Letters from Iris Murdoch to Rachel Fenner

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Letters and cards written by Iris Murdoch to artist Rachel Fenner from 1964 onwards. Murdoch taught Fenner at the Royal College of Art and they remained friends afterwards. Topics covered in their correspondence includes Fenner's studies and later work in art, Murdoch's writing and philosophy, their travels, arranging meetings, and general family news.

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.

Arrangement

Original order- letters have been grouped roughly by date

Conditions Governing Access

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Other Finding Aids

Also see our archives catalogue here

Conditions Governing Use

Letters cannot be copied at this time

Custodial History

Purchased with the assistance of the Friends of the National Libraries

Corporate Names