Letters from Philip Arthur Larkin To James Ballard Sutton

Scope and Content

The collection comprises letters from Philip Arthur Larkin to James Ballard Sutton, written from Sidmouth, Coventry, Warwick, Lichfield, Oxford, Wellington. Many contain illustrations, including 2 watercolours. There are also 40 poems and parts of poems. The auctioneer's basic chronological sequence has been retained.

Administrative / Biographical History

James Ballard Sutton and Philip Larkin met at junior school, and along with Colin Gunner the three were good friends. Sutton's and Larkin's shared interest in Jazz brought them closer together and much of their correspondence discusses jazz records and performances. Sutton had ambitions to be a painter, and went on to study at the Slade School of Fine Art after leaving school. Sutton fought in World War II, but the two kept up a steady correspondence while he was away. Their friendship seemed to thrive on separation, which meant that Larkin did not witness in person the erosion of his friend's artistic ambition - in the end Sutton worked as a pharmacist for most of his working life. After an unsuccessful visit to see Larkin in Belfast, where he was working in 1951, their correspondence dwindled to a trickle before ending completely.

Access Information

Photocopies of the correspondence are issued to researchers rather than the originals

Custodial History

Purchased at Christie's (auctioneers), London, 22 June 1988, with the aid of the V&A Purchase Grant Fund, from James B. Sutton

Related Material

Letters from James Sutton to Philip Larkin [U DP/182]