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THOMAS OSBORNE

Polarities of Englishness: Larkin, Hughes and national culture


Senilitys sour odour. It had condensed Like a grease on the cutlery. It confirmed Your idea of England: part Nursing home, part morgue For something partly dying, partly dead.

Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters1

Poetry and sovereignty are very primitive things. I like to think of their being united in this way, in England. Philip Larkin, Required Writing.2

What is it that is so English about such very different writers as Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes? Is it that they express Englishness or is it that they allow a sort of commentary upon Englishness, perhaps because as will be suggested here each in fact wanted to escape it in his own way? migre to Not surprisingly, it took the quasi-external perception of an e see, in its most coherent form, this sense in which the extreme can register the generality. In the first chapter of his The Englishness of English Art Nikolaus Pevsner outlines his approach to what he calls the geography of art, that discipline which takes as its purpose the discovery of features of national style in the arts and literature. Such a geography will be concerned above all with extremes, with polarities. The history of styles, observes Pevsner, can only be successful that is, approach truth if it is conducted in terms of polarities, that is in pairs of apparently contradictory qualities.3 So English art is Constable and Turner, it is the formal house and the informal, picturesque garden surrounding it; polarities evident at one and the same moment. Polarities are not necessarily contradictions. Indeed the methodology of such a geography of the arts, according to Pevsner, is to indicate that what might seem to be contradictions are not in fact such; so, for instance Constables aim is truth to nature, Turners world is a fantasmagoria, but both are concerned with an atmospheric view of the world, not with the firm physical objects in it. Hence, for Pevsner, Constable and Turner are both clearly extremes within English culture more generally, yet are

44 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 nonetheless exemplary or representative of tendencies within the generality itself. So, in this example, the image of a Constable or a Turner will tell us something more generally about English culture: something, for instance, of the centrality through what unites them in their very polarity of the notion of atmosphere to English aesthetic culture: the anti-corporeal attitude of the English heritage.4

Diminishment and everyday life


Can we apply a similar logic to the case of Larkin and Hughes? A good place to begin such an argument might come from D. J. Taylors surmise that what unites many English post-war writers, and what accounts for a certain characteristic kind of realism in their works, is the cultural experience of disappointment; or, as Taylor aptly terms it, diminishment.5 At its most extreme form, such disappointment manifested itself as outright socio-political resentment, as in the words of a character from a novel by Angela Thirkell from the early 1950s: What I really mind is their trying to bust up the Empire . . . I mean like leaving Egypt and trying to give Gibraltar to the natives. If they try to do anything to Gibraltar, I shall put on a striped petticoat and a muslin fichu and murder them all in their baths, because TRAITORS ought to be murdered.6 There are plain echoes here of Larkins more laconic but no less resentful attitude in Homage to a Government, with its complaint that Our children will not know its a different country.7 Closely connected to this sense of diminishment we have a particular concern with the status of everyday things. Against the argument of Andrew Motion, Larkins biographer, that this emphasis was a function of the levelling effects of democracy, Tom Nairn has argued that it was in truth one of many substitutes for democratic levelling generated in those post-war circumstances.8 We can agree with Nairn whilst adding, in Humean vein, that such a tendency was also a function, so to speak, of the political fate of Englishness itself.9 Post-war Britain was is a postcolonial country, a fact which is registered as much in the literature of the metropolis as it is in that derived from the experience of the periphery. If, after the high watermarks of empire, what was once the ideologically dominant experience of the metropolis can be understood as being in its own way quite as much a part of the postcolonial experience of dissolution and diaspora as that of the so-called peripheries, then we might even say that the works of writers such as Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis or even Ted Hughes can be understood in postcolonial terms parallel to those frequently applied to Salman Rushdie or Derek Walcott. Indeed, Walcott has himself made this point, arguing that for those who write from what was once a

Polarities of Englishness: Larkin, Hughes and national culture 45 confident imperial heartland, it may be as if the everyday world has itself become dimmed, diminished, disenchanted.10 But adapting Pevsners notion of polarity we can say that this disenchantment is as much, in Larkins case at least, about a resolute turning towards the everyday world as it is, in Hughess, of a turning away from it. Larkin our principal focus in what follows is often represented as the incarnation of a certain Englishness, specifically of a quotidian ethos of provinciality. But perhaps we should see his writing not merely as a retreat into everyday life or as an expression of such provinciality but rather as a carefully staged confrontation with the experience of ordinariness, a kind of interrogation of what disenchantment has left us with. What is at stake here is, to put it too bluntly, the status of the world itself. In a very different context, Stanley Cavell has observed the extent to which an embracing of ordinariness functions as an answer to scepticism; how grasping a day, accepting the everyday, the ordinary, is not a given but a task.11 Larkins concerns are perhaps of this order; to acknowledge the continued existence of a world that has been shrunken out of proportion from ones expectations of it. Larkin is much more than the Englishman of the common-sense tradition, as is evidenced by the extent to which he makes almost a fetish of commonsensism and the ethos of the quotidian, pushing it towards humour and irony, even at times absurdity. Of course there is a common cultural tradition of Englishness that stresses precisely this status of the everyday. In the tradition of English painting, we have in Pevsners own phraseology the demand to paint the truth and its everyday paraphernalia. Pevsner also quotes Dr Johnson: I had rather see the portrait of a dog I know than all the allegories you can show me, and comments, This irritating remark . . . is massively English.12 Truth, for the English, then, lies not in the Grand Manner but in observed fact and personal experience. For Larkinesque versions of such descriptive care, one might invoke Show Saturday or Here, with its notion of unfenced existence . . . untalkative, out of reach. But Larkin always does more than just capture this sense of the everyday. His is less the Flaubertian injunction to write the mediocre well, in an aesthetic sense, than an attempt at an excavation of the everyday, and as much an exposure of common-sensical attitudes, their little dead-ends and complicities, as an embrace of them. So it cannot be said that a poet such as Larkin simply represents various more or less innate tendencies in English culture. We could say, rather, that Larkin did not merely inhabit an English reserve but that he actually cultivated this ethos as a sort of technique; that is, as a method of escape from judgement, perhaps according to a kind of internalised ethics of

