Philip Larkin is the ultimate British miserablist. The poet, who died in 1985 aged 63, was an alcoholic curmudgeon, accused by critics of being racist and sexist. He enjoyed spending time alone and had a gritty pessimism about the world around him: sometimes born of despair, other times dark humour.
Yet Larkin's acclaimed work speaks for itself and has earned him fans the world over. Now his big contribution to English literature will be recognised in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey, where 30 years on from his death on 2 December a plaque in his honour is to be unveiled.
"Larkin received many awards in recognition of his writing, especially in his later years," says his biography at The Philip Larkin Society website. These included the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry, the CBE, an honorary D.Litt. from Oxford University, and a Companion of Literature, among many other honours.
"In December of 1984 he was offered the chance to succeed Sir John Betjeman as Poet Laureate but declined, being unwilling to accept the high public profile and associated media attention of the position," says The Philip Larkin Society.
To honour the man as he takes his place among the other greats in Poets' Corner, here from his writings – most of which were personal letters and his body of poems -- are some of Larkin's most miserable quotes.
Morning, noon & bloody night / Seven sodding days a week / I slave at filthy WORK, that might / Be done by any book-drunk freak / This goes on until I kick the bucket / F**K IT F**K IT F**K IT F**K IT.
A ditty from a letter to his "muse and mistress", Monica Jones
Man hands on misery to man / It deepens like a coastal shelf / Get out as early as you can / And don't have any kids yourself.
From his poem This Be Verse
I have no enemies, but my friends don't like me.
A joke told to a friend
I work all day, and get half-drunk at night / Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare / In time the curtain-edges will grow light / Till then I see what's really always there / Unresting death, a whole day nearer now / Making all thought impossible but how / And where and when I shall myself die / Arid interrogation: yet the dread / Of dying, and being dead / Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
From the poem Aubade
Poetry is nobody's business except the poet's, and everybody else can f**k off.
From a letter to JB Sutton
Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth.
From an interview with The Observer
I have a theory that 'holidays' evolved from the medieval pilgrimage, and are essentially a kind of penance for being so happy and comfortable in one's daily life.
From a letter to Barbara Pym
Everyone should be forcibly transplanted to another continent from their family at the age of three.
From a letter to Monica
Life is slow dying.
From the poem Nothing To Be Said
I have a sense of melancholy isolation, life rapidly vanishing, all the usual things. It's very strange how often strong feelings don't seem to carry any message of action.
From a letter to Monica