Brunette Coleman

Brunette Coleman was a pseudonym used by the poet and writer Philip Larkin. He wrote several works of fiction, verse and critical commentary under that name. Coleman oeuvre consists of a completed novella, Trouble at Willow Gables, set in a girls’ boarding school.

About Brunette Coleman in brief

Summary Brunette ColemanBrunette Coleman was a pseudonym used by the poet and writer Philip Larkin. 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 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; seven short poems with girls’ school ambience; a fragment of pseudo-autobiography; and a critical essay purporting to be Coleman’s literary apologia. At Oxford Larkin underwent a period of confused sexuality and limited literary output. The adoption of a female persona appeared to release his creativity, as in the three years following the Coleman phase he published under his own name two novels and his first poetry collection. Thereafter, although he gradually established his reputation as a poet, his career as a prose writer declined, and despite several attempts he completed no further fiction. 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, who wrote under the name of a jazz musician. Larkin’s Selected Letters and Andrew Motion’s biography were published in 1992 and 1993 respectively, and the Coleman works themselves were finally published, with other Larkin drafts and oddments, in 2002.

The previous March Larkin had begun writing the autobiography of a supposed lady novelist, Ante Coleman, tentatively titled The Tentatively titled Ante Coleman. The idea of using a female pseudonym had been in his mind for months, although the previous March he had been writing a novel under the pseudonym of Leita Fairlie. The novel was Trouble at Fairlie, which Larkin completed at home while awaiting his Finals results. That was the prelude to a busy summer of a cork out of a bottle taking out a bottle of champagne. The book was published by Simon & Schuster, London, in April and May 1973, with a forward by Larkin and a foreword by his biographer Andrew Motion. It was the first of a series of novels, the last of which is due to be published in October 2014, and will be the second by Simon and Schuster. The first of the novels is a story about a schoolgirl called Dorothy Vicary, in the manner of Dorothy Vicary or Dorothy Bruce or Dorothy Vicar. The second is a novel about a girl who goes to a women’s college at Oxford, and is set in the 1920s and 1930s. The third is a tale of a young woman who leaves her boyfriend for a man in the middle of the night. The fourth is a short story about the life of a woman in the 1930s and 1940s, in which the main character is a woman who has a lesbian affair with a man. The final novel is about a young girl who leaves Oxford for London in the 1950s.