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Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica by Philip Larkin
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Philip Larkin Quotes Showing 1-30 of 33
“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.
FUCK IT FUCK IT FUCK IT FUCK IT”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“How little our careers express what lies in us, and yet how much time they take up. It's sad, really.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“I feel the only thing you can do about life is to preserve it, by art if you're an artist, by children if you're not.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“Originality is being different from oneself, not others.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“Seriously, I think it is a grave fault in life that so much time is wasted in social matters, because it not only takes up time when you might be doing individual private things, but it prevents you storing up the psychic energy that can then be released to create art or whatever it is. It's terrible the way we scotch silence & solitude at every turn, quite suicidal. I can't see how to avoid it, without being very rich or very unpopular, & it does worry me, for time is slipping by , and nothing is done. It isn't as if anything was gained by this social frivolity, It isn't: it's just a waste.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“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.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“I'm terrified of the thought of time passing (or whatever is meant by that phrase) whether I 'do' anything or not. In a way I may believe, deep down, that doing nothing acts as a brake on 'time's - it doesn't of course. It merely adds the torment of having done nothing, when the time comes when it really doesn't matter if you've done anything or not.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“I am always trying to 'preserve' things by getting other people to read what I have written, and feel what I felt.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“Dear, I can't write, it's all a fantasy: a kind of circling obsession.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“Everyone should be forcibly transplanted to another continent from their family at the age of three.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“Saki says that youth is like hors d'oeuvres: you are so busy thinking of the next courses you don't notice it. When you've had them, you wish you'd had more hors d'oeuvres.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“There is bad in all good authors: what a pity the converse isn't true!”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“I came to the conclusion that an enormous amount of research was needed to form an opinion on anything, and therefore abandoned politics altogether as a topic of conversation.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“I seem to walk on a transparent surface and see beneath me all the bones and wrecks and tentacles that will eventually claim me: in other words, old age, incapacity, loneliness, death of others & myself...”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
tags: death
“Birthdays are a time when one stock takes, which means, I suppose, a good spineless mope: I scan my horizon and can discern no sail of hope along my own particular ambition. I tell you what it is: I'm quite in accord with the people who enquire 'What is the matter with the man?' because I don't seem to be producing anything as the years pass but rank self indulgence. You know that my sole ambition, officially at any rate, was to write poems & novels, an activity I never found any difficulty fulfilling between the (dangerous) ages of 17-24: I can't very well ignore the fact that this seems to have died a natural death. On the other hand I feel regretful that what talents I have in this direction are not being used. Then again, if I am not going to produce anything in the literary line, the justification for my selfish life is removed - but since I go on living it, the suspicion arises that the writing existed to produce the life, & not vice versa. And as a life it has very little to recommend it: I spend my days footling in a job I care nothing about, a curate among lady-clerks; I evade all responsibility, familial, professional, emotional, social, not even saving much money or helping my mother. I look around me & I see people getting on, or doing things, or bringing up children - and here I am in a kind of vacuum. If I were writing, I would even risk the fearful old age of the Henry-James hero: not fearful in circumstance but in realisation: because to me to catch, render, preserve, pickle, distil or otherwise secure life-as-it-seemed for the future seems to me infinitely worth doing; but as I'm not the entire morality of it collapses. And when I ask why I'm not, well, I'm not because I don't want to: every novel I attempt stops at a point where I awake from the impulse as one might awake from a particularly-sickening nightmare - I don't want to 'create character', I don't want to be vivid or memorable or precise, I neither wish to bathe each scene in the lambency of the 'love that accepts' or be excoriatingly cruel, smart, vicious, 'penetrating' (ugh), or any of the other recoil qualities. In fact, like the man in St Mawr, I want nothing. Nothing, I want. And so it becomes quite impossible for me to carry on. This failure of impulse seems to me suspiciously like a failure of sexual impulse: people conceive novels and dash away at them & finish them in the same way as they fall in love & will not be satisfied till they're married - another point on which I seem to be out of step. There's something cold & heavy sitting on me somewhere, & until something budges it I am no good.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“The poetic impulse is distinct from ideas about things or feelings about things, though it may use these. It's more like a desire to separate a piece of one's experience & set it up on its own, an isolated object never to trouble you again, at least not for a bit. In the absence of this impulse nothing stirs.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“In life, as in art, talking vitiates doing.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“One of the quainter quirks of life is that we shall never know who dies on the same day as we do ourselves.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
