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Murdoch, Iris (1919-1999): Letters to Roly Cochrane

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2108 KUAS7
Held at: Kingston University
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Full title: Murdoch, Iris (1919-1999): Letters to Roly Cochrane
Date(s): c1980s-1995
Level of description: collection
Extent: 1 box
Name of creator(s): Murdoch | Dame | Jean Iris | 1919-1999 | author x Murdoch | Iris


Administrative/Biographical history:

Dame Jean Iris Murdoch was born on 15 July 1919 in Dublin; later moving with her family to Brook Green, Hammersmith. Murdoch was educated at Froebel Demonstration School at Colet Gardens; Badminton School, Bristol from 1932 and Somerville College Oxford; winning scholarships to both Badminton and Somerville College.

At Oxford, Murdoch was influenced by the classicist, Eduard Fraenkel, and her philosophy tutor Donald MacKinnon and soon joined the Communist Party. Murdoch gained a first in Classics in 1942 and was employed as assistant principal in the Treasury, 1942-1944; later joining the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, working in London, Brussels and Austria. Murdoch returned to London in 1946 winning a place at Vassar College and a Commonwealth Scholarship, however as she had declared herself a communist on her application for an American visa her application was denied. Murdoch studied at Newnham College, Cambridge, 1947-1948 and won a philosophy tutorship at St Anne's, Oxford, where she stayed until 1963, she later worked as a lecturer at Royal College of Art for four years.

Murdoch's first book Sartre: Romantic Rationalist was published in 1953 by Bowes and Bowes in a series titled 'Studies in Modern Thought' and her first novel Under the net was accepted for publication. She went on to write many books including The Bell, 1958, which achieved great commercial success and The Red and the Green, 1965, concerning the Easter rising, reflecting her Irish background. Murdoch was appointed DBE in 1987 and presented with an honorary degree from Kingston University in 1993. In 1997 Murdoch was diagnosed as suffering with Alzheimer's disease and died in Oxford on 8 February 1999.

Publications include: Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Literature and Philosophy, 1997; A Fairly Honourable Defeat, 1970 and Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals, 1992.

Roly Cochrane was a teacher and writer, living in Amsterdam, who was 20 years younger than Murdoch and initiated correspondence with her. Murdoch began to reply to these letters in 1984, writing even during her illness. Cochrane died in 1992.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Iris Murdoch, c 1980-1995, comprising correspondence addressed to Roly Cochrane from Murdoch including 138 letters and 59 cards and postcards, which demonstrate Murdoch's interest in someone with whom she became fond through correspondence alone. Within the letters Murdoch discusses her work, confiding in Cochrane, who continued to write to her during the onset of Alzheimer's disease. The collection contains a final note from John Bayley referring to her illness. The collection also contains a copy of Facing Reality, 1997, a work by Roly Cochrane.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Papers are arranged: KUAS/7/1-3 correspondence from Iris Murdoch to Roly Cochrane and KUAS/7/4 Facing Reality, Roly Cochrane, 1997.

Conditions governing access:

Open. Please contact the archivist to make an appointment.

Conditions governing reproduction:

Contact archive for information concerning reproduction at

Finding aids:

No additional finding aids exist.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Acquired in 2005.

Allied Materials

Related material:


Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online and The Sunday Telegraph, 1 July 2007.
Entry compiled by Samantha Velumyl, AIM25 cataloguer.

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:
May 2008.

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