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Murdoch, Iris (1919-1999): Letters to Barbara Dorf

Identity Statement

Reference code(s): GB 2108 KUAS50
Held at: Kingston University
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Full title: Murdoch, Iris (1919-1999): Letters to Barbara Dorf
Date(s): 1960s-1990s
Level of description: collection
Extent: 1 folder
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.

Barbara Dorf studied at the Slade School of Art. She has exhibited in a large number of prominent London galleries and mixed shows, and in Paris and Belgrade. She is also a lecturer and an art historian. Her paintings were much admired by EH Gombrich and Iris Murdoch.


Scope and content/abstract:

Papers of Iris Murdoch, 1960s-1990s, comprising informal letters to her friend Barbara Dorf spanning a thirty-year friendship. The collection also contains letters from John Bayley to Dorf, written presumably when Murdoch was too ill to do so herself or following her death, thanking Dorf for being a special friend to Iris; a letter from Dorf to Dr Rowe at Kingston University discussing the Iris Murdoch collection and providing biographical information concerning Murdoch. The collection also includes a photocopy of an oil painting of Iris Murdoch by Barbara Dorf.

Access & Use

Language/scripts of material:

System of arrangement:

Arranged in original order.

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 currently exist.

Archival Information

Archival history:

Immediate source of acquisition:

Acquired in 2008.

Allied Materials

Related material:


Publication note:

Description Notes

Archivist's note:
Sources: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, online.
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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