Philip Larkin at Oxford: Chaucer Langland, Langland, and Bruce Montgomery
The recently available papers of Bruce Montgomery in the Bodleian contain Larkin’s essays from a Middle English tutorial, in which he considers the respective merits of Chaucer and L. Larkin exhibits a natural affinity to L’s work, which exudes a moral indignation in accord with his own, while he seems impatient with Chaucer’s elevated social station and disinterest in social concerns. A drawing of Larkin’s in the margin of one essay entitled “The Vision of Piers Plowman” depicts a farmer with a plow looking off into space at an imaginative bubble enclosing a foaming mug of beer. Larkin’s distaste for L’s emphasis on hard work surfaces later in the poem “Toads.”
Journal of Modern Literature 21 (1997): 295-310.