Scott Dunbar Archive

Scope and Content

Scott Dunbar was a teacher, philosopher and friend of Iris Murdoch. The Collection contains approximately 120 letters from Iris Murdoch to Scott Dunbar dating from the 1960s to the 1990s, plus publications and other documents relating to Scott Dunbar's life.

Administrative / Biographical History

Scott Dunbar was a Canadian teacher, philosopher and theologian. Dunbar led a difficult life, with a near death experience due to an alcohol overdose, later ending up an Alcoholics Anonymous member in 1975; he then became a bio-ethicist via the Cleveland Clinic and wrote on many aspects of bio-ethics; and later moving to Toronto, 1997, before returning to Montreal. He then worked teaching English as a second language. He met Iris Murdoch in 1966; and they maintained a friendship and correspondence afterwards.

Iris Murdoch was born Jean Iris Murdoch 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 the University of Oxford, and after the Second World War she undertook further study at the University of Cambridge. During the war years Murdoch 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 Murdoch had relationships with a number of individuals, including Elias Canetti. She met author and scholar John Bayley while working at Oxford, and they married in 1956. She wrote to a great number of people and maintained friendships in this way.

Later in life Murdoch was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, the first effects of which she had attributed to writer's block. She died in 1999.

Access Information

Open to researchers by appointment- please email Appointments typically offered Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 9am - 4.30pm. For more information on Kingston University Archives and Special Collections please see our website at

Other Finding Aids

Also see our archives catalogue here

Conditions Governing Use

Many items in the collection can not be copied from due to their physical condition or copyright law. Please send all copying enquiries to the Archive at The letters from Iris Murdoch cannot be copied at this time.