Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life (Literary Lives)

  • 70 513 6
  • Like this paper and download? You can publish your own PDF file online for free in a few minutes! Sign Up

Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life (Literary Lives)

Iris Murdoch A Literary Life Priscilla Martin and Anne Rowe Literary Lives This series offers stimulating accounts of

1,724 709 2MB

Pages 225 Page size 394 x 615 pts Year 2010

Report DMCA / Copyright

DOWNLOAD FILE

Recommend Papers

File loading please wait...
Citation preview

Iris Murdoch A Literary Life

Priscilla Martin and Anne Rowe

Literary Lives This series offers stimulating accounts of the literary careers of the most admired and influential English-language authors. Volumes follow the outline of the writers’ working lives, not in the spirit of traditional biography, but aiming to trace the professional, publishing and social contexts which shaped their writing. Published titles include: Clinton Machann MATTHEW ARNOLD

Tony Sharpe T. S. ELIOT

Jan Fergus JANE AUSTEN

David Rampton WILLIAM FAULKNER

John Beer WILLIAM BLAKE

Harold Pagliaro HENRY FIELDING

Tom Winnifrith and Edward Chitham CHARLOTTE AND EMILY BRONTË

Andrew Hook F. SCOTT FITZGERALD

Sarah Wood ROBERT BROWNING

Mary Lago E. M. FORSTER

Janice Farrar Thaddeus FRANCES BURNEY

Shirley Foster ELIZABETH GASKELL

Caroline Franklin BYRON

Neil Sinyard GRAHAM GREENE

Sarah Gamble ANGELA CARTER

James Gibson THOMAS HARDY

Nancy A. Walker KATE CHOPIN

Linda Wagner-Martin ERNEST HEMINGWAY

Roger Sales JOHN CLARE

Cristina Malcolmson GEORGE HERBERT

Graham Law and Andrew Maunder WILKIE COLLINS

Gerald Roberts GERARD MANLEY HOPKINS

Cedric Watts JOSEPH CONRAD

Neil Roberts TED HUGHES

Grahame Smith CHARLES DICKENS

Kenneth Graham HENRY JAMES

George Parfitt JOHN DONNE

W. David Kaye BEN JONSON

Paul Hammond JOHN DRYDEN

R. S. White JOHN KEATS

Kerry McSweeney GEORGE ELIOT

Phillip Mallett RUDYARD KIPLING

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Founding Editor: Richard Dutton, Professor of English, Lancaster University

Gary Waller EDMUND SPENSER

William Gray ROBERT LOUIS STEVENSON

Tony Sharpe WALLACE STEVENS

Angela Smith KATHERINE MANSFIELD

Lisa Hopkins BRAM STOKER

Lisa Hopkins CHRISTOPHER MARLOWE

Joseph McMinn JONATHAN SWIFT

Cedric C. Brown JOHN MILTON

William Christie SAMUEL TAYLOR COLERIDGE

Priscilla Martin and Anne Rowe IRIS MURDOCH

Leonée Ormond ALFRED TENNYSON

Peter Davison GEORGE ORWELL

Peter Shillingsburg WILLIAM MAKEPEACE THACKERAY

Linda Wagner-Martin SYLVIA PLATH

David Wykes EVELYN WAUGH

Felicity Rosslyn ALEXANDER POPE

Caroline Franklin MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT

Ira B. Nadel EZRA POUND

John Mepham VIRGINIA WOOLF

Richard Dutton WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

John Williams WILLIAM WORDSWORTH

John Williams MARY SHELLEY

Alasdair D. F. Macrae W. B. YEATS

Michael O’Neill PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY

Literary Lives Series Standing Order ISBN 978–0–333–71486–7 Series Standing Order ISBN 978–0–333–80334–9 (outside North America only)

hardcover paperback

You can receive future titles in this series as they are published by placing a standing order. Please contact your bookseller or, in case of difficulty, write to us at the address below with your name and address, the title of the series and one of the ISBNs quoted above. Customer Services Department, Macmillan Distribution Ltd, Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS, England

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

John Worthen D. H. LAWRENCE

A Literary Life Priscilla Martin and

Anne Rowe Director of the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Iris Murdoch

All rights reserved. No reproduction, copy or transmission of this publication may be made without written permission. No portion of this publication may be reproduced, copied or transmitted save with written permission or in accordance with the provisions of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, or under the terms of any licence permitting limited copying issued by the Copyright Licensing Agency, Saffron House, 6–10 Kirby Street, London EC1N 8TS. Any person who does any unauthorized act in relation to this publication may be liable to criminal prosecution and civil claims for damages. The authors have asserted their rights to be identified as the authors of this work in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. First published 2010 by PALGRAVE MACMILLAN Palgrave Macmillan in the UK is an imprint of Macmillan Publishers Limited, registered in England, company number 785998, of Houndmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire RG21 6XS. Palgrave Macmillan in the US is a division of St Martin’s Press LLC, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010. Palgrave Macmillan is the global academic imprint of the above companies and has companies and representatives throughout the world. Palgrave® and Macmillan® are registered trademarks in the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and other countries. ISBN 978–1–4039–4850–2 hardback This book is printed on paper suitable for recycling and made from fully managed and sustained forest sources. Logging, pulping and manufacturing processes are expected to conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin. A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library. A catalog record for this book is available from the Library of Congress. 10 19