46 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 effacement. Describe the world as it is, in all its smallness, and efface yourself. This is as much a question of a technique of the self as it is a matter of Larkins given personality. Effacement was as much a strategy as a predicament. Larkins normality, his sense of reserve, his very conservatism all function not as expressions of his nature but as techniques for movement away from what he was and from what he saw in England. Which is why his bluntest statements may serve as evidence for this very fact of effacement: Anyone who has stammered will know what agony it is, especially at school. It means you never take the lead in anything or do anything but try to efface yourself.13 To escape ones judgement over oneself, the shame of stammering, one cultivates, just about literally in Larkins case, an ethos of perpetual disappearance. What does Larkin do? Of all places, he moves to Hull As for Hull I like Hull because its so far away from everywhere else. On the way to nowhere, as somebody put it . . . Theres not so much crap around as there would be in London, at least as I imagine it . . .14 Crap is the metropolis, London, amongst the sophisticates; those who chatter, those who judge, those who pin you down. Larkin cannot stand London: in that context at least, his might be seen as a genuine writing of becoming with its ultimate address the cultural, numerical majority that actually constituted, to Larkins view of things, the discursive minority invoking the provinces, the regions, small towns and little things. The components of Larkins putative Englishness, then, are as much a matter of an inventive strategy as of the expression of the given.15 Hence, pitted between strategy and given-ness, the sense of Englishness in Larkin is actually ambivalent. He feels exiled even within England. In The Importance of Being Elsewhere he voices the idea that he is estranged, always, in England and so in a sense it is better to be elsewhere, such as in Ireland where one is more obviously and recognisably a stranger.
Living in England has no such excuse: These are my customs and establishments It would be much more serious to refuse. Here no elsewhere underwrites my existence.16

Moreover, at times Larkin can be quite overtly critical of Englishness, especially if this is mixed up with sensibilities derived from social class. He wrote in 1955 to Patsy Murphy that: Im passing through an anti English phase at present they are miles uglier and noisier and vulgarer than the Irish: the pubs here are nightmares of neo-Falstaffianism, coughing laughter well soused with phlegm. The village smells of chips. The town smells of

Polarities of Englishness: Larkin, Hughes and national culture 47 fish. And everywhere creep the new cars with L on the front, Auntie C. learning to drive i.e. clog up the road some more & further endanger my life . . ..17

Hughes and mythopoeisis


Whereas Larkin burrowed into inwardness, the poetry of Ted Hughes aspired to the status of a kind of externalised, dramatic, mythopoetic becoming. Hughes, however, is as much subject, in his own way, to Taylors sense of diminishment as Larkin. Of course Hughess angle is really existential, especially as experienced in the exposure to the brutalities of nature. What has been diminished is less or less obviously the state of national dignity than any engaged appreciation of the state of nature itself, although it is not difficult to see how the two are ultimately linked in Hughes. In Hughes the everyday world acts like a kind of false veneer on the true essence of Nature. Hence his prosody of mythologising; his attempts, in effect, to locate reality somewhere other than precisely those areas of life most exposed to Larkins own attentions the glib surfaces of everyday existence. Hughess Yorkshire roots versus Larkins more provincial upbringing in Coventry are also part of this polarity; or putting it somewhat crudely Larkin the buttoned-up petty-bourgeois librarian versus Hughes in the Bronte tradition of impassioned souls stomping about the moor. Not that the poetry of Hughes, shepherd of complete Being as Craig Robinson appositely describes him, was part of the pastoral tradition of the poetry of landscape.18 His poetry was as much an attempt at escape from that kind of romanticism as was Larkins. In fact, as Keith Sagar has observed, neither the countryside nor the landscape (pastoral, impressive vistas) make much of an appearance in Hughess work: or at least, what is at stake is rather Nature, or better Creation.19 For Hughes, the human ways of being in the world are at worst artificial veneers that conceal the brutal but exhilarating realities of Creation and at best institutions of shepherding Creation. If, for him, there is an English way with the countryside it is in so far as the landscape is, so to speak, in trust to Englishness, folded into it. It is not, then, that Englishness provides us with the essence of the landscape but that there are certain ways of being with nature, of shepherding Creation, which have been cultivated in an English way. It is there in The Day he Died:
From now on the land Will have to manage without him. But it hesitates, in this slow realization of light,

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Childlike, too naked, in a frail sun, With roots cut And a great blank in its memory.20

However, Hughess preoccupation may seem to be more some of the laureate poems aside with the world itself than with England as such: its falling away from myth, from synthesis; its submission to the narrow forces of reason. However, this sense of mythopoetic disenchantment in the face of the forces of rationalisation is registered, for Hughes, at a level which does connect to questions of national identification that of the national literature itself. Hence his impatience with the terrible suffocating, maternal octopus of ancient English poetic tradition.21 If there is disenchantment then so too is there obviously enough reenchantment in Hughes. In their polarised ways, both Hughes and Larkin wish to move beyond the mere everydayness that they take to be at the heart of ordinary attitudes to life: Larkin by interrogating it to its limits, by going further into it, turning it from surface to essence; Hughes on the basis of an effort at exposing, if anything, the hidden enchantedness of existence itself. Hughes seeks to find an enchantedness that is beyond ordinary existence. Thus he attempts to forge a sort of alternative Ur-language against the superficialities of everyday language and to make of Creation, in effect, a substitute for, as much as a sublimation of, the modern world. Creation expresses the cruelty and ruthlessness of life, but in the form of Creation it is something to be celebrated hence the justice of Derek Walcotts idea that Hughess is a poetry of exultation.22 In actual, disenchanted life it might be a different matter of course. Certainly it is not always a case of exultation there. But then, for Hughes, everyday life is clearly all too burdened with mediocrity to be much of an issue for poetry. There is nevertheless a form of realism here: if it is an escape from the everyday world, it is still the realism of how things are in nature at least; the overwhelmingly conservative realism of acceptance of nature brutal, elemental. In short, Larkin moves ever into the ordinary world, Hughes ever away from it; but both concur in a sort of realism, albeit the one deflationary, the other inflationary.

Realism and ordinariness


Larkins deflationism leads Derek Walcott to comment on his sense of Georgian decay that is aware of Englands smallness.23 Larkin has a muse, says Walcott, and its name is Mediocrity. Larkin is a sort of retractable

Polarities of Englishness: Larkin, Hughes and national culture 49 Kipling, meaning presumably and surely correctly that Larkin is to English decline what Kipling was to English glory. Nowhere is this sense of smallness, this realism of mediocrity, more in evidence than in Larkins famous concern for everyday, commonplace things. Home is so Sad is the obvious case in point here.
You can see how it was: Look at the pictures and the cutlery. The music in the piano stool. That vase.

