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Murdoch, Iris (1919-1999): Letters from Iris Murdoch to Brigid Brophy

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2108 KUAS142
Held at: Kingston University
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Full title: Murdoch, Iris (1919-1999): Letters from Iris Murdoch to Brigid Brophy
Date(s): Nov 1957- 1995
Level of description: Collections (fonds)
Extent: 7 boxes
Name of creator(s): Murdoch | Dame | Jean Iris | 1919-1999 | author

Brophy | Brigid | Lady Levey | 1929-1995 | 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 Alzheimer's disease, the first effects of which she had attributed to writer's block. She died in 1999.

Brigid Brophy was a well known author of several novels, non-fiction books and plays. She also led, alongside Maureen Duffy, the campaign for the introduction of Public Lending Rights for authors, and also campaigned for human and animal rights. Brophy was married to Michael Levey, director of the National Gallery. Later in life Brophy suffered from multiple sclerosis, and she passed away in 1995.


Scope and content/abstract:

Letters sent from Iris Murdoch to her friend and fellow author Brigid Brophy. Murdoch and Brophy met in 1954 and maintained a friendship from then until Brophy's death in 1995. The period of the mid-1950s to the end of the 1960s was a time when the two were particularly close, although the letters do show the passionate nature of the relationship as Brophy sometimes sent accusing or angry letters to Murdoch, and these letters show Murdoch responding in kind. The letters also cover Murdoch's work and travels, plus views on current events, music, literature and art.

The letters are split into 7 files- the first three are letters from Murdoch which Brophy had separated out into a filing cabinet, and the fourth are letters from Murdoch to Michael Levey with a selection of other items such as photographs. File 5 contains dated letters arranged in chronological order, File 6 previously undated letters, and File 7 postcards and lettercards.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Original order. The letters are grouped by how they were held by Brigid Brophy.

Conditions governing access:

Letters available to researchers via appointment, please contact the Archives to make an appointment at least 24 hours before you would like to visit. Contact email address is .

Conditions governing reproduction:

Letters cannot be copied at this time.

Finding aids:

Please see our online catalogue at

Archival Information

Archival history:

The letters were held by Brigid Brophy and passed on to her daughter, Kate Levey. The letters were then purchased by Kingston University. The purchase was funded with the assistance of Iris Murdoch Archive Project (Kingston University), Iris Murdoch Society, Kingston University Alumni Fund (Opportunities Fund), V and A Purchase Grant Fund, the Breslauer Foundation, Friends of the National Libraries.

Immediate source of acquisition:

Kate Levey

Allied Materials

Related material:

Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:

Rules or conventions:
NCA rules for construction of personal, place and corporate and names (1997), and ISAD (G), Second edition.

Date(s) of descriptions:
29 Jun 2015

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