9 18

8 7 17 16

6 15

5 4 14 13

3 12

2 11

1 10

Printed and bound in Great Britain by CPI Antony Rowe, Chippenham and Eastbourne

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

© Priscilla Martin and Anne Rowe 2010 Cover image © Yevonde Portrait Archive

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

To John Bayley

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

This page intentionally left blank

Preface

viii

Acknowledgements

xii

Notes on References and Abbreviations

xiii

An Iris Murdoch Chronology: Significant Dates and Events

xiv

1

Early Life

2

After the War

1 14

3 Triangles and Polygons

36

4

58

Ireland

5 New Directions, Constant Themes

71

6

The Love Machine

7

Retreats and Returns

117

92

8

The Late Novels

135

9

Afterlife

163

Notes

172

Select Bibliography

190

Index

195

vii

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Contents

In a letter to the Indian scholar Saguna Ramanathan, Iris Murdoch said that searching for clues in her novels and linking them with each other is not as rewarding as actually studying a given work for itself.1 This study of her 26 novels takes just such an approach. Each novel is discussed in relation to issues and contexts that suggest themselves from a close reading. The structure is chronological so that readers can easily access whichever period of Murdoch’s career is of most interest. They are taken through Murdoch’s literary life from her entry into Badminton School in 1932, which produced her early poetry and polemical writing, through to her final novel, Jackson’s Dilemma, in 1995. Some consideration is given to Murdoch’s first book on philosophy, Sartre: Romantic Rationalist, alongside a detailed account of her first novel, Under the Net, because together they set up structures and themes, such as the dialectic between the ‘saint’ and the ‘artist’, that are to endure throughout the novels. We fall out of chronology slightly to include a chapter on Murdoch’s Irishness and the ‘Irish’ stories – ‘Something Special’, The Unicorn and The Red and the Green – because her Irish heritage was an intrinsic aspect of her literary identity. We do not explore her philosophy in relation to the novels in any systematic way, nor do we rehearse in any detail here her denial of being a philosophical novelist. However, in her book on Sartre, Murdoch paid particular attention to his novels which, she claimed, ‘reveal very clearly the central structure of his philosophy’.2 Similarly, we find her philosophical preoccupations – the death of God, the basis of morality, the problem of free will and the dangers of solipsism – vividly present in her fiction and discuss their varying significance in individual novels. The main purpose of this volume is to focus on the wealth of other influences and fields of knowledge on which Murdoch drew, and to explore relevant social, cultural and political issues that emerge out of the texts. Taking direction from such an abundance of allusions brings peripheral influences, themes and characters freshly into focus. Thus, particular bands of characters offer themselves for comment: the sages, teachers, mentors, viii

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Preface

ix

priests, civil servants and damaged outsiders. Murdoch’s love of the theatre and of Shakespeare, who she says is present in all her novels, comes to the fore, as does her love of painting and painters – Titian, Rembrandt, Tintoretto, Giorgione and Gainsborough. Her debt to Henry James emerges: like him, she employed the traditional form of the novel, experimented with it and discussed its implications in her theoretical work. As such, we consider her literary theory in relation to the novels. For example, ‘Against Dryness’ sets up the ‘crystalline’ and ‘journalistic’ categories Murdoch applied to fiction, fearing her own attention to the ‘crystalline’, to pattern and form at the expense of character, contingency and freedom. The settings of her novels, London, the Thames, Oxford and the sea, come into focus, as do some hitherto neglected influences: the extent of the role of medieval literature in The Green Knight, for example, and the transformation of traditional Christian doctrines into ‘neo-theological’ Murdochian terms. When questioned as to how far writers should use art for political purposes, Murdoch said that she did not think ‘that an artist should worry about looking after society in his art [...] I wouldn’t regard this as quite being my job as an artist [...] I think as an artist one’s first duty is to the art you practise, and to produce the best kind of work that you know how [...] It’s a novelist’s job to be a good artist, and this will involve telling the truth, and not worrying about social commitment. I think social commitment in so far as it interferes with art, is very often a mistake’.3 In the main, Murdoch’s fiction practises what she preaches, although we have pointed out a number of political analogies: for example, The Flight from the Enchanter is discussed as a novel of the Cold War and The Message to the Planet is described as ‘Millennialist’. Her involvement with the debate surrounding the Vietnam War runs concurrently with the writing of An Accidental Man (in which the War is an integral part of the plot). We have found political influences too in A Word Child by juxtaposing it with her consistent participation in debates on Government Education Policy and we discern more of an imaginative testing of the views she expounded there than previous critics. However, for the most part, the novels focus on how relationships between individuals are affected, but not entirely driven, by the events in the public domain. The political and cultural background seems to fade somewhat in the later books, which become longer, darker

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Preface

Preface

and denser, more brooding and inward-looking and more mystical. Information on her personal life is only included when it seems either inappropriate or disingenuous to ignore the resonances between her art and her life. The debate on how far the life and work are entwined is ongoing in Murdoch studies and is rehearsed in the final chapter, ‘Afterlife’, which looks at the Murdoch ‘industry’ that developed after her death, at contemporary Murdoch scholarship and the ever-increasing body of biographical information becoming available, which is creating its own challenges for Murdoch scholars. Murdoch passionately wanted the novel to be kept alive and not fail in its inclusiveness and ability to reach the human heart as well as challenge and expand the mind. She called herself a ‘moral psychologist’ and we also look at the ways in which the novels reveal her love of humanity and her just and tolerant presentation of human frailty, which is also a concern for representing human consciousness as accurately as possible in art. Her presentation of the moral dangers of sexual obsession, the terrible familiarity of long-term relationships and the ease with which she confronts homosexuality, sadomasochism and incest are seen against the respect she demands for the joy of sexual desire as a route to goodness. This is far from a definitive study of the myriad influences within Iris Murdoch’s novels; no single work could achieve such a distinction. But we have attempted to give a flavour of her moral and philosophical concerns, of literary influences, social and cultural contexts with which the novels engage and enough biographical information to indicate those actual experiences and people significant enough to seep into her fiction. Chapters indicate the shift in her emotions through ambition, exhilaration, self-doubt, indecision, reassessments, renunciations and finally to the fracturing of identity that was Alzheimer’s. We hope that for new Murdoch readers and seasoned Murdoch scholars alike, this study will instigate a broader interest in Murdoch’s work and its world, enable a deeper understanding of the nature of the creative process and, most of all, provide a means of intensifying the pleasure of her novels. Although Murdoch herself would want her readers to focus on what her novels cannot say too. Her first and last each ends with a reminder of the mystery of the world, that to which language can only point but not explain. In Under

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

x

xi

the Net Jake ponders the genetic diversity of Mrs Tinckham’s odd brood of Siamese/tabby kittens and accepts that they are ‘just one of the wonders of the world’4 and Jackson, in Jackson’s Dilemma, ‘come[s] to a place where there is no road’, walks down, towards the river, crosses a bridge and bids farewell with one last, enigmatic smile.5

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Preface

We are indebted to Peter Conradi’s Iris Murdoch: A Life and John Bayley’s trilogy of memoirs, most particularly the first volume, Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch, for biographical information referred to in this study. Valerie Purton’s An Iris Murdoch Chronology was also invaluable and we are grateful to Valerie for allowing us to keep our text uncluttered and reference as economically as possible. The Edward Mellen Press kindly gave permission to use material from The Visual Arts and Iris Murdoch freely. Michael Bott at the University of Reading archives gave access to the Chatto Archive and Dr David Smith, librarian at St Anne’s College, Oxford, to the St Anne’s archive. Jane Ruddell, former archivist at Kingston University, and her successor, Katie Giles, provided information on the materials acquired by the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies. We are grateful to John Bayley, Philippa Foot and Mary Midgley, who shared recollections of Iris Murdoch to Priscilla Martin, and to Marjorie Boulton, who imparted memories and gave access to Murdoch’s correspondence to her. Lawrence N. Hole at the Yevonde Portrait Archive gave permission for use of the cover portrait of Iris Murdoch by Madame Yevonde. The photograph itself is from the private collection of Peter Conradi who kindly made it available and assisted in tracking down copyright. Pamela Osborn and Frances White have provided invaluable editorial help.

