14 February 2012

The Academic Nature

Philip Larkin in a letter to Monica Jones on 15th September 1959, from Letters to Monica (London: Faber & Faber, 2010):
[T]he break up of the library meant that a good deal of wooden shelving could be had cheap, and strange sights were seen -- Wood in on Sunday, gaping speculatively round, people who never set foot in the library between end of term and beginning of term (and not often otherwise) were running in as easily as rats. The intoxicating spicy Trade Winds of Something for Nothing bring our jolly mariners out of the hold as limber as weasels -- my God! I've never known a safer bet than that academic people will be round you like wasps round a jar if you so much as whisper 'no charge'. They will carry off anything no matter how useless. There were people bearing away mouldy spars on the grounds that it would be 'cheap even as fire wood', like some crazed medieval yokels. Don't you think that in the academic nature filthy meanness reaches a pitch when it is a streak of pure romanticism -- as if the famished search of the sandalled swine for the Lost Teat of the World were some Grail Quest instilled in childhood?
The "Wood in on Sunday" is Arthur Wood, Larkin's deputy at Hull University library.