Books: No Tears, but No Comfort

COLLECTED POEMS by Philip Larkin; edited by Anthony Thwaite

Farrar, Straus & Giroux; 330 pages; $22.50

Philip Larkin, the pre-eminent poet in English of his time, died, after a brief struggle with cancer, in 1985, at age 63. Soon afterward his diaries were shredded, as he had instructed, at the library of England's Hull University, where he had worked for 30 years in self-elected obscurity. His manuscripts and unpublished poems escaped a similar fate thanks to a contradiction in his will: one clause called for the destruction of these papers, while another allowed trustees of the estate the right to decide...

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