Abbey honours Philip Larkin with Poets’ Corner memorial

Thursday, 1st December 2016

Abbey honours Philip Larkin with Poets’ Corner memorial

A memorial to the poet Philip Larkin CH CBE was dedicated in Poets’ Corner in the south transept of Westminster Abbey on Friday 2nd December 2016.

The service was conducted by the Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, who had announced his decision to honour the poet in June last year at Philip Larkin’s former office at the University of Hull where he was Librarian.

The Address was given by Blake Morrison, poet and author.

Dr Anthony Thwaite OBE, President of The Philip Larkin Society, and Professor Edwin Dawes, Chair of The Philip Larkin Society, unveiled the memorial.

The Right Honourable The Baroness Bottomley of Nettlestone PC DL, Chancellor of the University of Hull and High Sheriff of Kingston upon Hull, read Larkin’s poems Solar, The Trees, and Water.

Grayson Perry CBE read from A Letter to Monica 23rd October 1962, Dr Thwaite read from Church Going, and Sir Tom Courtenay read Days and Reference Back.

Prayers were led by the Reverend Christopher Stoltz, Minor Canon and Precentor of Westminster.

The ledger stone, of Purbeck Thornback, was cut by sculptor Martin Jennings, who also made the statue of Larkin at Hull station. It is inscribed with the final lines from Larkin’s poem, The Arundel Tomb. The full inscription reads:

1922 – 1985
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

The first of Philip Larkin’s poems to be published was Ultimatum which appeared in the Listener on 28th November 1940. His last collection of poems High Windows was published in 1974, and confirmed him as one of the finest poets in English Literary history. Larkin, who took up the position of Librarian at the University of Hull on 21st March 1955, received many awards in recognition of his writing, especially in his later years. In December of 1984 he was offered the chance to succeed Sir John Betjeman as Poet Laureate but declined, being unwilling to accept the high public profile and associated media attention of the position. In mid-1985 Larkin was admitted to hospital with an illness in his throat, and, because of ill health, was unable to receive the Order of Merit at an investiture due to take place at Buckingham Palace. He died on Monday 2nd December 1985 aged 63 years.

Order of Service (PDF, 440KB)

Memorial Stone Image: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images