Larkin was born to Sydney and Eva Larkin in Coventry, a provincial city in the English Midlands. He was educated at King Henry VIII School in Coventry and St. John's College, Oxford. In late 1943, soon after graduating from Oxford he applied for, and was appointed to, the position of Librarian at Wellington, Shropshire. In 1946, he became Assistant Librarian at the University College, Leicester; in March 1955, he became Librarian at the University of Hull. He remained in this position until his death.
Larkin's early work shows the influence of Yeats, but his later poetic identity was influenced mainly by Thomas Hardy. He is well-known for his use of the colloquial in his poetry, partly balanced by a similarly antique word choice. With fine use of enjambement and rhyme, his poetry is highly structured, but never rigid. Death was a recurring theme and subject of his poetry.