Larkin's 'mower' letters go on show

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The Independent Culture

His trials and tribulations while tackling his overgrown lawn became immortalised in one of his poems after he killed a hedgehog nestling in the long grass of his garden.

Now a 17-month correspondence between the poet Philip Larkin and a lawnmower company in which he details his gripes about a new machine are to go on display this week.

The letters, to be exhibited at the British Library from Friday, appear to show he was so upset by the incident that he could not bear to use the Qualcast Commodore any longer. He bought a replacement from East Yorkshire Mowers but struggled to get the machine to operate efficiently, prompting a barrage of letters to the company.

One read: "I am still not happy about the Webb lawn mower that I bought from you last month. The blades continually jammed and I had to finish off the lawns with my old Qualcast Commodore."

It could not cope with "longish grass, wet grass or moss", he said and and suggested the firm's staff should come round and try. Eventually the writer gave up and bought another.

Larkin's work "The Mower" details the hedgehog killing which haunted him and was written just two days later. The killing "upset me rather", he told a friend, Jude Egerton, in another of his letters.

Scholars of Larkin may be delighted to know that the final mower he owned before his death in 1985 - a blue Victa Powerplus 160cc super two stroke - is part of the exhibition, "The Writer in the Garden", together with the manuscript of "The Mower".

The exhibition runs until 10 April next year.