xii

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Acknowledgements

References to the following texts refer to the editions indicated and are abbreviated as follows: Iris Murdoch, Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature, Peter J. Conradi (ed.) (London: Chatto & Windus, 1997): EM Peter J. Conradi, The Saint and The Artist: A Study of the Fiction of Iris Murdoch, 3rd edn (London: HarperCollins, 2001): SA Peter J. Conradi, Iris Murdoch: A Life (London: HarperCollins, 2001): IMAL Gillian Dooley, From a Tiny Corner in the House of Fiction: Conversations with Iris Murdoch (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2003): TCHF Iris Murdoch, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (London: Chatto & Windus, 1992): MGM Iris Murdoch, The Sovereignty of Good (London: Routledge, 1970): SG Valerie Purton, An Iris Murdoch Chronology (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007): IMC Anne Rowe (ed.), Iris Murdoch: A Reassessment (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007): IMAR Anne Rowe, The Visual Arts and the Novels of Iris Murdoch (Lampeter: Mellen, 2002): VAIM Editions of Iris Murdoch’s novels used are fully referenced at the first mention in each chapter with the original publication date. Thereafter, page numbers appear in parentheses.

xiii

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Notes on References and Abbreviations

1919

1925

1926 1931 1932 1938

1939

1942

1944

1945–6

Iris Murdoch born at 59 Blessington Street, North Dublin. She and her mother, Rene, move to 12 Caithness Road, Acton to join her father, Hughes, in November of this year. Attends the expensive Froebel Demonstration School at Colet Gardens in London. Annual holidays are spent in Dun Laoghaire in Ireland. The Murdoch family moves to 4 Eastbourne Road, Chiswick. Murdoch is made Head Girl of the Froebel School. She wins one of the two open scholarships to Badminton School, Bristol. Murdoch goes up to Somerville College, Oxford. She progresses from ‘Mods’, classical languages and literature, to ‘Greats’, ancient history and philosophy. Here she meets Mary Midgley, Philippa Foot, David Hicks, Frank Thompson, M.R.D Foot and others who will feature significantly in her life. She joins the Communist Party and becomes heavily involved in Labour Club activities. The Cherwell magazine publishes Murdoch’s poems and she tours with the Magpie Players, performing set-piece ballads and songs and short dramatic or comic interludes for charity. Becomes a civil servant in London, taking up a post as temporary Assistant Principal to the Treasury. She moves into 5 Seaforth Place, which she later shares with Philippa Foot. She frequents the pubs of Fitzrovia that are to be the haunts of her characters, including the Wheatsheaf and the Pillars of Hercules. Working for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). She grieves deeply at the death of Frank Thompson. Now in Brussels and Innsbruck, where she meets Raymond Queneau. She is deeply affected by the plight of displaced persons in the refugee camps. Her final posting is in Graz. She resigns in July 1946. xiv

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

An Iris Murdoch Chronology: Significant Dates and Events

1947

1948

1951

1953 1954

1956

1957

1958

Takes up Research Studentship in Philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge. She meets Wittgenstein and his pupil, Elizabeth Anscombe. Becomes Fellow and Tutor in Philosophy at St Anne’s College, Oxford. She teaches moral and political philosophy – Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Descartes, Berkeley and Hume, amongst other philosophers. She begins broadcasting on the BBC and publishing essays. Meets Franz Baermann Steiner, with whom she falls in love. He has a serious heart condition and dies the following year. Murdoch suffers deeply after his death. First book, Sartre: Romantic Rationalist, is published. It is dedicated to Murdoch’s parents. Murdoch meets her future husband, an Oxford don, John Bayley, at a party. She is diagnosed as partially deaf. Under the Net, her first novel, is published by Chatto & Windus, who will first publish all her subsequent novels. Under the Net, dedicated to Raymond Queneau, wins the runner-up prize for the novel at the Cheltenham Literature Festival. Her second novel, The Flight from the Enchanter, is published. The enchanter figure of the novel, Mischa Fox, is based on Elias Canetti. Murdoch marries John Bayley at a registry office ceremony in Oxford. They honeymoon in Italy and later in the year move into their country home in Steeple Aston. ‘Something Special’, a short story, appears in Macmillan’s Winter’s Tales, Volume 3. It is not to be published separately until 1999, after Murdoch’s death. Her third novel, The Sandcastle, dedicated to John Bayley, is published. It is not well reviewed. Murdoch’s father, Hughes, dies at the family home in Chiswick. The Bell is published to favourable reviews. It is a brave novel, dealing with male homosexuality, which was still illegal at the time. Murdoch is now the leading novelist of her generation. She gives radio interviews and writes articles and reviews, but is despondent about the quality of her writing.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

An Iris Murdoch Chronology: Significant Dates and Events xv

1959

1960 1961

1962

1963

1964

1965

1966 1967

A novel called Jerusalem is abandoned. Murdoch visits America and gives lectures at Yale. She travels to Boston, Washington and New York, but finds America alien. ‘The Sublime and the Good’ is published in the Chicago Review and ‘The Sublime and the Beautiful Revisited’ in the Yale Review. Murdoch prepares a defence of D.H Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover for its trial under the Obscene Publications Act. An important essay on the novel ‘Against Dryness’ is published in Encounter. A Severed Head, which includes an incestuous relationship between brother and sister, is published. Murdoch gives a talk, ‘Morality and the Bomb’, for a CND meeting in London. An Unofficial Rose is published in June. She resigns from St Anne’s in December after a near-scandal with a female colleague. The Unicorn is published. The play of A Severed Head, adapted by J.B. Priestley, opens in Bristol. She begins her part-time teaching job at the Royal College of Art in London, teaching philosophy in the General Studies Department. She is made an Honorary Fellow of St Anne’s. Her portrait is painted by Marie-Louise Motesiczky (it still hangs in St Anne’s). In the summer, the play of A Severed Head moves to London. ‘The Idea of Perfection’ is published in the Yale Review. ‘The Moral Decision about Homosexuality’ is published in Man and Society. Murdoch is the first woman to address the Philosophical Society at Trinity College Dublin. A.S. Byatt’s Degrees of Freedom is published. Murdoch’s only novel set specifically in Ireland, The Red and the Green, is also published in October of this year. The Time of the Angels is published. Murdoch’s review ‘The Darkness of Practical Reason’ is published in Encounter. Murdoch and John Bayley travel to Australia and New Zealand with the British Council. Her article against the Vietnam War, ‘Political Morality’, appears in the Listener. She gives ‘The Sovereignty of Good over Other Concepts’ as the Leslie Stephen lecture at Cambridge. The play, The Italian Girl, which was dramatized by James Saunders, opens at the Old Vic in Bristol.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

