'A man of great wit and wisdom' - Tributes paid to poet Anthony Thwaite 

Picture shows Ann & Anthony Thwaite2007 UEA Honourary GraduationsFor EDPCopy: Tara GreavesSi

Ann and Anthony Thwaite in 2007 at their UEA honourary graduations - Credit: UEA

Tributes have continued to flood in for respected and admired poet and critic Anthony Thwaite.

Mr Thwaite was widely known as the editor of his friend Philip Larkin's collected poems and letters, as well as his own work, and has been a significant figure in publishing since the 1950s and deeply involved in literary life. 

He held the position of president of the Philip Larkin Society (PLS) since its foundation in 1995 and had renewed his appointment for a further five years just last year.  

Ann and Anthony Thwaite. Pictured: Anthony Thwaite punting poet Philip Larkin along the River Tas.

Anthony Thwaite punting poet Philip Larkin along the River Tas - Credit: Sonya Duncan

The society’s chair, professor Graham Chesters, said he brought so much to the role. 

“As well as his reputation as a poet and editor, his Larkin scholarship, and his influential role as a Larkin executor, he also brought his experience, his wisdom, and charm. 

“Until ill-health intervened in recent years, he was an incredibly loyal chair of the Annual Distinguished PLS lecture. He gave presentations and was a skillful interviewer at the launch of important Larkin books. He played a key part in two of the most joyous PLS moments - the unveiling of the Larkin statue in Hull and the memorialisation of Larkin in Poets’ Corner. 

“He leaves behind Ann, herself a distinguished author and powerful ally to Anthony in his presidency. To her, we have offered our deepest condolences." 

Suzanne Collier, on behalf of the Andre Deutsch Reunion Network, worked with Mr Thwaite during his time as editorial director of Andre Deutsch publishers. 

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She said: “When Anthony joined Andre Deutsch Ltd, he already had an illustrious career as an author, poet, and as the chair of the Booker Prize judges.  

“All of his colleagues remember him fondly and as a man of great wit and wisdom. He never pulled rank and was happy to share a joke and bring humour into the proceedings. He was just ‘one of us’ and swiftly became an integral part of the company, bringing in a number of successful authors.  

“We all send our condolences to Ann and family on such a sad loss.”  

Anthony Thwaite beside a punt moored on the river tas outside his home where poet Philip Larkin once

Anthony Thwaite beside a punt moored on the river tas outside his home where poet Philip Larkin once stayed. - Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2016

A spokesperson for Kingswood School, in Bath, where Mr Thwaite attended as a pupil and was encouraged by a teacher there to take up writing poetry, said: “We were sad to hear of the passing of Anthony Thwaite who attended Kingswood from 1944 to 1949 and our thoughts are with his family and friends."

While there, he also won the Hastling Prize for English verse two years running. 

In 1989, the University of Hull presented Mr Thwaite with an honorary doctorate. 

Professor Lucy Mazdon, dean of the Faculty of Arts Cultures and Education, said: “We were deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Anthony Thwaite. 

“The university was proud to present Anthony with an honorary doctorate, just a year before he also received an OBE for his services to poetry. 

“The condolences of all at the university go to Anthony’s family and friends at this time.” 

A spokesperson for the Sainsbury Institute, in Norwich, added: “We’re deeply saddened by the news of Anthony Thwaite’s passing. We welcomed him to a seminar in January 2020 where he discussed his poetry and read from his bilingual poetry book that had just been published.” 

And The Lost Girls author, D.J. Taylor, of Norfolk, described him as an “excellent poet, literary editor, and publisher”. 

“'I first met Anthony Thwaite at the age of 16 when he came to talk to the school literary society and was very kind about a terrible poem I had written. 

“Poet, editor, critic, and all-around book-world presence, he leaves an indelible mark on the literary scene of the past half-century. 

“I shall miss him profoundly and send all good wishes to his widow, Ann." 

Finally, Philip Pullman, author of His Dark Materials, paid tribute via Twitter. He said: “RIP Anthony Thwaite. He once told me the only English word that rhymes with postcard.”

Mr Thwaite lived in Low Tharston, south of Norwich. He died on April 22, aged 90, following a terminal illness.

- To view all the obituaries and tributes join the Facebook group Norfolk's Loved & Lost.

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