Philip Larkin lesbian novellas to be posthumously published

BY Advocate.com Editors

April 24 2001 12:00 AM ET

Two novellas with lesbian themes, apparently written by poet Philip Larkin during his final year at Oxford University in 1943, are to be published early next year, according to The [London] Sunday Times. The two books, Trouble at Willow Gables and Michaelmas Term at St. Bride’s, were written under the pseudonym Brunette Coleman and feature the breathless style popular at the time in women’s fiction. James Booth, reader of English at Hull University, where Larkin worked as a librarian from 1955 until his death in 1985, says, “The stories are full of hockey-hardened bodies, poplin pyjamas, and beatings with hairbrushes.” Booth posits that Larkin wrote the books because “basically, at that stage in his life, he wanted to be a girl.” There is no evidence, however, that Larkin was homosexual. Anthony Thwaite, Larkin’s literary executor, explains, “It was a game. Many men have lesbian fantasies.” Matthew Evans, chairman of the publishing house Faber & Faber, which is responsible for bringing the books to light, says, “Larkin’s early works were worth publishing if they are of literary value. It has also long been clear that Larkin was very interested in porn.”

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