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This article is taken from PN Review 120, Volume 24 Number 4, March - April 1998.

Something to do with violence Grevel Lindop

That Philip Larkin should have given a good deal of thought to A.E. Housman is not surprising. Both were middle-class sons of the Midlands (Housman born just outside Bromsgrove, Larkin in Coventry) and for the seven years between 1943 and 1950 Larkin was, if not a Shropshire lad, then at any rate a Shropshire librarian, working at the Wellington Public Library, under the shadow of the Wrekin and a mere ten miles from Much Wenlock and the north end of the Edge. In his teens, according to Andrew Motion, Larkin had been introduced to Housman's work by his father, a great reader who was thought 'very broad-minded because the house was full of books by D.H. Lawrence, Bennett, and Mary Webb.' Another interpretation might have been that he took a particular interest in the writers of the English Midlands; and Housman must have figured prominently in Larkin's professional life at Wellington. He was, after all the local poet, and in December 1943, soon after arriving at Wellington, Larkin told his friend J.B. Sutton somewhat ruefully that the library contained 'no poetry later than Housman.'

There are obvious affinities between the two poets' lives and poetic work; John Bayley has explored some of these in a recent article and has usefully listed some 'obvious' biographical similarities:

the bachelordom, the meticulous distrusts, solitary dependence on friends, unremitting and indispensable toad work - Manilius or librarianship - settling into 'character' - and then there are the poems: ...


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