Lidderdale letters

Letters from Iris Murdoch to Hal Lidderdale - December 2010

Iris Murdoch Archive has secured a run of 61 letters from Iris Murdoch to Hal Lidderdale for the Murdoch archives at Kingston University. The letters date mainly from 1945-1950 with some also from later years. They were bought privately and have now been put on long-term loan to the Special Collections.

Biographical information on Murdoch's relationship with Lidderdale is relatively sparse, so these letters bring into the open for the first time an engaging repartee with a man whom Murdoch trusted and respected. Lidderdale became friends with Murdoch when she was a student at Oxford. He shared her positive interest in the Communist Party and acted as a confidante during the most intense years of their correspondence in the mid to late 1940s and early 1950s. It is to Hal that Murdoch confesses the relentless boredom of her day-to-day life as a civil servant with UNRRA; her concerns about the post-War political situation in Europe; her deep hurt at her rejection by David Hicks, to whom she was briefly engaged, and her excitement on hearing a lecture by Sartre. To him she gives her impressions of her first cohort of Oxford students - 'sweet [...] beautiful young women with new look skirts and red nails who arrive for tutorials in cars' and they engage in 'philosophical gossip' about friends and philosophers, including Elizabeth Anscombe. She solicits Hal's help in translating some obscure French into English, probably as she was translating Queneau's Pierrot. In these letters it is possible to see the mind of the philosopher and novelist in embryo.

These engaging letters significantly enrich the university's holdings on Iris Murdoch and we are hugely grateful and indebted to our benefactor who wishes to remain anonymous. The letters are not yet catalogued but will be made available to researchers early in the new year.

Photograph of a desk in Iris Murdoch's study