Iris Murdoch's life, in her own words, from her schoolgirl days to her last years
Iris Murdoch was born in Dublin in 1919. She read Classics at
Somerville College, Oxford, and after working in the Treasury and
abroad, was awarded a research studentship in philosophy at Newnham
College, Cambridge. In 1948 she returned to Oxford as fellow and
tutor at St Anne's College and later taught at the Royal College of
Art. Until her death in 1999, she lived in Oxford with her husband,
the academic and critic, John Bayley. She was made a Dame of the
British Empire in 1987 and in the 1997 PEN Awards received the Gold
Pen for Distinguished Service to Literature.
Iris Murdoch made her writing debut in 1954 with Under the Net. Her twenty-six novels include the Booker prize-winning The Sea, The Sea (1978), the James Tait Black Memorial prize-winning The Black Prince (1973) and the Whitbread prize-winning The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974). Her philosophy includes Sartre- Romantic Rationalist (1953) and Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992); other philosophical writings, including The Sovereignty of Good (1970), are collected in Existentialists and Mystics (1997).
Avril Horner is Emeritus Professor of English at Kingston University, London. She writes on women authors and Gothic fiction; her publications include co-authored books on Daphne du Maurier and Edith Wharton. With Anne Rowe she co-edited Iris Murdoch and Morality (2010) and Iris Murdoch- Texts and Contexts (2012).
Anne Rowe is Associate Professor of English Literature and Director of the Iris Murdoch Archive Project at Kingston University. She is Lead Editor of the Iris Murdoch Review and her publications include The Visual Arts and Iris Murdoch (2002) and, with Priscilla Martin, Iris Murdoch- A Literary Life (2011).
"Astonishing" -- John Sutherland
"Deeply impressive" * Guardian *
"Reading these letters is like living Murdoch's whole creatively, sexually and intellectually voracious life alongside her, and at breakneck speed. Thrilling" -- Sarah Bakewell, author of How to Live: A Life of Montaigne
"The letters themselves have been selected with conviction and care...the overwhelming sense of this volume is one of richness" * Times Literary Supplement *
"Her mind, here as in everything she wrote, is formidable" * New York Times *
"Astonishing epistolary abundance from a woman who meant it when she told a friend that she could "live in letters"... Few books leave the reader with as dizzying sense of the need to question absolutely everything" * Daily Telegraph *
"We find a passionate engagement with the world of ideas, but most of all with friends, lovers, and pupils. These letters reveal Murdoch's extraordinary talent for affection, exuberant sense of fun, razor-sharp intelligence, and acute awareness of the transcendent" -- Karen Armstrong
"Exemplary... The reader grows up and grows old with Murdoch" * Literary Review *
"This collection of letters provides a fascinating insight into the life of a complex and important novelist. It is a wonderful book" -- Alexander McCall Smith
"Murdoch was not writing for posterity; she was writing for her friends, or rather as a way of maintaining her friendships, whether intellectual, passionate or both...the letters reinforce Murdoch's qualities as a person" * Independent *