"In the last part of his life Philip Larkin (1922-1985) became the best-loved poet in the country. In spite, and because, of his reputation as "the hermit of Hull", he was almost universally admired for the formal elegance of his constructions, the memorable beauty of his phrasing, and the candour of his gaze. The terms in which he was praised made him sound like a bleaker Betjeman (whose work he had always promoted). He told his readers difficult truths about their lives - love will fade, chances will be missed, death will surely come - but he did so in a way which was oddly consoling in its honesty.
"After his death, and especially after the publication of a Selected Letters in 1992 and my biography the following year, Larkin's reputation underwent a spectacular revision. The lovable Eeyore was really a porn-loving misogynist whose views on race, women, the Labour party, children, mainland Europe (and most of the rest of the world) were repugnant to any fair-minded liberal person. Or so said his suddenly armed enemies, and with plenty of evidence in the Letters and the Life to support them. His defenders retaliated by devising a more complicated image of their man, one in which irony played a crucial role, which allowed for an element of deliberate provocation, and which insisted on making a separation between private opinions and public writings...."