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Correspondence of Philip Larkin and Judy Egerton


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The collection comprises: dated correspondence arranged chronologically, mainly letters and postcards, some enclosing photographs and/or news cuttings, sent between 1954 and 1985; undated correspondence, including postcards, notelets, letters and photographs.

Larkin writes to Egerton about his poetry; his health; his opinions of other writers and acquaintances; the time-consuming problems of building Hull University's new library; the continuing failure of England on the cricket pitch, and the pleasure he takes in staying with Egerton and her daughters during his regular visits to London. Egerton replies in kind, offering informed and congenial opinions on literature and aspects of metropolitan culture; relaying news of the Tate Gallery and her own work, and sustaining a mutually affectionate, discursive tone that contrasts with Larkin's robust interchanges with close male friends like Kingsley Amis, Robert Conquest and Bruce Montgomery.


  • Creation: 1954-1985


2.25 Linear metres (14 physical shelfmarks)

Language of Materials

  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MS. Eng. b. 2070, fols. 1-2].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Eng. c. 7449-7462; MS. Photogr. c. 185, fols. 79-88

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 11421


Letters and cards exchanged between the poet Philip Larkin (1922-1985) and the art historian Judy Egerton (1928-2012) during the course of their thirty-year friendship.

Biographical / Historical

For Philip Larkin, see the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. See also Andrew Motion, Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life, (London, 1993).

Judith Emilie Egerton née Attiwill, art historian and curator, was born in Melbourne, Australia, on 7 Aug. 1928. An authority on the eighteenth-century artist George Stubbs, she worked at the Tate Gallery for many years. She married Reginald Ansell Day Egerton in 1949 but the marriage was disolved in 1974. The couple had two daughters, Bridget and Fabia. Judy Egerton died after a long illness on 21 Mar. 2012.

'Judy and Ansell Egerton were … important [friends of Larkin’s]. …their marriage was something Larkin could both envy and stand outside—creeping into its shelter for food and company (he played bridge with them regularly), but able whenever he wanted to slip back into his pensive bachelordom. Once again it was the wife, not the husband, who meant most to him. Ansell, who lectured in Economics at Queen’s [University, Belfast], was ambitious, pragmatic and a cricket-lover (years later, with Harold Pinter, he proposed Larkin for membership of the MCC [Marylebone Cricket Club]). After the Egertons had left Belfast in 1956, he worked as Assistant City Editor and then City Editor of The Times before becoming a merchant banker; eventually he was appointed a director of Rothmans International. Judy was younger than her husband—twenty-three when she first met Larkin in 1951—and simultaneously tough and innocent. She had been born in Australia, and as a History graduate became a tutorial Assistant at Queen’s. She was striking-looking, and her shyness endeared her to Larkin; she also shared his "passion for the Times crossword puzzle". As he got to know her better he discovered that she was as shrewd as her more loquacious companions. Following the Egertons’ return to London, and the eventual collapse of their marriage, she worked on Paul Mellon’s collection of British paintings and drawings. Subsequently she joined the Tate Gallery as a curator in 1974, organizing among other things the George Stubbs show in 1984 and the Joseph Wright of Derby exhibition in 1990. Until the end of his life, Larkin's affection for Judy never faltered; she became one of his most valued correspondents and confidantes.' Andrew Motion, Philip Larkin: A Writer's Life, (London, 1993), p. 211.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Judy Egerton, July 2003.

Catalogue of the correspondence of Philip Larkin and Judy Egerton, 1954-1985
Finding aid prepared by Judith Priestman and Kate Longworth
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom