MS letter from Philip Larkin to Charles Monteith, 12th April 1985

Scope and Content

MS letter from Philip Larkin to Charles Monteith. On white writing paper, printed with Larkin’s home address and dated in his hand. Mentions “your relapse”, probably referring to Monteith’s heart condition. Also mentions Larkin’s desire to know “all the news”. It seems likely that this implies ‘news from London,’ since the letter uses Larkin’s intransience to support his supposition that he “almost certainly shan’t know”. Notes that Larkin “declined to review Auden in Love” (1985), Dorothy Farman’s biography of W.H. Auden (1907-1973, Anglo-American poet). Relates Larkin’s inability to explain the “story” of Auden’s relationship with Chester Kallman, his American partner between 1939 and Auden’s death. Refers to Gerald Haxton (1892-1944), the extra-marital partner of Somerset Maugham (1874-1965, British writer), Larkin asking whether he and Kallman shared negative characteristics. Relates Larkin’s negative judgement of Kallman’s character specifically. Also mentions an article profiling A.L. Rowse (1903-1997, British author and historian) in The Spectator, Larkin jokingly asking Monteith whether Rowse wrote the piece himself. Possibly refers to Rowse’s inclusion in a shortlist for the position of UK Poet Laureate, remarking that “the prospect of him as Laureate is a diverting one”. Mentions “Ted”, probably referring to Ted Hughes (1930-1998, English poet and children’s writer), since he was UK Poet Laureate between 1984 and his death and regularly published by Faber & Faber. Also mentions a letter from an unnamed “woman in Colerado”, Larkin summarising its content. In this context refers to Required Writing: Miscellaneous Pieces 1955-1982 (non-fiction collection, Faber & Faber, 1983) and mentions an unnamed work by André Gide (1869-1951, French author). Humorously relates Larkin’s expression of a cautionary attitude towards admirers. Also refers to Larkin’s ill health, which had become magnified “since Christmas” – with his cancer of the oesophagus developing. Mentions the dysfunction of Larkin’s liver and “a halving of drink in consequence”. Directly refers to his oesophagus, Larkin expressing uncertainty about its future state. Also mentions the poor health of Monica Jones (Larkin’s partner between 1950 and his death), Larkin dismissing a doctor who had suggested that she was suffering from “’early Parkinsonism’”. Reports on “Kingsley”, who probably is Kingsley Amis (1922-1995, English writer and critic) – Larkin relating that his friend has been unsuccessful in attempting to sell his house, since someone with the potential for buying it had died. Mentions “The Garrick” (private members’ club in Covent Garden, London). In white paper envelope stamped with the date, time and location of postage, and addressed in Larkin’s hand, using Monteith’s home address.

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