To hell with Christmas
Festive bleatings from Philip Larkin
The glittering tsunami that is Christmas is soon to hit land and overwhelm our collective senses, digestive systems, and bank balances. For some, this is Heaven; for others, it’s much closer to Hell. The following batch is dedicated to the latter camp: those among us who are already grinding their teeth as they dream of January and the return to peace and sanity. The plan was to pluck these from a number of notable Scrooges; however, it quickly became apparent that Philip Larkin deserves the stage all to himself.
Not much of a haul this Christmas! A laundry bag (asked for), a 10/6 book token, a second-hand tie, & a pair of expanding cufflinks enamelled in blue with large ‘P’s in cursive script on them. That’s all, that’s all, that’s all, that’s all. Shan’t get very fat on all that, eh?
Letter to Monica Jones
28th December 1950
What an awful time of year this is! Just as one is feeling that if one can just hold on, it won’t get any worse, then all this Christmas idiocy bursts upon one like a slavering Niagara of nonsense & completely wrecks one’s entire frame. This means, in terms of my life, making a point of buying about six simple inexpensive presents when there are rather more people about than usual, and going home. No doubt in terms of yours it means seeing your house given over to hoards of mannerless middle-class brats and your good food & drink vanishing into the quacking tooth-equipped jaws of their alleged parents. Yours is the harder course, I can see. On the other hand, mine is happening to me.
Letter to Judy Egerton
17th December 1958
[E]very Christmas, every Easter, every Whitsun, when other people are enjoying themselves I am stewing at home in a rage of irritation & boredom.
Letter to Monica Jones
23rd May 1964
The thought of Christmas depresses me. Please don’t go to trouble. Every year I swear I’ll never endure it again, & make you promise to be sensible, & now here you are talking about duck again, just as if I had never shouted and got drunk & broken the furniture out of sheer rage at it all… All I want is an ordinary lunch, and no fuss. Get a good piece of beef that will last a day or two, and potatoes for baking. To hell with Christmas.
Letter to his mother
14th November 1971
Christmas, yes! Either people tell me what they want and I can’t get it, or they don’t tell me what they want and I can’t think of anything. I think it was Peter Warlock who said ‘It is a time of year I dislike more and more as I get older.’ Amen to that.
Letter to John Betjeman
16th December 1976
Christmas and the New Yaher [sic] seem to get longer annually, and indeed do so. Eventually the whole bloody fucking arseholing country will be on its back from Guy Fawkes’ night to St Valentine’s Day is my guess.
Letter to Kingsley Amis
11th January 1981
Letter to Blake Morrison
11th January 1985
Selected Letters of Philip Larkin, 1940-1985, edited by Anthony Thwaite (Faber & Faber, 1992)
Philip Larkin: Letters Home, 1936-1977, edited by James Booth (Faber & Faber, 2018)
Philip Larkin: Letters to Monica, edited by Anthony Thwaite (Faber & Faber, 2010)
GIFTS OF NOTE
Weekly reminder for the gift-seekers: I’m currently selling, at half price, the last remaining Special Editions of two of my books: Lists of Note, and the second volume of Letters of Note. They can be signed, personalised, gift-wrapped, or none of the above, and sent almost anywhere. There are other books there too. Alternatively, you can gift someone a subscription to this newsletter by clicking here. And you can of course upgrade your subscription, if you haven’t done so already, as a gift to yourself.