In his book on what he regards as the demise of Englishness, Roger Scruton argues that this well-known poem is about the enchantment of things. Home has its customs, its rituals, its special times and places. Or if it does not, it is so much the less a home, so much the less a place to look back upon in adulthood, when anger and rejection have intervened.24 But what is surely more at stake in Home is so Sad is not the enchantment of the everyday objects of home something that Scruton thinks is characteristically English but, on the contrary, their disenchantment. What is at stake in other words is disappointment, diminishment. Very often especially in some of the later, more personal poems Larkins turn towards the everyday is in fact evidence of a pronounced disgust with the futility of it; the sense in which the everyday marks the falling away of life itself; as if he is turning to it only to see how much he can stand. To see this further, let us note that Larkin had been an adherent of the works of Lawrence. What Larkin embraced in his mature work was perhaps a kind of inverse (but not exactly an anti-) Lawrentianism: to find life where it really is not in sexuality or in the escape from civilised life but in everyday, commonplace life itself. Perhaps there is actually more of Lawrence in Larkin than in Hughes. In Larkins Letters, late in 1949 there comes a Lawrentian declaration that there is no need to think Larkin would later have repudiated. Literature, Larkin writes to his friend J. B. Sutton, is actually something of a farce. The point, it seems, is rather to work upon oneself, to get down to reality perhaps literature is a technology for doing that. I search myself for illusions like a monkey looking for fleas.25 This is Larkins brand of realism. There is no such thing as life but only a lifeforce; we are all varyingly charged with it and that represents our energy and nothing we do or say will alter our voltage or wattage. Perhaps this is actually more like Nietzsche than Lawrence. As Larkin writes, he himself has none of Lawrences sense of a purity of the life-force. For him, the lifeforce is immoral. Its motor appears to be admiration: Everything called

50 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 good is what we like, envy, admire, want, thrill to.26 This, be it noted, is a rather anti-cultural understanding of culture: what counts is simply admiration. A great book, a great man, are things a great many people greatly admire. What happens to this ideal in Larkin? Perhaps surprisingly, it is nowhere really repudiated. Rather, Larkins attitude is that of someone who has become exhausted with it (one can become sickened with such a life-force). Larkins work upon himself led to disillusion, but there is no particular reason to think that he ever gave up the project itself as a regulatory ideal from which to measure his own and a more general diminishment. After all, from early on in his life, Larkin recognised that life itself and its choices were gambles. Again in Lawrentian vein to Sutton: Never accept what you dont want. Keep refusing, & in time you may get what you do want. On the other hand you may end up with FUCK ALL.27 That was perhaps how it was with him; to have gambled and to have ended up with fuck all then to have made the fuck all his very subject matter his endless disappointment: that he had gambled and lost; not got the girl, and so on. Now, there is an oddly inverted Lawrentian realism here, coming close to self-deprecation certainly. It is the realism of Letter to a Friend About Girls:28 Everything proves we play in different leagues the mentality of youre great and Im not and I know it. This sense of decline and mediocrity after great hope is endemic to Larkins voice. In Reference Back, from The Witsun Weddings,29 on playing over old records:
Truly, though our element is time, We are not suited to the long perspectives Open at each instant of our lives. They link us to our losses: worse, They show us what we have as it once was, Blindingly undiminished, just as though By acting differently we could have kept it so.

What is at issue here is not least a question of access. It is as if, in a postcolonial world, even the scholarship boy does not have quite the expected access to the enchanted life of power, importance, influence, or better to what the sociologist Edward Shils, in a celebrated article, simply labelled centrality, the sense of being at the centre of things, at the still pivot of a turning world.30 What, then, is there left beyond an ethics of realism about loss, a commitment to the exploration of the tyranny of the ordinary in a small, inevitably diminished country: as in the

Polarities of Englishness: Larkin, Hughes and national culture 51 miserably comic lines of unspent childhood in I Remember, I Remember; invoking
the garden . . . where I did not invent Blinding theologies of flowers and fruits

and where Nothing, like something, happens anywhere.31 Or equally the oppressive sense of repetition in the tyranny of the ordinary in Mr Bleaney:32
I know his habits what time he came down, His preference for sauce to gravy, why He kept on plugging at the four aways Likewise their yearly frame: the Frinton folk Who put him up for summer holidays, And Christmas at his sisters house in Stoke.

Now, to what is this realism of the everyday opposed? It is opposed of course not least to everything that Hughes himself was to come to represent for Larkin; anything that smacks of enthusiasm, of portentousness or pretentiousness: the Lecturers, lispers,/ Losels, loblolly-men, louts of Toads.33 We have here, then, a praise of and even commitment to dullness and the ordinary: to Sally Amis (in Born Yesterday),
In fact, may you be dull If that is what a skilled Vigilant, flexible Unemphasised, enthralled Catching of happiness is called.34

The Larkin of Poetry of Departures would want to be reprehensibly perfect; to go


swagger the nut-strewn roads Crouch in the focsle Stubbly with goodness, if It werent so artificial

It is precisely the sense of fakery, the artificiality of that option, that makes it not an option at all. According to this logic, just about all foreigners are artificial; best to admit the miseries of our own existence, and attempt to live up to them, even if we do all actually hate home/ And having to be there.

52 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1

Ethopoetics
What we have here is less the expression of a particular attitude in verse than what could be described as the poetic shaping of an ethic of truth; or, to express things pretentiously, an ethopoesis of truth perhaps.35 The postcolonial element in Larkins work does not lie in being straightforwardly expressive of how he feels as a diminished Englishman in the postwar cultural climate. It is rather that Larkin produces an image of such a predicament in the form of a poetically implicated sense of truth. Poetry in this sense at least should be seen less as a form of expression than as a technical means for working upon the self; a way of transforming a certain perception of the truth in this case of ordinariness and the mundane world into ethos. Poetry is indeed the set of techniques that can gain access to this truth, since it is not quite reflective of experience as such but is also a set of techniques for transforming a particular experience of the truth into a more general ethical experience. As we have seen, at the heart of such an ethopoesis in Larkin, there is a very strong focus on the ordinary and the commonplace. For Larkin it is a moral duty not so much to remain what one is but to become, so to speak, more so; to dig deeper, without blanching at the task, into the essence of what one is, without pretending to be anything else. This amounts almost to a morality in Larkin. It has the character not so much of a worldview as of an ordeal, the object of an ethical labour rather than the expression of a given identity. Hence, little wonder that the name for this what one is in Larkin is, above all, work (Toads).36
Six days of the week it soils With its sickening poison Just for paying a few bills! Thats out of proportion.

