Letters from Iris Murdoch to Brigid Brophy

Scope and Content

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 cover their relationship, their writing 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.

Administrative / Biographical History

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.

Brigid Brophy was a well known author, writing several novels as well as non-fiction books. She also with Maureen Duffy led the campaign for the introduction for Public Lending Right, allowing authors to receive money as a result of their books being borrowed from libraries. Brophy was also an active campaigner for human and animal rights. She was married to Sir Michael Levey, who was head of the National Gallery in London. She died in 1995.


Original order

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers by appointment- please email archives@kingston.ac.uk. 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 http://blogs.kingston.ac.uk/asc

Other Finding Aids

Also see our archives catalogue here

Conditions Governing Use

The letters cannot be copied at this time.

Custodial 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&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Breslauer Foundation, Friends of the National Libraries.