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Murdoch, Iris: Letters from Iris Murdoch to Harry Weinberger

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2108 KUAS80
Held at: Kingston University
  Click here to find out how to view this collection at ›
Full title: Murdoch, Iris: Letters from Iris Murdoch to Harry Weinberger
Date(s): 1977-2000
Level of description: Collection (Fonds)
Extent: 2 boxes
Name of creator(s): Murdoch | Dame | Jean Iris | 1919-1999 | author
Weinberger | Harry | 1924-2009 | artist
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.
Harry Weinberger was born in 1924 in Berlin, Germany. His family later fled to Czechoslovakia in 1933, and he was later sent by them to England in 1939. After some years in England, including a time in the British Army, Weinberger studied at Chelsea School of Art. He then went on to become an art teacher, as well as being an artist in his own right. Weinberger's work was very colourful, and mostly featured exterior and interior scenes. He did paint occasional portraits. One of these he painted of Iris Murdoch, a long time friend of his he met in the 1970s. Throughout the rest of her lifetime he maintained a correspondence with Murdoch, and would regularly meet with her to visit art galleries. She was a great supporter of his work, owning a number of his paintings, and writing introductions to catalogues for exhibitions of his work. Weinberger had a number of exhibitions of his work held, in the UK and in Europe, including regular exhibitions at the Duncan Campbell Gallery in London. He was married to Barbara, who died of cancer in 1996. They had one daughter.


Scope and content/abstract:

Letters written from Iris Murdoch to Harry Weinberger from 1977 to 1996. The letters are in files grouped by the drawer in which Harry Weinberger kept them in his desk. The letters discuss subjects such as their shared interest in the arts and religious iconography, and both of their work. Their are over 300 letters in total.
The collection also contains a number of additional items relating to Iris Murdoch's friendship with Harry Weinberger, collected by Weinberger. This includes exhibition catalogues for Weinbergers work, and copies of drawings of Murdoch by Weinberger.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Grouped by the draw in which Weinberger stored the letters he received, within the files the letters are kept in their original order.

Conditions governing access:

Available to view by appointment in the Kingston University Archives and Special Collections search room.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Letters can not be copied at the present time.

Finding aids:

Full catalogue available on our archives catalogue at

Archival Information

Archival history:

The collection of letters was written from Iris Murdoch to Harry Weinberger from 1977 to 1996, and was kept by him in his house in Leamington Spa. He also collected other items relating to her including press cuttings and items relating to his exhibitions. These remained in his home until after his death, and they were then donated to Kingston University by his daughter, Joanna Garber.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Donated by Joanna Garber

Allied Materials

Related material:

See also KUAS40 Harry Weinberger Exhibition catalogues and KUAS102 Three drawings of Crete by Harry Weinberger previously owned by Iris Murdoch.

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
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.

Date(s) of descriptions:

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