Murdoch, Iris

Iris Murdoch
Iris Murdoch. Image source Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies

Jean Iris Murdoch was born at 59 Blessington Street in Dublin, in 1919.

Following the Irish War of Independence, the family moved to Chiswick, near London. In the latter years of the Second World War, she helped with the UN Rehabilitation and Relief Association in Belgium and Austria, before returning to England where she resumed an academic career.

Her novels include Under the Net (London, Chatto & Windus, 1954); The Flight from the Enchanter (Chatto & Windus, 1956); The Sandcastle (Chatto & Windus, 1957); The Bell (Chatto & Windus, 1958); A Severed Head (Chatto & Windus, 1961); An Unofficial Rose (Chatto & Windus, 1962); The Unicorn (Chatto & Windus, 1963); The Italian Girl (Chatto & Windus, 1964); Time of the Angels (Chatto & Windus, 1966); The Nice and The Good (Chatto & Windus, 1968); Bruno’s Dream (Chatto & Windus, 1969); A Fairly Honourable Defeat (Chatto & Windus, 1970); The Accidental Man (Chatto & Windus, 1971); Sacred and Profane Love Machine (Chatto & Windus); The Black Prince (Chatto & Windus, 1973); A Word Child (Chatto & Windus, 1975); Henry and Cato (Chatto & Windus, 1976); The Fire & The Sun (Oxford, Clarendon Press); The Sea, The Sea (Chatto & Windus 1978); Nuns and Soldiers (Chatto & Windus 1980); The Philosopher’s Pupil (Chatto & Windus, 1983);
The Good Apprentice, Chatto & Windus, 1985); The Book and The Brotherhood (Chatto & Windus,1987); The Message to the Planet (Chatto & Windus, 1989. illustrated by Tom Phillips); The Green Knight (Chatto & Windus, 1993); and Jackson’s Dilemma (Chatto & Windus, 1995).

A Fellow of St. Anne’s College, Oxford, in addition to her 26 novels, Iris Murdoch wrote several philosophical works, including Sartre (1953); The Sovereignty of Good (1970); Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (1992); and Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature (edited by Peter Conrad, 1997).
She wrote the libretto for an opera, The Servants, by William Matthias; a number of plays, including A Severed Head (1964, with J.P. Priestley), Art and Eros (1980), and Acastos: Two Platonic Dialogues (1986).
She published one poetry collection, A Year of Birds (Chatto & Windus, 1984. with wood engravings by Reynolds Stone).
Certain of her essays are collected as Occasional Essays (Japan, University Education Press 1998, edited by Yozo Muroya and Paul Hullah).

In 1952, she met and subsequently married John Bayley, the writer and critic. His memoir, Iris, describes her as «religious without religion.». The film based on this memoir was released in 2002, starring Dame Judi Dench, Kate Winslet, Hugh Bonneville and Jim Broadbent .

Her awards include The James Tait Memorial Prize, the Whitbread Literary Award and the Booker Prize, for which she was nominated six times. In 1987, she was made a Dame of the British Empire.

She had Alzheimer’s disease when she died in February 1999, in Oxford.

Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies at Kingston University, London
Iris Murdoch at The National Library of Ireland