During World War II he stayed with relations in the United States. He was educated at Kingswood School, Bath (1944–49) and subsequently read English at Christ Church, Oxford.
He taught at Tokyo University from 1955 and 1957, and for a year in 1985. He has worked for BBC Radio, the New Statesman as literary editor, and from 1973 to 1985 as editor of Encounter with Melvin J. Lasky. He is one of the literary executors of Philip Larkin, and the major editor of Larkin's work.
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