Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love by James Booth - review by Jeremy Noel-Tod

Jeremy Noel-Tod

Verse and Worse

Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love


Bloomsbury 532pp £25

Like the Thatcherite Tories he supported in his later years, Philip Larkin, who died in 1985, has now undergone two decades of detoxification. The contamination was quick and calamitous. Anthony Thwaite’s volume of Selected Letters in 1992 and Andrew Motion’s biography in 1993 both provided ready evidence that Britain’s favourite postwar poet had been – as well as a charming and witty personal intimate – a pornography-hoarding philanderer and casual racist. As he signed off in prophetic mockery to one correspondent: ‘Ooh, Larkin, I’m sorry to find you holding these views.’ 

James Booth recently retired from the English department at the University of Hull, where Larkin worked for most of his life as librarian. Since the 1990s Booth has been one of the poet’s most diligent posthumous restorers. A leading figure in the Philip Larkin Society and its neatly named magazine,

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