xvi An Iris Murdoch Chronology: Significant Dates and Events

1968

1969

1970

1971 1972

1973

1974 1975

1976

The Nice and the Good is published. It had already been made the World Book Club choice. The play of The Italian Girl moves to the Wyndham’s Theatre in London. Murdoch and Bayley travel with the British Council again, this time to Italy and Switzerland. Bruno’s Dream is published. Murdoch and Bayley travel to Japan. ‘On God and Good’ is published in The Anatomy of Knowledge. A Severed Head is made into a film by Dick Clement (starring Claire Bloom as Honour Klein). Murdoch’s essay ‘Existentialists and Mystics’ is published in Essays and Poems Presented to Lord David Cecil. Murdoch rents a flat in 62 Cornwall Gardens in South Kensington. She becomes a member of the Irish Academy. She and her husband attend a party at 10 Downing Street at the invitation of the Prime Minister, Harold Wilson. A Fairly Honourable Defeat is published. The Sovereignty of Good is also published this year. The Servants in the Snow, Murdoch’s exercise in political philosophy, opens at the Greenwich Theatre and flops. An Accidental Man is published. Murdoch buys the top flat in 29 Cornwall Gardens. She makes another British Council tour, this time to Mexico. This trip is followed by a month in the USA. Later she makes the Blashfield address, ‘Salvation by Words’, in New York. The article appears in the New York Review of Books. Murdoch’s play The Three Arrows opens in Cambridge with Ian McKellan in the leading role. The Black Prince is published and wins the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Murdoch writes a letter to The Times defending selective education. The Sacred and Profane Love Machine is published and wins the Whitbread Literary Award for Fiction. A Word Child is published. An Unofficial Rose is adapted for radio. Murdoch travels with the British Council to Tokyo and Kyoto in Japan. She writes an article on saving grammar schools for the Sunday Telegraph. Henry and Cato is published. Murdoch is interviewed by Malcolm Bradbury and Lorna Sage for the UEA Interviews series. She is awarded the CBE at Buckingham Palace.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

An Iris Murdoch Chronology: Significant Dates and Events xvii

1977

1978

1979 1980

1981 1982

1983

1984

1985 1986

Murdoch is made an Honorary Fellow of Somerville College. The Fire and the Sun: Why Plato Banished the Artists is published. She is interviewed for the Men and Ideas series by Brian Magee. Delivers a paper, ‘Art is the Imitation of Nature’, at the University of Caen. She travels to the USA. A Year of Birds, a small book of 12 short poems, is published, with engravings by Reynolds Stone. The Sea, The Sea is published and wins the Booker Prize. Murdoch visits China. Two Socratic dialogues, ‘Art and Eros’, written by Murdoch, are presented at the National Theatre, directed by Michael Kustow. Nuns and Soldiers is published. An opera, The Servants, written by the Welsh composer William Matthias and based on Murdoch’s play The Servants in the Snow, opens at the New Theatre, Cardiff. Murdoch spends a semester at the University of California at Berkeley. The Philosopher’s Pupil is published. The Bell is adapted for television. It is popular with viewers. Murdoch gives the Gifford Lectures in Edinburgh. The audience shrinks during the two weeks they are delivered. Murdoch attends a seminar on The Unicorn at the University of Caen. She also takes part in the Virginia Woolf Centenary Conference at Cambridge. She visits ‘The Genius of Venice’ exhibition at the Royal Academy and is deeply affected by Titian’s The Flaying of Marsyas, which is already one of her most revered secular icons. The painter Tom Phillips is commissioned to paint Murdoch’s portrait for the National Gallery. Murdoch spends six months at the University of California at Berkeley. Later in the year she visits Germany with the British Council and the itinerary includes a visit to Auschwitz. Murdoch’s mother, Rene, dies of a stroke. The Good Apprentice is published and is nominated for the Booker Prize. Murdoch and her husband move from Cedar Lodge to 68 Hamilton Road, Summertown, Oxford. Acastos: Two Platonic Dialogues is published and dedicated to Michael Kustow. In an interview in Books and Bookmen, Murdoch acknowledges the influence of her childhood reading, Treasure Island, Alice in

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

xviii An Iris Murdoch Chronology: Significant Dates and Events

1987

1988 1989

1990

1992

1993

Wonderland and Kim. Murdoch is made an Honorary Fellow of Newnham College, Cambridge. An informal symposium on her work is held at the Free University, Amsterdam. While there, she talks about her near-drowning in Dorset. During the MLA Convention in New York, the Iris Murdoch Society is inaugurated. Murdoch becomes a Dame of the British Empire in the New Year Honours list. She attends a conference in Delhi, India. Her portrait by Tom Phillips is put on show at the National Gallery. Her play about a political prisoner, The One Alone, is broadcast on BBC Radio 3. She speaks at Tulane University, New Orleans. The Book and the Brotherhood is published and she gets another nomination for the Booker Prize. Peter Conradi’s The Saint and the Artist is published. Murdoch is interviewed by Jonathan Miller for Granada Television for My God, a programme about religion. Murdoch’s seventieth year. Many newspapers and magazines carry celebratory articles. The BBC produces a Bookmark programme, ‘A Certain Lady’, in her honour. She is interviewed by A.N. Wilson. Penguin and Chatto organize a party. The play of The Black Prince, adapted with the help of Josephine Hart, opens at the Aldwych Theatre in London. Murdoch and her husband move to 30 Charlbury Road, Oxford. Somerville College, Oxford gives a literary lunch in Murdoch’s honour. Murdoch visits Norway with the British Council. The Message to the Planet is published. Murdoch receives the National Arts Club’s Medal of Honour for Literature in New York. She visits Spain with the British Council. The Sea, The Sea is broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (based on the 1982 Gifford Lectures) is published. Murdoch is in Spain again for the British Council. She makes her last trip to Japan and is awarded an honorary degree from Cambridge and from Kingston University. The Green Knight is published. Murdoch’s book on Heidegger (now in the Murdoch Archives at Kingston University) is abandoned at the proof stage.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

An Iris Murdoch Chronology: Significant Dates and Events xix

1994

1995

1997 1998

1999

2001

2002

2003 2004

A readers’ poll in the Sunday Times places Murdoch as the ‘greatest living novelist in English’. Murdoch attends a conference at the University of Chicago. In an interview for the Sunday Express, she mentions two more experiences of almost drowning – one off the north coast of Ireland and one at Chesil Beach in Dorset. Jackson’s Dilemma, Murdoch’s final novel, is published to respectful but mixed reviews. John Bayley announces that Murdoch is experiencing a ‘slight block’. Murdoch says she is in ‘a very, very bad, quiet place’. Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed by Dr John Hodges at Addenbroke’s Hospital, Cambridge. John Bayley’s Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch is published. It is widely discussed and causes heated debate in the national press. Murdoch dies at Yale House in Oxford on 8 February with her husband at her side. Her death is given precedence over that of King Hussein of Jordan on the BBC national news that evening. Her writing is appraised by her peers, A.S Byatt, Malcolm Bradbury, Melvyn Bragg and Sebastian Faulks among them. The authorized biography, Iris Murdoch: A Life, by Peter Conradi is published. The details of her unconventional sex life are sensationalized by the press. A conference on Murdoch’s philosophy is held at Brown University in the USA. The first conference of the Iris Murdoch Society is held at St Anne’s College, Oxford. Richard Eyre’s film Iris, starring Kate Winslet and Judi Dench as the young and old Murdoch respectively, is released. A.N. Wilson publishes Iris Murdoch: As I Knew Her. Kingston University, supported by the Iris Murdoch Society, successfully makes a public appeal to buy Murdoch’s heavily annotated Oxford library. In September, the second Iris Murdoch Society Conference, ‘Iris Murdoch: A Reassessment’, is held at Kingston University and the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies is inaugurated on this occasion by John Bayley.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

