Sunday, November 15, 2009

What Larkin Thought of Hughes

This picture shows the kind of day it is ... Gull Pond misted, Gull Pond fogged.  But a happy day, even a warm day ... this morning Mark and I saw Rodney, and then we three saw Abby.  I would ask no more of any day.

Then I found myself wondering what Philip Larkin (pictured left), one of my favorite poets, thought of Ted Hughes (pictured right), the poet and husband of my favorite poet, Sylvia Plath.  When the library opened at two p.m. I went there and, grateful for an index, skimmed through Philip Larkin's collected letters.

In a June, 1967, letter to Kingsley Amis, Larkin wrote of Hughes: "No, of course Ted's no good at all, not at all.   Not a single solitary bit of good.  I think his ex-wife, late wife, was extraordinary, though not necessarily likable.  Old Ted isn't even extraordinary."

To a Robert Conquest, Larkin wrote in June of 1975: "At Ilkley literature festival a woman shrieked and vomited during a Ted Hughes reading.  I must say I've never felt like shrieking.  We had the old crow [Hughes] over at Hull [University, where Larkin was Head Librarian], looking like a Christmas present from Easter Island.  He's all right when not reading."

Then, to a Winifred Bradshaw, Larkin wrote in August of 1979:  "Ted Hughes is coming here to read in the autumn: tickets 1 pound 50, for 4 pounds 50 you can go to a reception and 'meet Ted Hughes' ... [I] feel like walking up & down outside with a placard reading 'Meet P.L. for 3 pounds 95.'  I really must arrange to be away that evening."

Finally, in another letter to Robert Conquest, written in December of 1984, after Hughes had been appointed Poet Laureate (it had been offered to Larkin but he declined): "I think he'll do the job all right except for writing anything readable.  Personally I find him a boring old monolith, and again pretty self-interested, but those as wants him will have to put up with that."

I think Philip Larkin didn't care for Ted Hughes.

I'd gladly pay way more than 3 pounds 95  to meet P.L. ... if only time could reverse itself to when he was still among us.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, George and OMGasp! What a gorgeous coming-and-going concern you oversee he(a)re . . . Kudos!

    This is just to say
    I devoured your scribblings
    And they made my day

    Thank you!

    Undeniably, Judith