I met Philip Larkin in my first week at Oxford in the spring term of 1941. In what was to me an outlandish milieu he struck me at once as entirely affable, someone who erected no barriers. Partly perhaps through having been at the place since the previous October he moved in it without awkwardness, even with a touch of the spectacular to be seen in his style of dress: bow ties, check shirts, plum-coloured trousers — no commonplaces then. I was wise enough to know, or thought I knew, that this sort of thing was no sign of any particular artistic bent. Indeed even in our college, St John’s, there were almost enough velvet-waistcoated barbarians to suggest the opposite.
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