland’, as his enraptured tutor styled him, was soon being deviously deployed to pique Larkin’s interest