If one does not actually become one of the poseurs so obviously despised by Larkin then this is because of the Toad that is right there inside oneself; the analogue to the exterior Toad of work; the moral commitment to work and boring duty. Anything else would be weakness. This makes Larkin arguably more interesting than either the reactionary nudge-winker depicted by Terry Eagleton or the anti-bullshitter view of him favoured by Christopher Hitchens. Of course Larkin was a political reactionary. But he was not exactly a national reactionary (that is a reactionary who was straightforwardly expressive of particular reactionary national cultural tendencies), not least because he was also something like in the sense highlighted by Gilles Deleuze an English empiricist for

Polarities of Englishness: Larkin, Hughes and national culture 53 whom the very idea of a national culture would be too much of an abstraction. Hence his refusal to countenance forms of escapism that take oneself away from the sense of a belief in this world; the empiricist sense of truth as something of this world and of no other, be it the world of mysticism, illusion, religion, intellectualism or whatever.37 One gets the sense, then, that with Larkin, once the possibility of Lawrentian glory had evaporated, what was left was not the straightforward relinquishment of such an idea but a studied acceptance of the dignity of a certain quotidian nihilism, albeit one which was less an attitude than the object of a work. Hence the ubiquity in Larkin of what might be called the failed lines of flight of ordinary people in everyday life; the Bleaneys and others, the ordinary people who are blocked in certain ways but who go on in any case.

Death and immanence


One sees this too in Larkins obsession with the question of death; hardly a novel concern for a poet of course, but it is given a kind of empiricist twist in Larkin that is not quite nihilism more a refusal to lay claim to or to judge in the name of any higher, superior or transcendent life. Larkins distinction in this context was to observe how death occurred as, so to speak, part of everyday life itself. Death is not a transcendent power, but an inevitable slow machine that governs the course of our lives from within. There is nothing creative or interesting about the inevitability of death on this model. Why was happiness not a possibility? If only because you know that you are going to die, and the people you love are going to die.38 What we have here, as well as an ethopoetics of the commonplace, is what could be called an ethopoetics of annihilation; and one which entails an atheism not as negativity but as belief. This is not the fiery, enthusiastic atheism of a Rimbaud; it is the unassuming atheism of the man who entering a church takes off his cycle-clips in awkward reverence. And it is an atheism that recognises the more or less positive if more or less obsolete moral function of religion at least in its relation with death. Church Going, for instance, shows Larkins lack of belief yet his respect for the seriousness of belief, If only that so many dead lie around.39 The serious atheist, however, needs to confront death without the garb of religion, but recognising death for its emptiness and inevitability, as in Heads in the Womens Ward.40
Smiles are for youth. For old age come Deaths terror and delirium.

54 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 And an understanding of life in general as a long decline towards extinction, as in the Marvellian:41
Being brave Lets no one off the grave.

The same effect is there in The Old Fools or Dockery and Son. In the Letters, Larkin refers to the actual moment of our extinction as being a fribbling as the currents of life fray against the currents of death.42 We live, we die, and thats it: we need to keep a straight gaze upon the presence of death within life. And Hughes? He was from the perspective of Larkins side of the polarity anyway precisely one of the loblolly men, the bullshitters that Larkin himself mentions so dismissively in Toads. Andrew Motion, in his biography of Larkin, reports in this context a visit to Hull that Hughes had made. I was in the chair, providing a sophisticated, insincere, effete, and gold-watch-chained alternative to his primitive, forthright, virile, leatherjacketed persona. When Larkin later discovered that the university photographer had snapped them together on the podium, looking as different as he described, he ordered a copy of the picture, framed it and hung it in his lavatory.43 And here is the key really. Hughess way of death is so to speak symmetrical with, if in opposition to, Larkins own. Both are moving, in fact, away from the same thing not from death itself but from illusions, which is to say from belief in something transcendental. For Larkin death is something immanent and of this world. For Hughes death is an aspect of life itself. In each there is no room for anything that is transcendent, not just God but anything that is beyond the actual circumstances of life, however those circumstances are to be conceived. In Hughess Crow:
Who owns these scrawny little feet? Death. Who owns this bristly scorched-looking face? Death. Who owns these still-working lungs? Death.

In both writers, what is at stake in such contrasting, indeed opposing, ways could be described as the disenchantment of the ordinary: Larkin embraces such a disenchantment in a sort of becoming that bores ever further into it, whilst Hughes re-locates reality elsewhere, beyond the ordinary itself, in the surge of life and death and violence. And of course, for him, even so-called everyday life can be folded into such a vision; as one

Polarities of Englishness: Larkin, Hughes and national culture 55 can readily see from Birthday Letters, in the inferno of 9 Willow Street where:44
Your day Was twenty-four rungs of a fire-escape Hanging in ghastly swirls, over nothing, Reaching up towards nothing. What an airy Hell!

or in describing, again in Birthday Letters, the creative if malignant energies released from the effect of somebody being twenty minutes late to take over the baby-sitting.

Against intellect
Now what resources does Hughes draw upon to re-enchant the world if not intellectual resources? However, although Hughes may wrestle with Jung or shamanism, what he is seeking is an Ur-intellect, not the aridities of scholarship. As such, his is in fact an anti-intellectualist form of re-enchantment, even a retreat from intellect; or at best the maverick intellectualism of his writings on Coleridge or Shakespeare, but also of the poetry itself with its reliance on a mythological synthesis of Gravesian goddess myth-mongering, ancient Egyptianism, Amerindian trickster motifs, Jungology, shamanic allusions, alchemy, and later the theoretico-monarchalism of the endnotes to Rain-Charm for the Duchy. One might be forgiven for regarding the presence of myth here not so much as Ur-synthesis of Creation and Being but rather as an off-the-shelf sort of intellectual consumerism, a rag-bag of mythologies, melded together. But, if we were to adopt a principle of charity, we might say that what Hughes was escaping was perhaps more important than what he was embracing. It was the same thing, albeit in a wholly almost comically different direction, as that of Larkin: the puffing-up of intellect as sophistication, that is as separation from everyday life, as something transcendent and superior to the immanent forces of this world. Hughes was affirming, to be sure, a different sort of immanence of intellect, one based on Creation itself rather than the do-it-yourself ethic of Larkin. And when Hughes actually evokes intellect poetically it is, precisely, in terms of Creation: it is intellect become brute nature, intellectualism as an instinct. For instance, the image of the scholar that appears in the uncollected poem Tutorial where academic intellect attains the status of one of Hughess animal poems:45

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He is fat, this burst bearskin, but his mind is an electric mantis Plucking the heads and legs off words, the homunculi.

