Letters to Monica

by Philip Larkin (ed. Anthony Thwaite).

Philip Larkin's letters to his long-term, long-sufferring girlfriend, Monica Jones.

Letters to Monica

Philip Larkin's letters are a delight to read. Particularly his politically incorrect, very funny correspondence with his friend Kingsley Amis.

Larkin's letters to Monica Jones, his long-term girlfriend, are also very entertaining, although toned down somewhat, presumably on account of their intended recipient. But they are still laugh-out-loud funny in many places. Here are a few quotes I noted down:

  • Sometimes, there clings about your letters a faint redolence of perfume - whether from your hand or from the place you keep your notepaper I do not know. If there's a faint redolence about this one, it'll be of an orange I have just eaten.
  • I shall have to start dressing for supper in a couple of minutes - 5.45 on Sunday. I am wearing a suit today - gloomy conformity to local tradition. But most of the students here dress up on Sunday & look so neat that I get shamed: nearly every day of the week they wear semi-stiff white collars, the kind I wouldn't wear for a bob a day, & after all they are doctors-to-be & therefore I suppose quite well off. When anyone falls ill they are all on him like a pack of vultures. Sometimes drunks are brought in to be resurrected medically before being sent home to their landladies.
  • Opening my dictionary to ensure I spelt effigies right - yah - I notice what seems to me rather a good definition of 'eighteen': 'one more than seventeen'.
  • The Professor of Economics is a grizzled, humorous, sports-jacketed, pipe-smoking, daughter-towsling old Barriesque daddie: dislike of his wife sprang fully-armed from my head, like Minerva from the head of Zeus. She hated housework & liked doing pottery, and had a talent amounting to genius for misunderstanding what I said.
  • the toothache with which I closed my last letter has blossomed & this is the morning of the second day looked at through red spectacles of pain. Like dockers' unions other teeth are coming out in sympathy.
  • I gave the Warden a copy of XX poems - he knew 'I wrote' (God! God! God!) - and the ones he picked out for brief commendation were III & the road-between-us. I asked him if he didn't like XX, & he said yes, but the last two lines reminded him of The Best Poems of 1924, which I thought pretty smart, for him.

Letters to Monica is not all jokes, however. Sometimes, the correspondence gets pretty intense, and, on more than one occasion, Larkin comes across as a total bastard in the way he treated poor, long-sufferring Monica. But don't let that put you off: all of Larkin's correspondence comes highly recommended.

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