Anthony Thwaite, editor   Selected Letters of Philip Larkin, 1940-1985.
Faber & Faber (London), 791 pages, £20

reviewed by Penelope Fitzgerald

There is no direct train from London to Hull, in Yorkshire. You have to change at Doncaster. Philip Larkin used to claim that he went on working there because literary curiosity-seekers (not to speak of “Jake Balokowsky, my biographer”) would be daunted when they discovered that the journey took three to four hours, and might decide on another poet instead.

Certainly Hull seemed like seclusion, almost retreat, with correspondence as a lifeline. “Postmen like doctors go from house to house”—although Anthony Thwaite is perhaps too optimistic in saying that Larkin thought of both of them as healers. Postmen and doctors make mistakes, and the relief they bring is often only temporary.


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