Larkins own scepticism towards intellectualism is well documented. It has often been taken for a very typically English sort of anti-intellectualism or at least a very typically English ignorance of intellectual matters. It is certainly related to that well-known ethos, but is a variation upon it, more of an escape from it than an aspect of it. The work of Barbara Everett has done much to disabuse Larkins readers of an over-simplistic view here. Everett suggests, in the course of a brilliant analysis of Larkins Sympathy in White cileMajor, that what we have in Larkin, instead, is the figure of an imbe nie. In England, after all, it is bad taste not to hide ones de-ge sophistication, assuming one is unlucky enough to be blessed with any. And in this context, Larkins letters, especially the earlier ones, are enlightening. For they are full of intelligent literary comment of a fairly modernist hue. Especially striking is Larkins love of painting, above all in the letters to J. B. Sutton which dominate the 1940s: see the comments on zanne, Brueghel and Picasso.46 It seems, of course, that Larkin Monet, Ce never had a very high opinion of Picasso, but it is clear that this dislike was at least initially not that of an uninformed philistine.47 For Larkin, it is just that ones intellectual commitments should be immanent to this world, not placed on some pedestal beyond everyday life. Hence for instance his workaday comment to the Paris Review (an interview laced with lugubrious comedy) when asked about the poets that he had studied: Oh, for Christs sake, one doesnt study poets! You read them, and think, thats marvellous, how is it done, could I do it?48 In short, there are varieties of anti-intellectualism and Hughes and Larkin evince different sorts, each rather at variance with what amounts arguably to the rather more unconsidered anti-intellectualism of the English habitus; their respective attitudes towards intellectualism being, then, rather like variants from a central, perhaps less reflexive norm.

Generational polarity?
Where does a series of contrasts and convergences, such as this between Hughes and Larkin, take us? The differences between Larkin and Hughes were in part generational of course, or were sensed as such at least by elements of Larkins generation itself. This sense of generational belonging was in part simply a matter of a specific, defining experience. And here perhaps we need to appropriate the resources of a certain sociology of ressentiment to further our ends.

Polarities of Englishness: Larkin, Hughes and national culture 57 One of the most striking things to note from Larkins Letters is the extent to which the decade of his post-Oxford maturity, the 1950s, was both a defining cultural period and simultaneously a period of equally defining deprivation. Indeed, it could be said that out of the 1950s swells an entire experience of Englishness, even it seems for later generations. The 1950s represent, in that sense, a kind of central case, as philosophers of science might say, of the experience of English diminishment. Central here, indeed, is the question of a certain exhaustion with everything. If one were to attempt to characterise the fifties by a catch-word, wrote Stephen Spender, I think it would be Anti. It was a time of negation and reaction in which whatever was in part positive was, to a larger extent, negative against something or other.49 It was a question really of either less or more, but not just more of the same. Later, Hughes himself was to voice a certain distanced respect for this attitude, seeing in it a scepticism about the big ideas and ambitions that had lead ultimately to warfare and barbarism; but noting at the same time that he himself, in the context of the experience of his generation, wanted on the contrary to plunder the whole variegated panoply of available traditions.50 Of course to talk of generations may seem rather inapposite here. Hughes was born in 1930 and Larkin only eight years before, in 1922. Yet the difference is not numerical but precisely one of generational experience; the difference of a generation that had lived through the war and one which came to maturity after it. James Wood is right to claim, in this context, that the generation that came to maturity in the late 1940s and 1950s was freer than its pre-war predecessor.51 Comparing Larkins generation to that of Evelyn Waugh, Wood observes that the later generation had far greater expressive freedom. Larkin uses that freedom too strenuously at least in his letters says Wood, because that freedom was still new. But in his poetry this freedom turns into a novelistic concern with the everyday which leads him to capture the demotics of provincial daily life combined with a sense of social resentment. A later generation that of Alan Bennett would survive to make this demotics nothing if not winsome; for the authentic, original sense of resentment is one that belongs particularly to Larkins own generation. Indeed, there is a kind of structured conflict of the generations going on here. There is a relative freedom from previous repressions but, as D. J. Taylor has shown, there is still a very strong sense of class position.52 And then there is the sense of what was, if anything, to become Larkins theme: as he put it himself deprivation. It is all but impossible, in spite of the efforts of Blake Morrison and others, really to capture the extent to which the deprivations of the late 1940s and 1950s characterised both Larkins own generation and those not

58 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 least by reaction which followed. One needs certainly to stress the continuity between the war years and the post-war years, a continuity which coloured the essence of that generation coming to maturity in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Richard Hoggart observes of this generation, even in the 1980s, that there was still behind every dealing with money and things, the fear and hatred of waste. That old phrase youll pay for this. . . is joined by its a shame to be so wasteful, fancy good things being thrown away. . . I had to work hard for every penny Ive got and am not going to squander it .53 Meat rationing, for example, did not end fully until 1955. I live meagrely, wrote Larkin to Sutton in October 1947 7 cigarettes and 2 beers weekly, almost by ritual. These things are like pinches of incense thrown on the altars of the Gods of smoking and drinking just to avoid the excess of abstinence, & any possible spiritual results54 Or there is this account, again to Sutton, from early 1951: This weekend I went down to stay near Dublin with a chap who had to marry a girl he put up the pole on VE night . . . All his clothes were pretty ragged and when he left a bit of cream cheese he wrapped it up in the silver paper & replaced it in the box. Coal is d8 a ton there & the weather was something awful. The house has only been built four years & there are mice in it already.55 Can it be surprising that these sorts of circumstance lead to an enhanced attentiveness to the visceral circumstances of everyday life? In pre-war Orwell, for example, these are conditions associated with the poor; in the late 1940s and 1950s deprivation goes democratic; it becomes more or less universal. But by deprivation as in the famous quote Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth56 Larkin appears to mean not so much simply poverty as, more generally, unhappiness and above all disappointment that people havent got out of life what they felt it had to offer. No doubt, again, this is a matter of access. For part of the postcolonial experience, in this context, was not only restricted access to centrality but also a dilution of centrality; in short, too much access, the democratisation of access for everyone. This is a sociological experience here translated into personal terms. But in Larkins case it is also about an inability to take advantage of such democratic conditions; to become, like Hughes, a sort of envoy of poetry, teaching in the United States, giving poetry readings and so on. Presumably we should take Larkin seriously when he declares that he had envisaged himself leading the writers life: Id had visions of myself writing 500 words a day for six months, shoving the result off to the printer te dAzur, uninterrupted except for the and going to live on the Co correction of proofs. It didnt happen like that very frustrating.57 Or, as he expressed it in his 1963 introduction to Jill, the conditions of wartime

