Letters from Iris Murdoch to Harry Weinberger

Scope and Content

Letters written from Iris Murdoch to Harry Weinberger from 1977 to 1996. The letters are in files grouped by the drawer in which Harry Weinberger kept them in his desk. The letters discuss subjects such as their shared interest in arts, both of their work, travelling, health, domestic news, and current events at the time.

The collection also contains a number of additional items relating to Iris Murdoch's friendship with Harry Weinberger, collected by Weinberger. This includes exhibition catalogues she contributed to, and copies of his drawings of her.

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.

Harry Weinberger was born in 1924 in Berlin, Germany. His family later fled to Czechoslovakia in 1933, and he was later sent by them to England in 1939. After some years in England, including a time in the British Army, Weinberger studied at Chelsea School of Art. He then went on to become an art teacher, as well as being an artist in his own right.

Weinberger's work was very colourful, and mostly featured exterior and interior scenes. He did paint occasional portraits. One of these he painted of Iris Murdoch, a long time friend of his he met in the 1970s. Throughout the rest of her lifetime he maintained a correspondence with Murdoch, and would regularly meet with her to visit art galleries. She was a great supporter of his work, owning a number of his paintings, and writing introductions to catalogues for exhibitions of his work. Weinberger had a number of exhibitions of his work held, in the UK and in Europe, including regular exhibitions at the Duncan Campbell Gallery in London.

He was married to Barbara, who died of cancer in 1996. They had one daughter.


The letters have been kept in the individual files and order in which Harry Weinberger stored them in, in his desk. As such the letters are not in chronological 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

Letters cannot be copied at this time. Whether copies can be made from the other items in the collection will depend on the items physical condition and copyright law. Copying requests should be sent to the archive at archives@kingston.ac.uk

Custodial History

The collection of letters was written from Iris Murdoch to Harry Weinberger from 1977 to 1996, and was kept by him in his house in Leamington Spa. He also collected other items relating to her including press cuttings and items relating to his exhibitions. These remained in his home until after his death, and they were then donated to Kingston University by his daughter, Joanna Garber.