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This item is taken from PN Review 114, Volume 23 Number 4, March - April 1997.

Letters from Andrew Motion, Jean Ducruet, John Lucas
The Larkins

In her article 'The Philip Larkin Family Papers' (PNR 113, pp. 7-9) Rebecca Johnson says that I 'suggest' in my biography of Larkin 'that the ten years between Philip and his sister Catherine prevented them from becoming close', whereas the newly-deposited material in the Brynmor Jones Library in fact 'display[s] intimacy' between them. For the record, may I use your Letters Page to point out that the judgement I made in my biography was based on what Larkin himself told me. His sister, whom I interviewed on a number of occasions, confirmed the impression he gave me - though I should add that she was extremely reluctant to divulge anything about her brother, herself, or her parents. (I remember, for instance, that she would not even tell me her birthday - and there was no question of me being shown the material described in Dr Johnson's article.)

It is fascinating to learn that Larkin and his sister may once have been closer than either subsequently liked to let on. However, I suspect that in the future all students of the Larkin family will need to balance evidence of its 'intimacy' against the elements of impatience, suspicion and even disike that also contributed to its extraordinary character.


Modernizing Stendhal

I regret to inform you that 8 rue Caumartin, where Stendhal wrote La Chartreuse de Parme in 1838, is at present undergoing 'modernization'. This means that the façyade will be preserved but everything lying behind risks destruction. The plaque inaugurated by Professor Del Litto in 1983 will remain in place but the famous fourth-floor room (celebrated in your 'Stendhal as a Lion in Love', PNR 112) unfortunately may not be. We have been told that the fourth-floor 'landing' will be respected. Perhaps. At present the building looks as if it had been bombed from the air.

On the other side of the boulevard - at 22 rue Casanova - a rather different fate has befallen the modest hotel where Stendhal died in 1842. It has metamorphosed into the de luxe Hotel Stendhal, where you can book the 'Rouge et Ie Noir' room but it will cost you the earth and would probably not be recognised by the book's author.

JEAN DUCRUET, Association des Amis
de Stendhal, Paris

Byronic Cant

In his enjoyable essay, 'Look Here Upon This Picture', Frederic Raphael remarks that 'Byron was born to entertain opposites rather than "for opposition", as the cant insists.' Cant it may be but if so Byron is the canter. It is after all he who writes 'No doubt, if I had wish'd to pay my court / To critics, or to hail the setting sun / Of tyranny of all kinds, my concision / Were more; - but I was born for opposition.' (Don Fuan, Canto XV, stanza 22).

JOHN LUCAS, Nottingham

This item is taken from PN Review 114, Volume 23 Number 4, March - April 1997.

Readers are asked to send a note of any misprints or mistakes that they spot in this item to
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