Polarities of Englishness: Larkin, Hughes and national culture 59 made for truer perspectives: At an age when self-importance would have been normal, events cut us ruthlessly down to size.58 So this personal sense of diminishment is mapped on to a national one; the one is like a relay to the other. And if this was true of the realities of wartime then there is no reason to think that it would not also be true of the atmosphere of postcolonial England after the war. As for class, Larkin always repudiated that interpretation. He refused, quite understandably, to be identified with John Kemp, the working-class hero of Jill, insisting again quite understandably that class as such was not the issue. You see nobody had anything in those days, in the war. Everybody wore the same utility clothes. There was one kind of jacket, one kind of trousers; no cars; one bottle of wine a term. The distinctions between different classes of undergraduates were really pruned back.59 Larkin was right to claim that Jill was not a novel about working-class experience. But that is not to say the experiences documented in Larkins work are not related to class issues at all. In a brilliant and neglected essay on the moment of the angry young men in particular Amis and Osborne C. Wright Mills situated the literature of the period in England in terms of the complacencies of provincialism. And provincialism here seemed, to Mills, to have as much to do with ones class location as it had to do with geography. The complacent young men are symptoms of the collapse of the established pattern and of gentlemanly cultural aspiration and also of such proletarian patterns and aspirations as have prevailed; in other words they are the expressions of white-collar aspirations and their disappointments. Unable to adopt the culture of the gentleman and indifferent to the questions of labour, these writers, says Mills, are the internal emigrants of Great Britain.60 But there was more to this attitude too. For it did not take long for the disappointment in ones own hopes to turn into resentment at the chances of others. It is to Larkins credit that he turned this to genuine humour Sexual intercourse began in 1963 whereas contemporaries such as Amis could be said to have turned it rather to cynicism, or to reaction disguised as humour. The resentment towards the young is in fact less about class than about generations. Or rather one might say that generational conflict is itself a form of class conflict. Even gender conflict would come under this heading; for Larkins infamous misogyny was itself assuredly an aspect of generational conflict not perhaps in the literal sense of an entire younger generation against an elder generation but in the sense of the resentment towards the social type that is perceived to be about to inherit the future; since, for Larkin anyway, the future is effeminate if not definitely female.

60 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 The future is also one of mass culture. Who are the targets of Larkins most forcefully, if more often than not humorously, expressed resentments? The young and their freedoms certainly: And the young folk, all indulging in healthy mixed activities.61 But also the young and their opportunities. Writing to D. J. Enright in April 1970, Larkins complaint is against the massification of education: No doubt the Seventies will see the comprehensivisation [sic] of the universities in the interests of mass education, and . . . I am sure this will put the emphasis on quantity rather than quality.62 But in fact it is worth noting that Larkin argues against the pessimism of Enright here. His is really a fatalism about the much bigger process; not just the quantitative increase in student numbers but the democratisation of education itself. It is voice of the scholarship boy again, bemoaning the fact of too much access; and it is the postcolonial situation of the weak inheriting the earth. For Larkin, the problem is not particularly that universities will suffer but that society will succumb to the laxities of a more libertarian, democratic ethos. Larkins contempt for the culture of mass demand can certainly be linked to his generational experience. The members of Larkins own generation were certainly more than just a mere collective fact but actually, conditioned by their wartime experience, came close to being, in Mannheims terms, a concrete social group; a generation, anyway, with a specific range of potential experience, predisposing them for a certain characteristic mode of thought and experience, and a characteristic type of historically relevant action.63 What Larkin loathed was the undoing of this limited world of historically relevant action which seems to have marked his own peers. It was in fact a contempt which seems to have been as much aesthetic as moral. To Kingsley Amis, in October 1979, Larkin wrote in typically Blimpish vein: God how I hate news cant watch it to see these awful shits marching or picketing or saying the maer wi noo be referred back to thu Naional Exeuive is too much for me.64 This was certainly nostalgic, if in a grim sort of way. As he remarked in 1974, praising the hard-working virtues of the library and other staff at the Library of University College, Leicester, during the early 1950s: It certainly did not occur to me that I had belonged to an academic community of a kind soon to be superseded but with virtues that in time would seem precious.65 A further area of evidence for this attitude comes by way of the politics of the language itself, an obsession certainly more evident, pedagogically speaking, in Amis than in Larkin. Although, as Deborah Cameron has shown in her book Verbal Hygiene, the discourse on the invariably parlous state of the language certainly predates the 1950s, that era was certainly exemplary here in witnessing the massive expansion of standard English

Polarities of Englishness: Larkin, Hughes and national culture 61 outward, so to speak, to include more and more provincial forms.66 Hence, in Amis at least, the obsession with good usage if only by way of a reaction to the seemingly limitless expansion of the boundaries of socially acceptable speech. Just as English became a world language so, for Amis, it became above all an American language, with its pernicious but pervasive preference for the abstract over the concrete and the affectations of its literature that just make the Englishman want to say Come off it!67 This sensibility was undoubtedly at the heart of Amiss own evident loathing of Hughes, as expressed in his own Letters to Larkin and others, and which seems to have been far more vitriolic, and certainly less saturated in comedy, than that of Larkin himself.68 Yet such suspicion was not simply a question of generation against generation. Rather the problem may have been with the fact that Hughes did not even belong to a generation in the sense that Larkin and Amis belonged to one. The massification of education had led to a kind of cultural diaspora. Hughes himself had not been averse to teaching in America. And his own linguistic becoming was overtly different from that of Larkin or Amis. It led him, rather, into a sort of mysticism of language which, though unquestionably conservative, was unlike that of Larkin in its attempt to find a sort of primitive language of myth or being beyond the discourses of everyday life. Where Larkins generation went to the surface, Hughes went to the depths. In any case, at the moment when English began to take off more than ever, not just as a national and colonial language but as a world language, then so do we witness all the more sharply, and especially amongst Larkins immediate post-war generation, the perception of smallness and decline within English cultural experience itself. There is, in short, a postcolonial experience in the domain of language too.