xx An Iris Murdoch Chronology: Significant Dates and Events

2006 2008

Kingston University holds the third Iris Murdoch Conference, ‘Iris Murdoch and Morality’, at Kingston University. Kingston University holds a fourth conference, ‘Iris Murdoch: Intertextuality and Interdisciplinarity’.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

An Iris Murdoch Chronology: Significant Dates and Events xxi

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

This page intentionally left blank

Early Life

Iris Murdoch’s literary life began publicly in 1932 when, at 13 years old, she won one of the first two open scholarships to the liberal and high-minded Badminton School in Bristol. Her fledgling literary works soon began to appear in the school magazine and their remarkable range demanded a sophisticated understanding of a variety of disciplines, genres and writing conventions. She composed a 13-stanza poem, ‘The Fate of the Daisy Lee’, and others, including ‘Come Pale Feet’, followed.1 Essays began appearing in 1934, ‘To Lowbrows’ and ‘To Highbrows’ in the Spring Term and ‘Unimportant Persons’ in the Summer Term.2 Her political acumen is notable. In 1935, she wrote ‘How I would Govern the Country’, an essay that defends constitutional monarchy and condemns imperialism and totalitarianism. Reviews on speakers, reports on school expeditions and the activities of the League of Nations Junior Branch and the Literary Club also appeared. She made translations of Horace’s Odes and Oedipus at Colonus. Her lifelong interest in music and art is evident: in a solo performance in Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, an essay on ‘Community Singing’ and linocuts entitled ‘The Prisoner’ and ‘The Piper’, also for the school magazine. Her intellectual versatility and an already impressive range of abilities were clearly evident. Inevitably, prizes began to come her way: joint first prize in 1937 in the magazine of the League of Nations for an essay attacking German attitudes towards Jews and defending democracy, and again the following year, the sole winner this time, for ‘If I were Foreign Secretary’. She was answering queries as to her future emphatically: she wanted to be a writer.3 1

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

1

Her first actual publication came in 1938 when a charity anthology she had edited, Poet Venturers: Poems by Bristol School Boys and Girls, was published and sold in aid of the Chinese Medical Fund. By now Head Girl, she had persuaded W.H. Auden, while on a visit to the school, to write a Foreword. Murdoch contributed two poems herself, ‘Star-Fisher’ and ‘The Phoenix-Hearted’: The Phoenix-Hearted As from the blue, pale flowering wave doth rise Kuan Yin, the goddess, with her still sad eyes. And as the phoenix flame-enraptured dies, Yet with a fiery crest is born anew; So China’s soul lived on. In every age The poet pensive by the torrent, sage Dark-browed with thought in mountain hermitage, Where white peaks pierce the cloudy heavens through, The patient artist striving to confine All nature’s loveliness within a line, The maiden working with a silk so fine Dragons of gold upon a cloth of blue, The founder, toiling through the midnight hours To cast the sonorous bell, the subtle powers Of potters making bowls like fragile flowers The emperor wise, administrator true, The farmer, whom the furrow’s narrow span For centuries contented – through all these there ran Old China’s life-blood. And from these Japan Learnt gentle arts, these tamed the Tartar crew. But now across these peaceful skies Where in the past the poet’s eyes Imagined dragons of the mist and cloud Stream hosts of glittering dragon-flies To fill with dust those quiet eyes

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

2 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

3

And cover ancient beauty with a stormy shroud. But strength in stillness lies. She is not dead. Kuan Yin again shall raise her gracious head, And though it fall in flames of bloody red The phoenix shall arise with plumage proud.4 This is a topical, traditional and prophetic poem. The young Iris, belonging to a generation soon to be caught up in a world war, is already imaginatively stirred by political events, in this case the SinoJapanese war and the culture it was ravaging. The book of poems had been her idea and the obvious poetic influence here is Yeats, who in ‘Lapis Lazuli’, for example, places political crisis against the background of ancient and Chinese art. ‘Lapis Lazuli’, too, proclaims faith in rebirth from bombs and tragedy and contemplates the carving of a landscape with mountains, clouds and musicians whose ‘ancient glittering eyes are gay’.5 Murdoch, born in Dublin in 1919 though brought up in London, felt Irish. She wrote of herself: ‘although most of her life has been spent in England, she still calls herself an Irish writer’ (IMAL, p. 24). Like Yeats (a voice of Ireland who also lived for years in England), she was drawn to Eastern art, philosophy and religion. Her reverence for oriental cultures emerges in the later novels, but also animates this early poem. The kind of people in the poem will appear repeatedly in the novels: writers, sages, artists and administrators. So will a sonorous eponymous bell and an inspirational character called Belfounder. Murdoch was a baby when her parents moved to London. Their home was in Hammersmith, the scene of the mime theatre in Under the Net, and the Thames plays a powerful and sometimes murderous role in several novels, for example, Under the Net, Bruno’s Dream and A Word Child. Though she spent most of her adult life in or near Oxford, London is Murdoch’s favourite setting, the city she celebrates most.6 And apart from Jake, the Bohemian narrator of Under the Net, happiest in Soho or the City, her London characters tend to live in the SW postal district near the river. Before Badminton School, Murdoch attended the experimental pacifist Froebel School, which prized imagination and creativity and prepared her well for Badminton. However, she was nonetheless homesick for her very close and loving parents and said later that her ‘schooldays lacked colour and gaiety’ (IMAL, p. 82). But Badminton

