Dearest Jacquetta, love Iris

Iris Murdoch and JBP on steps at Kissing Tree House

Iris and JBP at Kissing Tree House ca. 1969

Iris Murdoch is in the news this week: a collection of her letters to surrealist novelist Raymond Queneau has been acquired by Kingston University’s Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies.

This story encouraged me to look again at the Iris Murdoch material in the  Hawkes Archive. Iris knew the Priestleys well for many years.  JB adapted her novel A Severed Head into a play, with great success.  Like Jacquetta, she was active in the CND Women’s Group.  Her introduction to Diana Collins’ memoir Time and the Priestleys offers a charming picture of the Priestleys as hospitable and life-enhancing friends.

The Hawkes Archive includes several letters and postcards from Iris to Jacquetta.  Although the subject matter is mainly social (relating to lunches, parties), all but the very shortest give a flavour of her writing style and personality.  I particularly liked her description of a weekend spent with the Priestleys: “I loved talking, and listening, and looking out of the window, and swimming, and drinking, and seeing the nightjars” and the quirky “I am now in a house of riotous children on the edge of the moor.  We walked on the moor last night which is very old and obviously still inhabited by abominable stone men”.


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