Philip Larkin died in 1985, at the age of sixty-three. Even before his death he had come to be regarded in Britain as a kind of national institution, rather than as just another distinguished writer. His poems were the most widely quoted and anthologized of any Englishman whose career fell within the second half of the twentieth century; he had (grumblingly) received innumerable awards, prizes, medals, and honorary doctorates; he had been made the subject of various television and radio programs and collections of laudatory essays, twice been decorated by the Queen, elected to a Visiting Fellowship of All Souls’ College and an Honorary Fellowship of St. John’s College, both in Oxford, and, finally, offered the post of Poet Laureate by Margaret Thatcher during her period as prime minister. (He declined the offer on the grounds that he had by then already dried up as a poet.) Despite his well-advertised insularity of outlook and distaste for...

 
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