Larkin’s lament

These are the amusingly honest words of Philip Larkin, written in a letter while slacking off from his librarian job in Shropshire.

I’m tired of being here, and seeing those I do not love, and doing that I do not care about, and being paid too little money for doing it.

I should like to get back to the halcyon days of suppers in Nick’s rooms [at St. John’s College, Oxford]. Et ego in Arcadia vixi or whatever it is. And I want to see books with my name printed down the spine, and seeing people saying how clever I am to write them, and giving me money. Blawks!

It reminds me a bit of Morrissey’s lyrics in Frankly Mr. Shankly.

As it happens, I’m absorbed in Larkin’s selected letters at the moment and am amazed at how such a tediously regular life (of work, job interviews, wanking, bad beer, paying the rent, procrastination) lead to such ‘clean’ success: that is, to be universally recognised as one of the brilliant poets of the Twentieth Century through a modest body of work.

Larkin succeeded in artistic integrity (seldom would he deviate from producing anything other than his poetry); career integrity (for all his moaning about it, he was an excellent librarian); and educational integrity (he got a First-class degree in English language and literature from Oxford without pissing around with lesser qualifications).

I wish I had those three kinds of integrity, but I fear my record is already blotted through a youth of dancing, prancing indecision. Let that be a lesson to you all. Be like Larkin and have a brilliant degree, career and canon. Blawks.


Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at

6 Responses to “Larkin’s lament”

  1. Neil Scott says:

    Glad you’re enjoying them, I was looking for them the other day until I remembered you taking them.

    I still think you have time to redeem yourself and embrace a life Larkinesque misery.

    Did you see this?

  2. Rob says:

    I am enjoying them. Very much. Sorry to have pilfered them so cruelly from your library! Will send it back once finished. The university library actually has a copy if the Gonz is still a member? It’s at English NL70.Z9 1992-T.

    He is a miseryguts, eh? He said that deprivation was his analogue to Wordsworth’s daffodils. Aw.

    Thanks for that link. His private life may have been a failure overall but he still enjoyed himself with ‘the School Captain’. Phew.

  3. Neil Scott says:

    Don’t worry, enjoy them, there’s no rush.

    Larkin is a great wit, but had a miserable life – bilious, drunk, disappointed – but he did have integrity.

  4. Rob says:

    Cheers, mucker.

    I didn’t know much about the chap before picking up your book. Hugely enjoying it. Thanks for the lend.

  5. […] The most productive thing I’ve been able to do these past few days is to read chunks of Larkin on the […]

  6. Some subscribers just don’t get it, like my coworker who couldn’t understand the objective substance of this section on your post “… slacking off from his librarian job in Shropshire.I&#8217m tired of being here, and seeing those I do not love, …” it also reminded me about the day I ran into my wife.

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