Philip Larkin, the Impossible Man

Christopher Hitchens in The Atlantic:

ScreenHunter_01 Apr. 24 11.37 In somewhat different ways, Orwell and Larkin were phlegmatically pessimistic and at times almost misanthropic, not to say misogynistic. Both also originated from dire family backgrounds that inculcated prejudice against Jews, the colored subjects of the British Empire, and the working class. Orwell’s detested father was a servant of the Empire who specialized in the exceptionally nasty subdivision that traded opium between India and China, and Larkin’s detested father was a professional civil servant who came to admire the “New Germany” of the 1930s, attended Nuremberg rallies, and displayed Nazi regalia in his office. But these similarities in trait and background produced radically different conclusions. Orwell educated himself, not without difficulty, out of racial prejudice and took a stalwart position on the side of the workers. Larkin energetically hated the labour movement and was appalled at the arrival of immigrants from the Caribbean and Asia. Orwell traveled as widely as his health permitted and learned several foreign languages, while Larkin’s insularity and loathing for “abroad” were almost parodic. In consequence, Orwell has left us a memory that elevates English decency to one of humanity’s versions of grace under pressure, whereas the publication of Larkin’s Selected Letters in 1992, and a biography by Andrew Motion in 1993, posthumously drenched the poet in a tide of cloacal filth and petty bigotry that was at least somewhat self-generated.

More here.