Larkin’s Social Anxiety


Philip Larkin disliked literary parties. He also disliked giving lectures. His general dislike of public and social events led the British poet to push back against attempts to nominate him for a prestigious Oxford professorship. He also turned down the poet laureateship in 1984. Larkin didn’t consider himself appropriate for the position, reports the Guardian, citing letters from the poet:

The poet tells Trickett he is entirely “unfitted” for the role. “I have never considered literature in the abstract since that blessed day in 1943 when I laid down my pen in the Sheldonian Theatre and sauntered out into the sunshine, a free man; anything I have written since then has either been hack journalism or cries wrung from me by what I believe Gide calls the frightful contact with hideous reality,” writes one of the 20th century’s most beloved poets.

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →