Life’s Dull: A Letter from Philip Larkin to Kingsley Amis



From left: Anthony Powell, Kingsley Amis, Philip Larkin, and Hilary Amis.


From a 1979 letter from Philip Larkin to Kingsley Amis. Larkin, who was born on this day in 1922, and Amis enjoyed a long friendship. In their respective Writers at Work interviews, both Larkin and Amis spoke about their working relationship; the two shared unpublished writing with each other. In Amis’s case, Larkin provided “very constructive suggestions” on the “feeble” first draft of his novel Lucky Jim.

Dear Kingsley,

I write at 4:30 on a Sunday—well, this one, to be precise—what you might call the arse-hole of the week. Lunchtime drink dead, not time for six o’clock gin. Tea? Don’t make me cross. Sorry you are feeling lowdown; I sympathise. I don’t know that I ever expected much of life, but it terrifies me to think it’s nearly over. I mean there can’t possible now be any good bits like going to Corfu with some busty ex-Roedean girl WHOSE FATHER GIVES HER LOTS OF MONEY and who loves being pocked (‘it’s better every time, oh darling’), or being a novelist. I don’t want any of that swearing. I mean, you’ve become what I dreamed of becoming, and I don’t suppose you ever dreamed of being a librarian. If I’m so good why don’t they pay me enough money to go to some southern beach and lie on my belly (or someone else’s)? Eh? Now there can only be don’t normally take on anyone over 55, like to do a few tests if you don’t mind, am returning it because it isn’t really up to your own high standard, afraid I must stop coming Mr Larkin hope you find another cleaning lady to


TV seems awful these days. I got one last December, and it was all right for a bit, but now the novelty’s worn off I suppose and there seems nothing but chat shows and non-comedy and B-films and NEWS—God how I hate news—I can’t watch it—to see these awful shit marching or picketing or saying the ma’er wi’ noo be referred back to thu Na’ional Exe’u’ive is too much for me. Why don’t they show NAKED WOMEN, or PROS AND CONS OF CORPORAL PUNISHMENT IN GIRLS’ SCHOOL oh for God’s sake Phil can’t you NO I CAN’T

For God’s sake keep writing dear man, for life’s unexciting.

Penelope Fitzgerald’s prize-winning bum,