Iris Murdoch as a book collector

IMG_5189Found – a receipt from the late booksellers Eric and Joan Stevens for books sold to the novelist Iris Murdoch in 1966. There is also a request in her hand  for anything by, or on, Pushkin. Iris Murdoch was very keen on Russian literature, especially Dostoyevsky, but she did not write about Pushkin – although her husband John Bayley wrote Pushkin: A Comparative Commentary which was published in 1971. This request may have been for him.

Her order is certainly eclectic- some religious, even mystical work, (Radhakrishnan and Swedenborg), a geezerish prison memoir, not at all her style – Frank Norman’s Bang to Rights and a book on the Samurai (‘Bushido’). Peter’s My Sister, My Spouse is about Lou Andreas Salome ‘A Biography of the Woman Who Inspired Freud’ (also Nietzsche and Rilke) – an important and much loved  writer and psychiatrist.  Penn’s  No Cross, No Crown is William Penn’s work on Primitive Christianity from 1669, probably not a first edition at 10 shillings, although the Stevens were always very reasonable in their pricing.

Other works ordered include  a Baedeker for the Rhine, possibly for a holiday. It its still fun to visit Europe with an old Baedeker. Schopenhauer is dealt with fairly well in her later work Metaphysics as a Guide  to Morals. Kropotkin fits in with her interest in Russian life and literature. Hale’s Famous Sea Fights is a mystery, possibly light reading or a present for a friend.

The Stevens’  had other famous writers as clients, including Anita Brookner and Geoffrey Hill, from whom they also bought many books. Iris Murdoch’s considerable library eventually went into the book trade, but not to Eric and Joan.

Iris Murdoch and friends

Found – a photo of a crowd of writers and intellectuals. The novelist Iris Murdoch is recognisable, with her husband John Bayley to her left and the man in suit and tie second last to the right is possibly Isaiah Berlin (without his usual heavy specs) described in an obituary ‘as the most prominent thinker of his generation.’ Probably from the early to mid 1970s and possibly taken in the garden of Iris’s house Cedar Lodge at Steeple Aston near Oxford. Oxford may well have provided most of the guests, some of whom look vaguely familiar. Identifications welcome.