• First Boredom, Then Fear: The Life of Philip Larkin

When Anthony Thwaite's edition of Philip Larkin's Letters was published in 1992 and Motion's biography came out a year later. Larkin's enemies seized on the new disclosures with a frenzy hardly witnessed since the McCarthy era. What had hitherto been regarded only as potential inclinations hinted at in his poems – misogyny and xenophobia in particular – were now indisputable facts, and since then Larkin's reputation as a poet has been tarnished by his image as a human being.

Richard Bradford's biography reveals that Larkin treated his prejudices and peculiarities with detached circumspection. Sometimes he shared them, self-mockingly, self-destructively, with his closest friends; he divided up his life so that some people knew him well but none completely. It was only in the poems that the parts began to resemble the whole.

The trajectory of Larkin's poetic writing was influenced principally by his friendship with Kingsley Amis. Without Larkin, Amis's immensely successful first novel, Lucky Jim, would not have been written. Its success caused Larkin to finally abandon his own ambitions as a novelist, to concentrate exclusively on his poetry and his poetry would thereafter become his autobiography, Larkin's poetry is in its own right magnificent, and readers of Bradford's biography will be able to extend their appreciation of his art to an acquaintance with the artist at work.

Bibliographic Data
Date Published 1 June 2009
ISBN Number 9780720613254
Pages 420

First Boredom, Then Fear: The Life of Philip Larkin

  • £12.99