Did Philip Larkin love bicycles?

An article in the Guardian alerted me to the fact that it is 25 years since the highly regarded literary figure from Hull (UK) died.

I mention this because the photograph of Mr Larkin, accompanying the article, shows him sitting in front of concrete pillar with a bicycle in the background.

The article reports that Mr Larkin had 4 significant affairs throughout his life. Was a love of bicycles number 5? Is this a case of another famous person with a secret love of the bicycle? (read a previous post about a couple of other famous people and bicycles here.) I wondered if there were other images of Mr Larkin with bicycles?

Although it would be difficult to answer the first two questions, a quick image search on Google later supplied some evidence suggesting an answer for the third question. It is clear that the image used in the Guardian was one, probably, from a photo shoot taken with many bikes in the background (see here). I was beginning to think that this then was just a one off, opportunistic photoshoot that just happened to feature bicycles... until I saw this book cover...

The image comes from a blog post by Joe Moran about the book/poem.

I know that many people have a say on what image is used for the cover of a book, so it might not be fair to use this as evidence for more than a passing interest in bicycles, but I'm going to anyway...

It's late on in the piece to confess that I've actually never read any of Mr Larkin's poems. However, as I'm just about to finish my current novel, he will jump to the top of the list. If there is any reference to bicycles, I'll let you know.


  1. Start with this one. It certainly resonates in our household.
    PS. The lack of bicycles is also fairly characteristic of Park life.


  2. Bloody hell. I forgot the link.

  3. The photo you are referring to his from his just-discovered recording entitled, "The Sunday Sessions". The are indeed several pieces of footage of Larkin cycling around Hull, generally on a Sunday afternoon. You may find the following of interest (http://youtu.be/t7sDXBLBrvY). I have the original 1964 documentary, which describes his life in Hull. He's a wonderful poet, if perhaps a little too "English" for some people's tastes. In addition to church going, I would recommend "Whitsun weddings", "Toads", "Mr Bleaney" and "An Arundel Tomb". I often listen to his poems whilst cycling around the lane's of my adopted country, Spain.

  4. Thanks Pinkmoon13 for the link and recommendation. LYB