‘Living on Paper: Letters from Iris Murdoch’

MTE5NTU2MzE2MzI0OTg4NDI3Victoria Glendinning at Literary Review:

I knew a man of Iris Murdoch’s generation, attractive to many women, who told me how he dreaded the ‘fat envelopes’ addressed to him at his office, stuffed with closely written pages. Wonderful though Iris Murdoch was, I could not help wondering as I read these overwhelming letters, published for the first time in this book (two printed pages of which constitute ten pages of her writing paper), whether some of her friends and lovers occasionally felt the same. She talked on paper as immoderately as some people talk on the telephone.

In her youth and in her prime she continually fell in love, or into intense friendships. ‘I find myself quite astonishingly interested in the opposite sex, and capable of being in love with about six men at once,’ she confessed. This led to imbroglios. Here is an extract from a letter written in 1945 to a former love, her Oxford contemporary David Hicks:

but anyway, it started when I went to live with a young man whom I didn’t love but whom I felt sorry for because he was in love with me, and because he has a complex about women (because of a homosexual past) … This was one Michael Foot [the historian M R D Foot] of Oxford, whom you may remember. In the midst of this, the brilliant and darling Pip Bosanquet came to lodge at Seaforth, who was then breaking off her relations with an economics don at Balliol, called Thomas Balogh, a horribly clever Hungarian Jew. I met Thomas, fell terribly in love, and he with me, and thus involved Michael in some rather hideous sufferings – in the course of which I somehow managed to avert my eyes and be, most of the time, insanely happy with Thomas. That is until I began to realize that Thomas was the devil incarnate and that I must tear myself away, although I adored him more and more madly every day. Pip, whom I love too, more than I ever thought I could love any woman, fell in love with Michael, most successfully salvaged what was left after my behaviour and married him.

more here.