Medical Case File of Philip Larkin

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Medical case file containing medical and surgical notes relating to the illness and condition of Philip Larkin prior to his death in December 1985

Administrative / Biographical History

For a detailed biographical entry see U DPL

Born in Coventry in 1922 and educated at King Henry VIII School there, Philip Larkin first showed his literary talent in regular contributions to the school magazine, The Coventrian. He gained a first class honours degree in English at St John’s College, Oxford, in 1943. He then became a librarian, working successively in the public library at Wellington, and the libraries of Leicester University College and, from 1950, Queen’s University, Belfast. In 1955 he was appointed Librarian of the University of Hull, where he remained until his death at the age of 63 in 1985. His first poem to achieve a national circulation was ‘Ultimatum’ in The Listener in 1940. Other poems were published in anthologies of Oxford poetry before his first personal collection, The north ship, appeared in 1945. This was followed by two novels, Jill (1946) and A girl in winter (1947). A lean period followed after the rejection by publishers of In the Grip of Light (1948), but he continued to write, and his next collection, The less deceived (1955) established him as a major poet. The Whitsun weddings (1964) won him the Queen’s Gold Medal for Poetry. He edited The Oxford book of twentieth-century English verse (1973), and the last collection of his poems, High windows, appeared in 1974. The posthumous publication of his Collected poems (1988) and Selected letters (1989) revealed a much more prolific writer than had previously been imagined. He received many honours, including the CBE in 1975 and the Order of the Companion of Honour just before his death in 1985.

Despite serious illness, Larkin's labours continued practically to the end of his life, with his former library secretary employed to do the typing. His death from cancer on 2 December 1985 produced an enormous outpouring of grief from friends, colleagues, and lovers of his poetry. He remains widely recognised as one of the most significant writers of modern poetry in English, and as an extremely successful university librarian.

Conditions Governing Access

Closed under Section 41 of the Freedom of Information Act 2000 until 3 December 2035

Custodial History

Donated by Professor John R. Bennett, West Ella, Hull, February 1995

Related Material

Birth and death certificates of Philip Arthur Larkin [Ref U DPL4/8/39]

Papers of Philip Arthur Larkin [Ref U DPL]

Photographs of Philip Arthur Larkin [Ref U DLV]