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Early Life

did provide an excellent education and an idealistic, ecumenical and politically aware atmosphere. She had a very good relationship with the formidable headmistress Beatrice May Baker and continued to see her after she left school, visiting her house, Little Grange, and naming a winning horse after it in Under the Net. In 1938, Murdoch published a poem about Miss Baker, celebrating her in Platonic terms: Pure idealism was what you had to give, Like no one now tells people how to live . . . A sort of universal Ancient Greece, Under whose cool and scrutinizing sun Beauty and Truth and Good were obviously one. But this rational sunlight was hideously threatened: And yet we knew of Hitler and his hell Before most people did, when all those bright Jewish girls kept arriving; they were well Aware of the beginning of the night . . .7 War broke out when Murdoch was an undergraduate. Having displayed such intellectual promise at school, she was unsurprisingly awarded an Open Exhibition to read English at Somerville College, Oxford, in 1938. She soon changed direction, however, moving to the study of Classics and studied ‘Mods’ (Greek and Latin language and literature) and ‘Greats’ (philosophy and ancient history), in which she took a first. Conradi suggests that ‘possibly the English tutor, Mary Lascelles, remembered as hard to please, failed to take to Iris’ (IMAL, p. 85).8 Murdoch loved her work and loved Oxford. Attractive, outwardly if not inwardly confident and energetic, she was loved by almost everyone, male and female, and many fell in love with her. She made friendships which were to last for life: with Somervillians Philippa Foot (née Bosanquet), Mary Midgley (née Scrutton) and Marjorie Boulton. She had eminent and inspiring tutors, such as the great Greek scholar Edouard Fraenkel and the flamboyant Christian philosopher Donald MacKinnon (whose affection for Murdoch was later to trouble his wife). She took part in college and university drama and was keenly politically involved, first in the Labour Club before joining the Communist Party. Many

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

4 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

5

years later The Book and the Brotherhood was to contain a group of people who have been friends since they were left-wing students. One of them has ever since been financed by the others to write a great radical book. Meanwhile, his supporters have abandoned or modified their youthful political views and are nervous about what the argument and influence of the book will be should it ever appear. Murdoch’s own political convictions would change over the years, but now she was a communist and even attracted converts to the Party. One such convert, attracted as much by Murdoch as by Marxism, was Frank Thompson (whose younger brother would become the distinguished left-wing historian E.P. Thompson), who was an exceptionally gifted student reading Classics at New College. It was a wonderful first year at Oxford; she published poems, reviewed for the student magazine, Oxford Forward, and published in the Cherwell,9 threw herself into political campaigns, committees, debates – and parties. The complicated love dances that were to provide the framework for her literary plots began when Frank Thompson fell for Murdoch, and M.R.D. Foot fell for Leonie Marsh, who in turn loved Frank but who later was to have an affair with Leo Pliatsky. Murdoch received no fewer than six marriage proposals in the summer term of 1939. Her interest in drama, which was to feed into the structure and form of her novels, was intensified by her involvement with the Magpie Players, an acting troupe organized by Tom Fletcher of Ruskin College. They travelled in the summer of 1939, performing ballads, sketches and songs in Oxford, Berkshire and Gloucestershire. However, reactions to the entertainment were mixed. The country was preoccupied with, and made anxious by, the imminent threat of war. When in September 1939 the Magpies played in Gloucestershire at an agricultural cooperative set up by a German refugee group, war was declared and Murdoch immediately returned to London and her parents. After the years of anxiety about the threat of Hitler, the international involvement in the Spanish Civil War, the false peace of Munich, it had happened. The prospect was of bombs, military service, bereavement, perhaps defeat, occupation and death. ‘Now we are all more earnest and more timid and no more careless rapture’, wrote Murdoch to Frank Thompson.10 Although students were not supposed to be called up before they were 20, Frank (a year younger than Murdoch) volunteered. They continued their warm relationship

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Early Life

with long frequent letters (‘a flow of talk’, IMAL, p. 148) until 1944, when Frank, in charge of a Special Operations mission, was executed in Bulgaria with some partisans and villagers who had helped them. Murdoch was to grieve for Frank throughout her life, dreaming about him, thinking that she would have married him. In the last chapter of The Red and the Green, the heroine, now middle-aged and married with a ‘tall son’, looks back on the friends of her youth and a man she loved, who was killed in the Easter Rising: ‘They had been made young and perfect forever, safe from the corruption of time and from those ambiguous second thoughts which dim the brightest face of youth.’11 In her own person, Murdoch expresses similar feelings in a poem written in 1977: ‘Agamemnon Class 1939: In Memoriam Frank Thompson 1920-1944.’ Its time scheme moves from the students in the class, knowing nothing of ‘the spirit’s failure [. . .] of sin or of pain,/The work of the knife and the axe’, anxious about ‘love’s incinerating crippling flame’ and Greek grammar, to a conflated Trojan War and Second World War considered finally from the viewpoint of the survivors: What was it for? Guides tell a garbled tale. The hero’s tomb is a disputed mound. What really happened on the windy plain? The young are bored by stories of the war. And you the other young who stayed there In the land of the past, are courteous and pale, Aloof, holding your fates. We have to tell you it was not in vain. Even grief dates, and even Niobe At last was fed, and you Are all pain and yet without pain As is the way of the dead.12 A simile in one of the novels describes a man before a firing squad trying to concentrate on the thought of the cause he dies for. As Conradi observes, ‘Iris is unusual among liberal novelists in admiring soldiers’ (IMAL, p. 151), perhaps because her ancestors were mainly Irish farmers or soldiers, and this admiration is apparent in the novels. In her representation of soldiers, Murdoch’s writing can exhibit unashamed affection, occasionally even sentimentality. From

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

6 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

7

James Tayper Pace in The Bell, who comes from a military family and leads an unreflectingly virtuous life, to the Buddhist miracle-working General James Appleby in The Sea, The Sea, the soldiers of the novels are courageous, courteous and unselfish. Murdoch’s adored father had served in the First World War and survived partly through the luck of being a cavalry officer – the cavalry having missed the slaughter of the trenches; her husband-to-be, John Bayley, served in the Second World War and, improbably, enjoyed the army. His brother, Brigadier Michael Bayley, was a professional soldier and perhaps (though Murdoch disliked any suggestion that her characters were modelled on actual people) the inspiration for Felix Meecham in An Unofficial Rose. During her years at Oxford, Murdoch was again politically engaged, selling copies of the communist newspaper the Daily Worker on the streets of Blackpool in 1940 when she visited her parents, who had been evacuated there. Later she became chairman of the Communist Oxford University Labour Club. In 1941, she ceased to support pacifism and accepted the need for war. Her literary interests at this time included the poetry of the Pre-Raphaelites, Proust, Shakespeare, Henry James, James Joyce, Mallarmé and Woolf. After graduating, having longed to take a more active part in the War and being jealous of her male contemporaries who did, she became for two years Assistant Principal in the Treasury. She reported ‘Oxford has nothing on the Treasury as far as tradition goes’ (IMAL, p. 135). But, as at Oxford, the proportion of women in the Treasury increased during the War. There are plenty of civil servants in the novels:13 Rupert in A Fairly Honourable Defeat, cultured, affluent, complacent; the narrator of The Black Prince, a retired tax inspector; the narrator of A Word Child, a willing slave to routine. The power struggles of the office are wryly chronicled in The Flight from the Enchanter and A Word Child. Such keen observation of her colleagues was to provide a meditation point for her future unravelling of the complexities of human relationships. In 1943, she wrote to David Hicks, the first man with whom she was seriously romantically involved, of ‘the complexity of human lives and the difficulty of understanding people because of their imperfections and inarticulacy’ (IMC, p. 27). Murdoch shared a flat in Westminster with Philippa Bosanquet in the centre of London in the middle of the War. Unlike some other novelists who lived in London during the Blitz – Elizabeth Bowen,