Poetry and sovereignty


Poetry, as a linguistic form, may have been specifically tied to this experience. One way in which this is so lies, if our discussion at this point may take a somewhat more tentative turn, in the connection of poetry with sovereignty; that sense almost a mystical sense of an ultimate authority that gives, say, a nation its uniqueness, integrity and identity. It is a link that both Larkin and Hughes professed to feel. Perhaps there is indeed a certain symmetry between these two ideals. Poetry, like sovereignty, is concentration, a condensation of singularity. A poem might be described as a concentration of power in language; a sovereign is a concentration of power itself within a network power. A poem is a pure singularity; a sovereign is, as Carl Schmitt would have it, the

62 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 one who decrees the singular state of exception. Just as political sovereignty is paradoxical in so far as it is what decides upon the state of exception to the juridical order yet is also defined by that juridical order itself, so poetry is poetic language, condensed language, a form of language that is reflection upon language itself, both a form of language and a form that deliberately holds language itself in suspension, that is, beyond ordinary language. Hence, again, the link between poetry and sovereignty, because sovereignty alludes to a world that traverses another kind of sense to our own; not a mystical otherness but the state of exception that gets to the heart of things, yet that is at the origin of the legitimacy and normality of the everyday world. Such reflections obviously have to be provisional if not downright speculative. Yet it is indeed striking the extent to which poets associated with a national culture, such as Larkin and Hughes themselves, have been drawn to this question of sovereignty. If for each the Godhead was a matter of immanence, political authority was certainly of a transcendent order. Hence the flavour of reaction that is so easy to detect in each. For each, sovereignty resided or should reside specifically in royalty. Perhaps royal sovereigns and poets are as one in having at least putative access to some oracular realm of experience that is more fundamental, more mythical even than tradition. Larkin seems to be aiming for this idea when he says that poetry has a necessary relation to sovereignty;69 and Hughes attempts to manufacture an entire mythological model of such a relation (perhaps vi-Strauss) in his with more of the mystique, though, of Tinguely than Le Rain-Charm for the Duchy poems. The link is not entirely fanciful. Marcel Detienne has explained how in ancient Greece the poet possessed a kind of sovereign knowledge that was close to that of the gods: Like mantic knowledge, the knowledge of these inspired poets was a form of divinatory omniscience . . . it was knowledge of all things that were, things to come, and things past .70 Such oracular knowledge clearly made the poet useful to the earthly sovereign as well; having a theogonic role to laud the services of the king by demonstrating the divinity or ineluctability of his emergence. On the other hand the parallel between poetic discourse and sovereignty soon became, after such grand beginnings, quite limited. In fact, such a theogonic function found its culmination in Hesiod. Here the poets function was above all to secure sovereignty: by reciting the myth of emergence, he collaborated directly in setting the world to order.71 But the fall of the poet from the position of direct functionary of sovereignty was all but coterminous with this moment. For, as Detienne shows, Hesiod was not really just the culmination but the swansong of the idea. Even by Pindars

Polarities of Englishness: Larkin, Hughes and national culture 63 time, the link between the poet and the actual sovereign had been diluted simply to that of singing the praises of the virtues of kings. One can add to this sense of limitation the simple observation that both sovereignty and the orality that is often held to be at the essence of poetry are rather defunct ideals in modern democratically legitimated social formations with their excesses of technologically guided forms of communication. The names of Foucault or Bakhtin might be of relevance here. As Foucault observed, our societies long ago cut off the kings head in terms of their relations of power; and, as the followers of Mikhail Bakhtin might reasonably say, poetry at least in its lyric form is not the primary of literary models in an era of heteroglossia and novelistic discourses that scarcely come from any particular, sovereign point of view. Perhaps. But the fact remains that poetry and sovereignty are still conceivably connected, for these very reasons, at least as ideals of legitimation. In England this has been especially so. And this not only because Englands national genre is surely its poetry and not its novels Englishness is, so to speak, housed very prominently in its poetry. It is also because, in England, there are also quite tangible links between poetry and sovereignty, specifically in the designation of the position of poet laureate. There is an interesting history that could be recounted here. Although court poets date from at least Anglo-Saxon times, and although there was a laureate tradition from at least the time of Spenser, the first more or less official poet laureate was Dryden, named in 1668. According to Broadus, Drydens duties, like those of latter-day laureates, were not very specific, consisting, rather, of praising the king to the public in various ways.72 In short, the very idea of a laureate is a modern one owing as little to Pindar as it does to Hesiod in so far as it is connected to sovereignty, if connected at all, only by way of the idea of the public. It is not just about singing the praises of royalty to royalty or the royal circle. In that sense, the link with sovereignty is delicate at best. Whereas in previous times the role of the versificator Regis was confined to the Court, the modern laureate addresses the sovereign in the context of a public. This was something that Larkin felt as a loss and which Hughes, it seems, felt as something like an opportunity. Larkin, as we know, specifically equated sovereignty and poetry and for this very fact his reasons for rejecting the laureateship are fascinating. For in their very homely way these reasons, which seem to relate only to himself, point to a crisis of sovereignty in Britain, indeed a decline in its certitude; the slow diminishment of sovereignty, we might say. But the publicity that anything to do with the Palace gets these days,

64 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1 Larkin said, is so fierce, it must be really more of an ordeal than an honour.73 For Larkin, then, sovereignty had been all but reduced to its location in the public the masses so that unless he was to be a sort of Walt Whitman singing the sovereignty of democracy, one could say that for him sovereignty as an ideal had become more or less bankrupt. Royalty had become subordinated to publicity. In turning down the laureateship, Larkin is acknowledging the weakening of the link between poetry and sovereignty and thus, in effect, acknowledging the diminution of the mystical ideal of sovereignty itself. Hughes, we know, took a different course and accepted the challenge of attempting, as he saw it, to reconnect them. But in fact this sense of diminishment seems all the more striking precisely in so far as Hughes, himself to become poet laureate, attempted to revitalise the role into a kind of mythological status that it had almost certainly never possessed. On the one hand, then, the realism and resignation of Larkin; on the other, Hughess attempt at the re-enchantment of sovereignty; in between, the inertia-like persistence of a kind of addled sovereignty, existing only in the diminished, rather empty time of the actual postcolonial national predicament. In Larkin, a situation in which sovereignty is nostalgia mixed with pragmatism; in Hughes, a situation in which sovereignty has become mythical (Pike in ponds as deep as England), yet and precisely as such arguably vacuous. In fact, on becoming poet laureate it seemed less as if Hughes was fulfilling a given role, or simply giving poetic expression to an existing sense of national sovereignty, than as if he was inventing a novel, perhaps hybrid, kind of poetic sovereignty a becoming, as it were, in which poetry and sovereignty would meet as a kind of composite term. This Hughesian form of poetic becoming was, then, as much an escape from certain kinds of in Hughess view disenchanted national existence as it was an attempt to express some national essence that pre-existed it. But elements of it were also bound to seem absurd and it is uncertain whether anyone took Hughess poetic musings on royalty expressed most fully in the elaborate apparatus of the Rain-Charm endnotes quite as seriously as he did. What could be interpreted as Hughess heroic failure to restore something both poets regarded as the organic link that should operate between poetry and sovereignty only shows the wisdom of Larkins recognition that being now broken it was not worth the trouble of attempting to redefine it. Interestingly, the ideal of transcendence for how can the notion of sovereignty entail anything else? appears in both precisely at the level of

