Philip Larkin, Pageant House, Jury Street, Warwick

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It’s an oddity of Philip Larkin’s life that he wrote so much about the awfulness of work and experienced it so little. He found a profession he enjoyed almost immediately after leaving university and made a good career out of it; in ten years he’d risen from sub-librarian to University Librarian, and by this point nobody was checking whether he was doing any work:

At first I was impressed with the time he spent in his office, arriving early and leaving late. It was only later that I realised that his office was also his study where he spent hours on his private writing as well as the work of the library.

(Professor R.L. Brett, quoted on Larkin’s Wikipedia page)

This building in Warwick, now a venue for wedding ceremonies, has the distinction of being the only place where Larkin had to drudge. In 1942, his second year at Oxford, the ground floor was the Fuel Office, and he took a summer job there which he hated. For some reason, the most recent Larkin biography doesn’t mention this; it came to light in 2000, when Don Lee and Richard Phillips wrote up their discoveries from the Larkin archive in the Larkin Society’s journal, About Larkin. Sadly the journal isn’t digitised, so I can’t read the grumpy song he composed while working there, ‘Fuel Form Blues’. Anyway, Poets’ Houses salutes both Lee and Phillips, and Richard O’Brien who put me onto them.

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