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Early Life

Graham Greene, Pamela Hansford Johnson and Muriel Spark – she did not write, at least in her published novels, about this apocalyptic time in London’s history: the sirens, the night raids, the ravaged streets, the sleepers in the Tube. However, despite the full-time job and disturbed nights, she was writing and perhaps some of the early vanished novels drew on this experience.14 Perhaps the nightly blackout and the constant danger contribute to the tenebrous London settings of A Severed Head and The Time of the Angels. Although she was working a full six-day week, she was nonetheless reading avidly, mainly theology, including Martin Buber’s I and Thou, and managed to fit in Pushkin, T.E Lawrence’s The Seven Pillars of Wisdom and the philosophy of Kierkegaard. In 1943, she published reviews in the Adelphi magazine, the first a review of Midnight Hour by Nicodemus, where she had attempted to understand the spiritual pilgrimage within it. In further reviews for the magazine,15 she began to put forward the idea that Christianity must change before it could draw in her own generation and it was here that the foundation for what was later to become her ‘neo-theology’ was laid.16 She kept her affiliation with the Communist Party during this time and, like all members then, was expected to pass on information about her work by dead-letter drop, which she did. Her personal life was becoming more complicated as she corresponded with David Hicks and Frank Thompson, all the while being involved with other men, including M.R.D. Foot and her philosophy tutor, Donald MacKinnon. Reading Henry James in September of this year, she compares herself to one of his heroines, acknowledging that she too might have a wild streak. She had by now begun writing novels herself and had completed her second in the summer of 1944. It was to be rejected later in the year by T.S. Eliot at Faber & Faber. After relishing the heady bohemian London life and frequenting the pubs that were to enrich the realism of her novels (the Pillars of Hercules, the Wheatsheaf, the Fitzroy Tavern and the Black Horse), in 1944 Murdoch moved to the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), set up to aid the liberated countries and their refugees. The first months of another office job in London were frustrating, but the next year, when the War ended, she was sent abroad in September for ten months, first to Brussels and then to Austria. Brussels thrilled her after the wartime years when travel had been almost impossible for civilians, and she threw herself into reading

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

8 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

9

French novels, seeing French films and exploring existentialism. In December, she was posted to Innsbruck, beautiful but much less intellectually exciting than Brussels, apart from the visit of Raymond Queneau, whose zany picaresque novel Pierrot Mon Ami Murdoch translated. In March, she was sent to the UNRRA headquarters in Klagenfurt and about a month later to Graz, a camp for refugees who had been accepted by the University of Graz. Despite the suffering they had undergone, the hardship of life on a minimal ration of food and the fear of repatriation, the students had been relatively fortunate and there was plenty of optimism and cultural activity at Graz. Murdoch made some lasting friendships among them and after her return to England continued to give personal, practical and financial help to refugees. They play a major role in her early novel The Flight from the Enchanter and often appear in her later fiction. Willy in The Nice and the Good and Julius in A Fairly Honourable Defeat are survivors of concentration camps. She responded to Simone Weil’s diagnosis of rootlessness as a sickness of modern life and thought that ‘the person who is literally an exile, the refugee, seems an appropriate symbol for the man of the present time’ (IMAL, p. 239).17 Murdoch had danced with the crowds in Piccadilly until the early hours on VE Day in May of 1945, but returning to England in the summer of 1946 was depressing. Although she was not certain that she wanted an academic career, she did apply for a Lectureship in Philosophy at Sheffield, investigated other university posts and put in for a Commonwealth Fellowship to study at the distinguished American Liberal Arts College, Vassar. She won the Fellowship and was accepted at Vassar but, to her bitter disappointment, was refused a US visa because she admitted to having been a member of the Communist Party. Fortunately, she was awarded a studentship in philosophy at Newnham College, Cambridge. A major attraction of Cambridge for Murdoch was Ludwig Wittgenstein, who was to be a permanent influence on her thought and fiction. However, she was just too late to hear his lectures, as he had resigned his Fellowship at Trinity in the summer of 1947 and moved to Ireland in December. Murdoch met him a couple of times and became close friends with some of his pupils, including Elizabeth Anscombe, Georg Kreisel and Yorick Smythies, who inspired the character of Hugo in Under the Net. In 1948, Iris Murdoch returned to Oxford as Fellow in Philosophy at St Anne’s College. A teaching fellowship at Oxford was demanding

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Early Life

in terms of contact hours with students, faculty participation and college administration. Nonetheless, Murdoch found time to work at her novels. Until she gave up her teaching position and became a full-time writer, her letters to her publishers are punctuated by complaints about the demands of term and examining: ‘I’ll take the thing back to Oxford with me and see what can be done when term has settled down a bit. I’ll try to keep my pupils at bay and not keep you waiting too long’;18 ‘Dreadful beginning of term is on me and girls I have never seen or heard of are turning up and claiming to be, and indeed to have been, my pupils’.19 Despite her dismissive tone, Murdoch was an excellent tutor, committed, tolerant and generous with her time. Many of her pupils became devoted to her and some remained lifelong friends. Although teaching took time, perhaps the difference Murdoch perceived between philosophy and fiction meant that they did not make similar demands on her. She always protested at being called a philosophical novelist (for example, in an interview for the Scotsman with William Foster).20 In another interview, this time with Simon Blow, she eloquently described her sense of the contrast: Philosophy is a counter-natural activity that goes against the bent of the human mind whereas art goes with the bent of the human mind. There’s a myth in Plato about the world being pushed one way by God for a certain period, then God lets go and it rolls back a natural way. I feel that philosophy is pushing the cosmos in a direction which is unnatural to it, and then when you let go you’re back in art as you heave a sigh of relief and you’re flowing with the current and your canoe is careering down the river.21 The professional philosophers in her novels come off rather badly, tending, like Tallis and Rupert in A Fairly Honourable Defeat, to be ineffectual or complacent. However, the term ‘counter-natural’ need not be pejorative. In Plato’s myth, the counter-natural movement is also divinely inspired.22 In some ways, Murdoch had returned to the place she entered in 1938 but, even if the Oxford system and the academic syllabus remained much the same, a great deal had happened during six years of war and its aftermath. It was a time of austerity and innovation. The Labour victory in the General Election of 1945 was a mandate

