In truth, though, and despite a lifetime of complaining, Larkin had managed to live pretty much how he wanted all along. Sutherland’s book adds substance to the story of these wants, and some detail to the prejudices that accompanied them, and in this and other respects it’s valuable. It’s also bound to re-animate the conversation about how much Larkin’s poems are damaged by the sides he took and the opinions he voiced as a man. There are a few poems (‘Posterity’, for instance) which are obviously soiled by stereotyping and worse. In the majority, Larkin’s approach to his subject is much less inclined to enact a quarrel with others (which would have produced mere rhetoric, in the Yeatsian formula), than with himself — which means that he was able to write poetry that expresses among other things a redemptive sense of escape from self. But making that distinction, and calibrating its success (or not), must now inform our reading of every page in his Collected Poems. And not everyone will want to take the trouble.