Belfast Telegraph

Philip Larkin letters shed light on relationship with his parents

One of his best-known poems suggested a fractious relationship.

Letters between Philip Larkin and his parents suggest they enjoyed a loving relationship, despite one of his most famous poems indicating otherwise.

According to The Times, the upcoming publication of 41 years of writings between Larkin and his mother, Eva, and father, Sydney, dispute the notion their bond was fractured.

Perhaps Larkin’s best known poem, This Be The Verse, opens with the line, “They f*** you up, your mum and dad”.

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Philip Larkin was a giant of poetry in the 19th century (PA)

The correspondence will be published in Philip Larkin: Letters Home 1936-1977 and editor James Booth believes the poet’s sister, Kitty, may have been the one who was filled with the faults of her parents.

Speaking to The Times, he said the letters show an “empathetic and positive relationship” between Larkin and his parents but all writings between them and Kitty have disappeared.

He said Sydney had given her an “inferiority complex” and Larkin thought he had “bullied Kitty into internalising his low estimation of her”.

Larkin’s literary executor and friend, Anthony Thwaite, said: “I had always imagined he was rather squashed and frightened, a combination of fright and boredom.

“But in fact what comes through the letters is an extraordinarily cheeky affection.

“It is very difficult to reconcile that Philip Larkin (of This Be The Verse) with this extraordinary edition.”

Larkin was a giant of 20th century poetry with works including An Arundel Tomb, Aubade and Annus Mirabilis.

He died aged 65 in 1985 and has a memorial in Westminster Abbey’s Poets’ Corner, alongside fellow literary greats including Geoffrey Chaucer and Charles Dickens.

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