tags: death
“Work is a kind of vacuum, an emptiness, where I just switch off everything except the scant intelligence necessary to keep me going. God, the people are awful - great carved monstrosities from the sponge-stone of secondratedness. Hideous.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
tags: work
“Empty-page staring again tonight. It's maddening. I suppose people who don't write (like the Connollies) imagine anything that can be though can be expressed. Well, I don't know. I can't do it. It's this sort of thing that makes me belittle the whole business: what's the good of a 'talent' if you can't do it when you want to? What should we think of a woodcarver who couldn't woodcarver? or a pianist who couldn't play the piano? Bah, likewise grrr.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“Why can't one stop being a son without becoming a father?”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“I sit in my room like Miss Havisham, about whom I have been reading this week. Better the Dickens you know than the Dickens you don't know - on the whole I enjoyed it. But I should like to say something about this 'irrepressible vitality', this 'throwing a fresh handful of characters on the fire when it burns low', in fact the whole Dickens method - it strikes me as being less ebullient, creative, vital, than hectic, nervy, panic-stricken. If he were a person I should say 'You don't have to entertain me, you know. I'm quite happy just sitting here.' This jerking of your attention, with queer names, queer characters, aggressive rhythms, piling on adjectives - seems to me to betray basic insecurity in his relation with the reader. How serenely Trollope, for instance, compares. I say in all seriousness that, say what you like about Dickens as an entertainer, he cannot be considered as a real writer at all; not a real novelist. His is the garish gaslit melodramatic barn (writing that phrase makes me wonder if I'm right!) where the yokels gape: outside is the calm measureless world, where the characters of Eliot, Trollope, Austen, Hardy (most of them) and Lawrence (some of them) have their being.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“You know, I know I should be just as panicky as you about the filthy work - one wants to do nothing in the evenings, certainly not spread rotten books around & dredge for a 'line'. It must be like still being a student, with an essay to do after a week's drinking, only you haven't had the drinking. Quite clearly, to me, you aren't a voluntary worker, from the will: you do it by intuitive flashes, more like an act of creation, & when the flashes don't come, as of course they don't, especially when the excess energy of undergraduate days is gone, then it is a hideous unnatural effort.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“It's funny: one starts off thinking one is shrinkingly sensitive & intelligent & always one down & all the rest of it: then at thirty one finds one is a great clumping brute, incapable of appreciating anything finer than a kiss or a kick, roaring our one's hypocrisies at the top of one's voice, thick skinned as a rhino. At least I do.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“Often one spends weeks trying to write a poem out of the conscious mind that never comes to anything - these are sort of 'ideal' poems that one feels ought to be written, but don't because (I fancy) they lack the vital spark of self-interest. A 'real' poem is a pleasure to write.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
tags: poetry
“How hard it is, to be forced to the conclusion that people should be, nine tenths of the time, left alone! - When there is that in me that longs for absolute commitment. One of the poem-ideas I had was that one could respect only the people who knew that cups had to be washed up and put away after drinking, and knew that a Monday of work follows a Sunday in the water meadows, and that old age with its distorting-mirror memories follows youth and its raw pleasures, but that it's quite impossible to love such people, for what we want in love is release from our beliefs, not confirmation in them. That is where the 'courage of love' comes in - to have the courage to commit yourself to something you don't believe, because it is what - for the moment, anyway - thrills your by its audacity. (Some of the phrasing of this is odd, but it would make a good poem if it had any words...)”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“There is bad in all good authors”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“he [Llewelyn Powys] has always in mind the great touchstone Death & consequently life is always judged as how far it fits us, or compensates us, for ultimately dying.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
tags: death
“I really am going to meet Forster: I thought I shouldn't, but apparently the old boy E.M.F. is saying with remembered my name & I am bid to John Hewitt's at 8 tomorrow. Shall I ask him if he's a homo? It's the only thing I really want to know about him, you see. I don't even care why he packed up writing.”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica
“I had a moral tutor, but never saw him (the only words of his I remember are 'The three pleasures of life -drinking, smoking, and masturbation')”
Philip Larkin, Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica

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