Thursday October 13th, 2011

“[I] played on the old-boy network like a harp.”

Philip Larkin wrote the following letter to his friend Norman Iles, who he had met when they were students together at Oxford, on Feb. 26, 1967:

Dear Norman,

Thank you for your two letters: I received them with pleasure & read them with delight, & put them neatly together on one side — answering the buggers is another matter, though. My busy lazy life seems to have no time for letter writing. I liked the first letter a lot. You seem to have got your life taped, & not red-taped either. Don’t know how you do it.

As regards the second one, & your request for help in getting published, well, nothing I can say will make any publisher accept work he doesn’t think worth it. A year or so ago a woman whose six novels I much admire had her seventh rejected by her publisher: I charged in like a mixture of Sir Bedivere & Lloyd George to try to persuade Faber’s to take the seventh — played on the old-boy network like a harp. Nothing happened. So there you are. I’d be happy to read the poems, & give what advice I can, but in the end you’ve got to please the publisher, unless you’ve got money in the firm or are screwing his wife or something.

In a way you are lucky — you like your poems, & write a lot of them: perhaps you should produce them yourself, like Blake. I’m sure if Blake had sent me The Book of Ahania I’d have told him very much what I told you. Anyway, shoot them along. Don’t tell anybody else to do so, though. I get an increasing amount of such correspondence & haven’t really time to deal with much of it. [. . .]

I hope to get some new hifi stuff soon. Bachelors are always very keen on hifi — care more about the reproduction of their records than the reproduction of their species, haw haw. Not that I’ve many classical records — I keep putting it off until the evening of my days. Was that the 6 o’clock pips I heard just now?

Kind regards