Special Collections at Bradford University recently joined the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies and many enthusiasts in celebrating Iris Murdoch Day, her birthday 15 July, with a social media festival. Our contribution was this piece published on the Special Collections blog, Roses and Dogs’ Noses: Iris and the Priestleys, which details Iris Murdoch’s friendship with Jacquetta and J.B. Priestley using letters and photographs from the Priestley and Hawkes Archives.
The day was great fun and we learned a lot about Iris and her writings. We’re considering doing something similar for Priestley this September and Jacquetta next year …
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”.