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This article is taken from PN Review 60, Volume 14 Number 4, March - April 1988.

Philip Larkin: A Retrospect Michael Hamburger

I
 
If I let memory have its way, it would present me with fragments of things apperceived and experienced or only imagined and dreamed, a jetsam of the most various, ill-assorted relics: snatches of streetscapes or interiors, of riversides and gardens, of thoughts and feelings that may or may not have become articulate there, in a tone of voice that comes back for moments only, of faces or the aura of faces long blurred by aging, distance or death. In the absence of records - the early diaries which I destroyed - any would-be memoir I could produce would be a fiction.

My memory holds only skeletal dates and registers no sequence of events. It does not tell me, therefore, how or when I met Philip Larkin in war-time Oxford. Two letters I chose to preserve throughout a succession of removals that began even before my army service suggest that it must have been at the English Club, a literary society in which both of us were active as committee members during my first, four-term residence in 1941 and 1942. Since I do not associate Philip Larkin with other poets I knew at Oxford in those years - Sidney Keyes, David Wright and John Heath-Stubbs - and I did not know his friend Kingsley Amis at that time, it seems unlikely that we could have met in any other way. Although the flashbacks of memory include his college, St John's, and his digs in ...


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