Jill

LARKIN, Philip

LARKIN'S FIRST NOVEL, INSCRIBED TO HIS CLOSEST UNIVERSITY FRIEND

LARKIN, Philip Jill

Fortune Press, 1946.

First edition. Publisher's green cloth, one of many binding variants of the first edition, this one not recorded by Bloomfield. A remarkable presentation copy, inscribed on the front endpaper "For Norman, in memory of 'the best education in the land'. Philip Larkin". Larkin has made a manuscript correction to page 16, to add "case" after "his silver cigarette". A very good copy, worn and a little shaken with an abrasion to the corner of the front pastedown and a closed tear to pp. 155-6.

An exceptional presentation copy of Larkin's first novel, inscribed for his closest friend during his first years at Oxford. In 1942 Larkin wrote to Iles "I admire your courage, intelligence and honesty. To prove it I am quite willing to keep up a correspondence as long as you like... I don't care much if I lose sight of Kingsley etc. but I should be very sorry to lose sight of you" (28th July 1942).
Jill is one of the foremost Oxford novels of the mid-twentieth century and in his introduction to the Faber edition of the book (1964), Larkin contextualises the story in terms of his relationship with Iles:
"My tutorial-mate was a large pallid-faced stranger with a rich Bristolian accent, whose preposterous skirling laugh was always ready to salute his own outrages... Norman at once set about roughing up my general character and assumptions. Any action of even word implying respect for qualities such as punctuality, prudence, thrift or respectability called forth a snarling roar like that of the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lion and the accusation of bourgeoisisme; ostentatious courtesy produced a falsetto celestial-choir effect, ostentatious sensibility the recommendation to 'write a poem about it.'"
The inscription's nostalgia for "the best education in the land" refers to a persona the pair invented for their walks to tutorials with Gavin Bone (a fellow at St John's College) and is again explained by Larkin in his 1964 introduction:
"We quickly invented 'the Yorkshire scholar', a character embodying many of our prejudices, and conversed in his flat rapacious tones in going to and from our tutor, Gavin Bone. 'You're gettin' the best education in the land, lad.' 'Ay, but you must must cut your coat according to your cloth.' 'Had tea wi' t'Dean on Sunday - I showed him I'd been reading his book.' 'Never lose a chance to make a good impression.'... This comedy probably gave Norman more release than it did me... but I was sufficiently acquainted with the climate of the scholarship year to enjoy keeping the game going. I cannot imagine what Gavin Bone thought of us. Already in failing health, he treated us like a pair of village idiots who might if tried too hard turn nasty." Writing in a letter to Iles on 31st August 1946, Larkin wrote "My Oxford novel isn't out yet... I renew my promise to send you a copy - you'll like my Yorkshire scholar in it."
Presentation copies of Jill are intensely rare. It is likely that Larkin inscribed little more than the handful of copies he sent to close friends. No other copy has been offered at auction and we have handled only one other (to Bruce Montgomery) in the last twenty years.

Bloomfield A2a.

Stock ID: 38769

£8,500.00

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