Philip Larkin, it has been announced, will have a floor stone in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey; an honour reserved for our greatest writers. The Dean of Westminster, the Very Rev Dr John Hall, said: “Philip Larkin is one of the great poets of the 20th Century in English and it’s been pressed on me by a number of his colleagues and friends that it’s the right time to memorialise him.”
Larkin was born in 1922 in Coventry and educated at Oxford but he is best known as a resident of Hull, where he worked as a librarian at the university. His life and verse have intrigued and scandalised in equal measure but there is no doubting his talent. This be the Verse raises a smile even in the sternest of hearts.
Larkin shunned fame and cared little what others thought of him. He declined an OBE in 1968 and turned down the post of Poet Laureate after the death of John Betjeman. He was subject to criticism which labelled him a misogynist and racist, but the truth was that he was just an everyday man, expressing his views (in a very poetic way). He often wrote about death; how it scared him but also how it was inevitable: “Death is no different whined at than withstood,” he wrote in Aubade.
Larkin also published novels and articles but his poetry was his finest achievement. The Whitsun Weddings is, perhaps, his most famous collection of poems. Its ‘Englishness’ is often commented on. An Arundel Tomb is enjoyed by students on the Oxford Home Schooling Key Stage 3 English course. Its famous last line, ‘What will survive of us is love,’ is beloved of many. It is appropriate that Larkin will now have a memorial of his own, where he will take his place amongst the most illustrious of his peers.