Philip Larkin: appreciating parish churches

Historian article

By Trevor James, published 3rd February 2023

We pay tribute to one of Britain’s finest poets, at the centenary of his birth, and celebrate his sensitive recognition of the spiritual tradition to be found in parish churches.

There have been various tributes this year which have commemorated the one hundredth anniversary of the birth of the celebrated poet, Philip Larkin. He was a hugely popular and outspoken figure, almost despite some of his controversial comments; and, of course, famously his romantic life has attracted substantial public interest. People tend to forget that this poetic colossus actually worked all his life as a librarian, latterly as the chief librarian at the University of Hull. It is said that in 1972 when Cecil Day Lewis died, Philip Larkin turned down the invitation to succeed him as Poet Laureate. It has to be said that Larkin’s likely output would have been rather more sanguine than that of Day Lewis’s actual successor, the very lyrical John Betjeman.

Philip Larkin insisted that he was not religious but this paper is an attempt to explore and unwrap his relationship with one particular parish church... 

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