Brunette Coleman

Brunette Coleman was a pseudonym used by the poet and writer Philip Larkin (1922–1985). In 1943, towards the end of his time as an undergraduate at St John's College, Oxford, he wrote several works of fiction, verse and critical commentary under that name. The style he adopted parodies that of popular writers of contemporary girls' school fiction, but the extent of the stories' homoerotic content suggests they were written primarily for adult male titillation.

The Coleman oeuvre consists of a completed novella, Trouble at Willow Gables, set in a girls' boarding school; an incomplete sequel, Michaelmas Term at St Brides, set in a women's college at Oxford; seven short poems with a girls' school ambience; a fragment of pseudo-autobiography; and a critical essay purporting to be Coleman's literary apologia. The manuscripts were stored in the Brynmor Jones Library at the University of Hull, where Larkin was chief librarian between 1955 and 1985. Their existence was revealed to the public when Larkin's Selected Letters and Andrew Motion's biography were published in 1992 and 1993 respectively. The Coleman works themselves were finally published, with other Larkin drafts and oddments, in 2002.

Larkin's Oxford years were for him a period of confused sexuality and limited literary output. The adoption of a female persona released him from his creative inhibitions; the three years following the Coleman phase saw the publication, under Larkin's own name, of two novels and his first poetry collection. Thereafter his career as a prose writer declined, and despite several attempts he completed no further novels. Critical reaction to the publication of the Coleman material was divided between those who saw no value in these juvenilia, and those who considered that they cast useful light on the study of the mature Larkin.

Read more about Brunette Coleman:  Origins, Writing, Critical Reception, Influences, Notes and References