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Murdoch, Iris: Letters from Iris Murdoch to Raymond Queneau

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2108 KUAS70
Held at: Kingston University
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Full title: Murdoch, Iris: Letters from Iris Murdoch to Raymond Queneau
Date(s): 1946-1975
Level of description: Collection (Fonds)
Extent: 1 box
Name of creator(s): Murdoch | Dame | Jean Iris | 1919-1999 | author
Detailed catalogue: Click here to view repository detailed catalogue


Administrative/Biographical history:

Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin, Ireland on 15 Jul 1919. When she was very young Iris and her parents moved to London, England, and Iris studied at Frobel and Badminton Schools. She followed this with studies in classics, ancient history and philosophy at Oxford, and further study at Cambridge. During the war years Iris worked for the Treasury in London, and then joined the UNRRA providing relief in formerly occupied countries in Europe. In 1948 she became a fellow of St Anne's College, Oxford, where she taught and researched philosophy.

Iris Murdoch wrote a number of tracts on philosophy, however it is for her novels that she is best known. She wrote 26 novels in total, her first being Under the Net published in 1954. Other notable works include The Bell and The Sea, the Sea, for which she won the Booker Prize. Her last novel, Jackson's Dilemma, was published in 1995.
In her youth Iris Murdoch had relationships with a number of individuals, including Elias Canetti. She met author and scholar John Bayley while at Oxford, and they married in 1956. She wrote to a great number of people and maintained friendships in this way.
Later in life Iris Murdoch was diagnosed with Alzheimers disease, the first effects of which she had attributed to writer's block. She died in 1999.


Scope and content/abstract:

Letters sent from Iris Murdoch to French author and poet Raymond Queneau, dating from 1946 to 1975. Iris met Queneau while doing war work with the UNRRA, and enjoyed a regular correspondence with him. She claimed that she owed much of her writing to her friendship with Queneau, and dedicated her first novel 'Under the Net' to him. The letters cover a number of topics including the early days of Murdoch's writing and philosophical views, her work with the UNRRA, and early relationships.
With some articles collected by Queneau on the work of Iris Murdoch

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Chronological order

Conditions governing access:

Letters can be viewed by appointment in the Kingston University Archives and Special Collections search room.

Conditions governing reproduction:

No copying of the letters is permitted.

Finding aids:

Fully catalogued on our Archives catalogue at

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Purchased with the help of grants from: MLA/ V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the National Heritage Memorial Fund, the Breslauer Foundation, the Friends of the National Libraries and donations from members of the Iris Murdoch Society and the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at Kingston University.

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Compiled in compliance with General International Standard Archival Description, ISAD(G), second edition, 2000; National Council on Archives Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names, 1997.

Rules or conventions:

Date(s) of descriptions:

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