Polarities of Englishness: Larkin, Hughes and national culture 65 power. In each, it is as if the field of power is granted the final determining role of folding in the immanence that makes up the rest of earthly existence, whether conceived as Creation or as the commonplaces of provinciality. Sovereignty puts the world in its place, and existence whether conceived as turbulence or melancholy in order. Beyond this, Larkin and Hughes in fact possessed in common only the coherence of what each rejected. Within the work of each there was a certain logic whereby they both rejected anything transcendent, anything not of this world. And hence common to both was the will to capture albeit in polarised ways the status of this world as immanence, without apology and even in Hughess case without illusion; for Larkin, without the illusion of comforts of belief, for Hughes, without the illusions generated by meliorist rationalist complacencies. Both thus embraced a certain kind of poetic empiricism, and a certain sense of the realism of things as they are. However, their sense of what constituted the real was very different, each of course perceiving things within the limits of, on the one hand, those very particular conditions provided by their own personal and generational experience and, on the other, the state of contemporary poetic discourse as each was to find it.74

Notes
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Ted Hughes, Birthday Letters (London: Faber, 1998), 49. Philip Larkin, Required Writing (London: Faber, 1983), 75. Nikolaus Pevsner, The Englishness of English Art (1956; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1993), 24. Ibid., 166. D. J. Taylor, After the War (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994), 294. Quoted in Taylor, After the War, 13. Philip Larkin, Collected Poems, ed. A. Thwaite (London: Faber, 1988), 171. Tom Nairn, The Enchanted Glass (London: Verso, 1988), 276. Aside from the importance generally of moral factors, Hume emphasised the role of styles of government in the formation of national character (Of National Characters, in Essays: Moral, Political, Literary (Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1985), 197); see also the comments of Perry Anderson, Fernand Braudel and National Identity, in A Zone of Engagement (London: Verso, 1992), 261. Derek Walcott, What the Twilight Said (London: Faber, 1998). Stanley Cavell, The Uncanniness of the Ordinary, in In Quest of the Ordinary: Lines of Skepticism and Romanticism (Chicago: Chicago University Press, 1988), 171. Pevsner, Englishness of English Art, 31. Larkin, Required Writing, 67.

10 11

12 13

66 Critical Quarterly, vol. 48, no. 1


14 15 Ibid., 545. Compare Christopher Hitchens on the links between Orwell and Larkin: It would be impossible to prove this, but there is something about Englishness, especially as this quality is inscribed upon the landscape and in the ancient towns, that both lends itself to melancholy and pessimism, and borrows from these (Orwells Victory (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2003), 86). Larkin, Collected Poems, 104. Philip Larkin, The Selected Letters of Philip Larkin, ed. A. Thwaite (London: Faber, 1992), 248. Craig Robinson, Ted Hughes as Shepherd of Being (London: Macmillan, 1989). Keith Sagar, Hughes and Landscape, in Sagar (ed.), The Achievement of Ted Hughes (Manchester: Manchester University Press), 1983. Ted Hughes, New Selected Poems (London: Faber, 1974), 190. Hughes, quoted in Neil Corchoran, English Poetry Since 1940 (London: Longman, 1993), 114. Walcott, What the Twilight Said, 179. Ibid., 153. Roger Scruton, England: An Elegy (London: Chatto, 2002), 13. Larkin, Selected Letters, 154. Ibid., 154. Ibid., 157. Larkin, Collected Poems, 1223. Ibid., 106. Edward Shils, Charisma, Order and Status, American Sociological Review, 30:2 (1965), 199213. Larkin, Collected Poems, 812. Ibid., 102. Ibid., 89. Ibid., 84. Michel Foucault, Ethics: Essential Works, vol. 1, ed. P. Rabinow (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 2000), 209. Larkin, Collected Poems, 89. Cf. Gilles Deleuze, Essays: Critical and Clinical, trans. D. Smith and M. Greco (London: Verso, 1997), 86. Andrew Swarbrick attempts to reconcile the symbolist and empiricist moments in Larkin in his Out of Reach: The Poetry of Philip Larkin (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1995). Larkin, Required Writing, 66. Larkin, Collected Poems, 98. Ibid., 194. Ibid., 2089. Larkin, Selected Letters, 220. Andrew Motion, Philip Larkin: A Writers Life (London: Faber and Faber, 1993), 329; and compare Larkin, Selected Letters, 525. Hughes, Birthday Letters, 71.

16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37

38 39 40 41 42 43 44

Polarities of Englishness: Larkin, Hughes and national culture 67


45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 Hughes, New Selected Poems, 49. Larkin, Selected Letters, 138. Later on Larkin rather characteristically declares that Louis Armstrong is of greater cultural importance than Picasso (Selected Letters, 443). Larkin, Required Writing, 67. Stephen Spender, The Thirties and After (London: Fontana, 1978), 155. See the interview with Hughes in Sagar, Achievement of Ted Hughes. James Wood, review of The Selected Letters of Philip Larkin, Guardian, 27 October 1992. Taylor, After the War, 656. Quoted in Peter Hennessey, Never Again: Britain 194551 (London: Cape, 1993), 3089. Larkin, Selected Letters, 141. Ibid., 169. Larkin, Required Writing, 47. Ibid., 49. Philip Larkin, Jill (1946; London: Faber, 1975), 12. Larkin, Required Writing, 50. C. Wright Mills, The Complacent Young Men, in Power, Politics and People (New York: Oxford University Press, 1963), 391. Larkin, Selected Letters, 248. Ibid., 42930. Karl Mannheim, The Problem of Generations, in Essays on the Sociology of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 1952), 29091. Larkin, Selected Letters, 609. Larkin, Required Writing, 39. Deborah Cameron, Verbal Hygiene (London: Routledge, 1995). Kingsley Amis, The Kings English (London: Collins, 1998), 1112. Kingsley Amis, The Letters of Kingsley Amis, ed. Z. Leader (London: Collins, 1997), 680, 732, 944, 949. Larkin, Required Writing, 75. Marcel Detienne, The Masters of Truth in Ancient Greece (1967; New York: Zone, 1996), 423. Ibid., 445. Edmund Broadus, The Laureateship (Oxford: Clarendon, 1921). Larkin, Required Writing, 75. My thanks to Graham Burchell, Joanna Jellinek, Greg McLennan and Judith Osborne for help on versions of this article.