Philip Larkin being filmed in 1964

Philip Larkin

Larkin and Hull

Poet and librarian, Philip Arthur Larkin, spent half his life in Hull. The legacy of his connection with the city can be seen in his poems, which were often inspired by his experience of living in, and travelling to and from, Hull. It can also be seen in the state of the art Brynmor Jones Library, which he helped create whilst serving as librarian at the University of Hull.

His life is recorded in the archives he left behind, which are held at Hull History Centre. Key collections are: the Papers of Philip Larkin [U DPL], including his literary manuscripts and correspondence; the Larkin Family Papers [U DLN], including early photographs, his father's family holiday diaries, and Larkin's letters to his family; the Philip Larkin Photographic Collection [U DLV], containing photographs taken by Larkin throughout his lifetime; and the Larkin Book and Record Libraries [no ref, paper indexes available onsite], containing books and records purchased and given to Larkin during his life.

Check out our detailed source guide This be the verse (PDF) for background information and listings of all Larkin-related material held at Hull History Centre.


The collections at Hull include several examples of juvenalia, but his earliest work in print appeared in his school magazine, The Coventrian, whilst he was still a pupil.

The following is a list of Larkin's key submissions and published works:

  • ‘Winter Nocturne’, first poem in print (The Coventrian, Dec 1938)
  • ‘Ultimatum’, first poem published in a national weekly (The Listener, 28 Nov 1940)
  • ‘A Stone Church damaged by a Bomb’, ‘Mythological Introduction’, and ‘Poem’,first inclusions in an edition of poetry (Oxford Poetry 1942-43, Jun 1943)
  • ‘The North Ship’, first collection of poetry, based on 10 poems that had appeared earlier in the year in ‘Poetry from Oxford in Wartime’ (1945)
  • ‘Jill’, first novel (published in 1946)
  • ‘A Girl in Winter’, second novel (completed May 1945, published Feb 1947)
  • ‘In the Grip of Light’, second poetry collection submitted but rejected for publication (1948)
  • ‘XX Poems’, collection of poetry (privately printed in 1951)
  • ‘Five Poems’, pamphlet (Fantasy Press, 1954)
  • ‘Toads’ & ‘Poetry of Departures’, published in Listen (Marvell Press, 1954)
  • ‘The Less Deceived’, poetry collection, very well received (Marvell Press, Oct 1955)
  • ‘The Whitsun Weddings’, poetry collection, published to wide acclaim (1964)
  • ‘The Oxford Book of Twentieth Century English Verse’, edited by Larkin (1973)
  • ‘High Windows’, poetry collection, last to be published during his lifetime (1974)
  • ‘Aubade’, considered his last great poem, (Times Literary Supplement, Dec 1977)
  • ‘Spring Warning’, last poem published in his lifetime (The Coventrian, 1985)
  • ‘Collected Poems’, issued posthumously (Oct 1988)

The Philip Larkin page on The Poetry Archive includes recordings of a number of Larkin's poems.


The University of Hull Library inherited by Larkin in 1955 contained 120,000 volumes and employed just 11 staff housed in an assortment of badly designed buildings. Larkin, greatly aided by the support of the Vice-Chancellor, Professor (later Sir) Brynmor Jones, presided over its transformation during the next two decades. A new purpose-built Library was opened in two stages in 1960 and 1970, and by 1985 there were over 750,000 items in stock, a computerised catalogue and circulation system, and over 80 staff.

Larkin's professional life at Hull is well documented in the University Library Collection [RefNo U LIB], which includes letters, committee minutes, plans, reports, and photographs. The collection covers everything from day-to-day library matters, such as cataloguing backlogs, appropriate footwear and computerisation, to University matters, such as staff appointments and the establishment of the University bookshop. There are also references to Larkin's national activities, such as his work for the Arts Council, and other bodies.

There are also many photographs documenting Larkin's time as librarian at Hull, including the development of the University Library, in the University of Hull Photographic Collection [RefNo U PHO, not currently on the online catalogue, indexes available onsite].


Larkin's earliest recorded friendships began at school with Colin Gunner and James Sutton. Gunner brought out the playful side of Larkin, whilst his friendship with Sutton was based on shared interests in jazz, cinema and creative pursuits. These two early friendships are documented in a number of collections of letters held at HHC [RefNos U DP174, U DP179, U DP182].

Close friends at Oxford included Kingsley Amis and Bruce Montgomery, who he remained in contact with throughout his life. Various references to both appear throughout U DPL, though there are no distinct collections relating to either Amis or Montgomery held at HHC.

Later friends included Anthony Thwaite. For correspondence between Thwaite and Larkin see U DP181 and U DP214.

But perhaps the most significant friendship of Larkin's life was with academic Monica Jones, who became his life-long romantic partner, despite the fact the two never married [see U DX341 and U DMA].

The collections at Hull are littered with correspondence between Larkin and various other individuals of his acquaintance. For more information see our detailed source guide This be the verse (PDF).