Monica Jones, Philip Larkin and Me review – a woman under the influence

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John Sutherland makes a courageous try and rescue the popularity of Larkin’s longstanding lover and muse

One summer time morning a few decade in the past, I went to the Hull Historical past Centre to take a look at its assortment of pictures of Monica Jones, girlfriend of the extra well-known Philip Larkin. What I keep in mind about this now's that I felt horribly furtive – a burglar, intent on rifling a knicker drawer – proper up till the second I opened the primary album, at which level I understood in a look that these footage have been made to be admired. Right here was a mannequin, in addition to a lover. Within the photograph of her that I nonetheless like greatest, it's 1960 and Jones is curled up in a wing-backed armchair sporting solely a sweater and a pair of dazzling black-and-white striped tights. Seeing her like this – a cool imaginative and prescient straight out of the pages of Vogue – it’s arduous to think about her strolling out with the person behind the digital camera, in his drab waterproof coat and bicycle clips.

However stroll out with him she did, often in excessive heels. She and Larkin met in 1947 at College School, Leicester, the place she was the one feminine member of employees within the division of English, and he was an assistant librarian; they turned a pair three years later and remained so till his demise in 1985 (she would outlive him by 16 years). The connection was tormented virtually from the start. When Larkin devoted The Much less Deceived to Jones in 1955, it was an act of atonement in addition to allegiance. The yr earlier than, his pal Kingsley Amis had depicted her, thinly disguised, as Margaret Peel in Lucky Jima harpy within the eyes of up to date readers and a portrait based mostly, Larkin admitted, on particulars lent by him. Jones tried desperately arduous to make mild of her lampooning (“a few of it's actually humorous”) and was decided to exonerate Larkin (“I don't consider you'd be so treacherous”) – and thus, the die was forged. Urgent down her anger and disappointment, she would now all the time look forward: to their subsequent assembly, if to not a shared future.

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