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

10 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

11

for change and reform. The world had altered too profoundly for too many people during the previous six years for Britain to return to pre-War hierarchies and injustice. The 1944 Education Act had already given bright lower-class children entry to the grammar schools, which would prepare them to gain more places at the universities than ever before. Now major services and industries were nationalized and the National Health Service was introduced. For left-wing intellectuals, such as Murdoch, the new developments were welcome. In 1945, she wrote jubilantly of the Election: ‘Oh wonderful people of Britain! After all the ballyhoo and eyewash, they’ve had the guts to vote against Winston! [. . .] I can’t help feeling that to be young is very heaven!’ (IMAL, p. 211).23 However, in her 1961 essay ‘Against Dryness’, Murdoch would express mixed feelings about the effects of the Welfare State. She describes it as the ‘reward of empiricism in politics’, representing ‘a set of thoroughly desirable but limited ends, which could be conceived in non-theoretical terms [. . .] We have suffered a general loss of concepts, the loss of a moral and political vocabulary’.24 The ends at least were desirable but, as often when ends are achieved, there is an unexpected sense of disappointment. It is a philosopher’s complaint and a moralist’s. The linguistic philosophy central to post-War Oxford rigorously examined moral vocabulary, but also contributed to its loss. Murdoch did not completely fit in. Philippa Foot recalls, ‘We were interested in moral language, she was interested in the moral life’.25 Her first philosophical publications came in the early 1950s, appearing in the annual ‘Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society’ alongside Gilbert Ryle and A.C. Lloyd. She presented her first paper to the Society in June 1952, entitled ‘Nostalgia for the Particular’, which was later published in the ‘Proceedings’, and in the same year she wrote ‘The Existential Political Myth’ for The Socratic Dialogue.26 Her philosophical career, if not yet her literary career, was becoming well established. Yet Murdoch had written several novels – perhaps four, five or even six – before Under the Net (IMAL, p. 170). She came to think that Eliot was right to have turned down the novel she had sent to Faber, but she had no trouble publishing Under the Net. Gwenda David, who worked for Viking, received the typescript, happened to dance with Ian Parsons of Chatto & Windus at a party, mentioned the novel to him and sent it to Norah Smallwood at Chatto in August 1953. Chatto accepted the novel and Viking agreed to co-publish it in the

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Early Life

USA. All Murdoch’s subsequent novels were first printed in hardback by Chatto and Viking. She was both loyal to Chatto and uninterested in the business side of publication. An undated letter of 1972 to Norah Smallwood denies, with many exclamation marks, that she has received or would accept an offer from Collins: ‘I have no sympathy with you at all! Do you imagine that I have gone potty? [. . .] As if I would write a thriller anyway. (Except the ones I usually write.) And if I did of course you should have it! With much love from your faithful author.’27 However, her fidelity was probably costly. John Bayley recalls a ‘guilty smile’ of Norah’s at the subject of her financial dealings with Murdoch.28 Murdoch and Smallwood became friends, enjoying a very affectionate and harmonious relationship until Smallwood’s death in 1984. By the 1960s, letters begin ‘Dearest Iris’ and ‘Dearest Norah’ However, there is, characteristically, almost no discussion on Murdoch’s side of her novels. She rarely spoke of them to her husband or friends and wrote about them as little as possible to her editors. She is also resistant to their editorial suggestions. While as a new novelist she might have been anxiously eager to please and reconsider, on the contrary she shows this insouciance, refusing ‘quite apart from a total lack of time’ to make alterations. Marshall Best, her American editor at Viking, provides responsive and detailed critiques of the novels as each reaches him, but, to his growing exasperation, Murdoch ignores or refuses to act on them. Norah Smallwood refrains from this thankless endeavour. The pattern is constant: Murdoch finishes a novel and Smallwood receives it with warm enthusiasm and discerning praise. Murdoch agrees to the terms proposed and shows a lively and critical interest in the dust-jacket. The usual correspondence about proofs ensues. With amazing speed Murdoch mentions that she has almost finished another novel and will be sending or delivering it soon. Apart from the practicalities of publication, their letters exchange news of friends, holidays, the odd illness or accident. They both admit to having watched a royal wedding on television. From time to time Murdoch enquires if Smallwood might know of any job for a friend or pupil or read someone’s poems or novel. After Under the Net was accepted, Murdoch’s only indecision seems to have been about its title. Gwenda David writes, ‘Iris Murdoch says she is demented about it’.29 Murdoch submits a list of possibilities such as Dialogue of One, The Looker-On, The Last Word and That’s What

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

12 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

13

I Said. Smallwood likes Waiting for the Echo. Ian Parsons suggests Time’s Fool. Smallwood tells Murdoch that nobody at Chatto is happy about Truth and the Jester.30 One of Murdoch’s impossible titles, If Silent a God, is awkward but haunting. It confers a numinous power on Hugo’s respect for silence and perhaps illuminates Murdoch’s reticence about her writing. The allusion recurs in a later novel, A Severed Head: ‘Remember the legend of Psyche, whose child, if she told about her pregnancy, would be mortal, whereas if she kept silent it would be a god.’31 Eventually the title Under the Net, with its air of inevitable rightness, was contributed by Viking’s Winnie Scott. Under the Net was an immediate success. It won second prize in the First Novel competition at the 1954 Cheltenham Festival of Literature (the first prize went to Brigid Brophy’s Hackenfeller’s Ape) and Lord David Cecil described it as a: surprising amalgam of rollicking farce, philosophic discussion and dreamy lyrical poetry [. . .] each element is fascinating in itself, each bears the mark of a distinguished and original intelligence and is afire with a responsiveness to life at once exuberant and delicate [. . .] a book of pulsating life – life that one feels was in full swing long before the novel begins and which continues on and on in endless convolutions after the last page [. . .] all the people in it are slightly potty, but like true eccentrics, unaware of their own eccentricity. The dizzy world they live in – where money is not earned but won, not spent but lost – to them is perfectly normal.32 The Times Literary Supplement review welcomed a ‘brilliant talent’.33 Kingsley Amis in the Spectator welcomed ‘a distinguished novelist of a rare kind’.34 Iris Murdoch was suddenly an established author and all her future work would be accepted as a matter of course.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Early Life

After the War Under the Net (1954) and The Flight from the Enchanter (1956)

In the 1950s, when Murdoch’s novels began to be published, the literary context was largely non-theoretical and untheorized. Much English writing of the fifties displayed a modest or chauvinistic insularity. The powerfully influential literary critic F.R. Leavis concentrated on literature written in English. New Criticism pretended to eschew contextualization.1 New Lines, a collection of verse by a new generation of poets including Philip Larkin, Kingsley Amis, D.J. Enright, Elizabeth Jennings, Thom Gunn, Donald Davie and John Wain, was lucid and proudly unpretentious. The editor, Robert Conquest, explained, ‘it submits to no great systems of theoretical constructs nor agglomeration of unconscious commands. It is free from both mystical and logical compulsions and – like modern philosophy – is empirical in its attitude to all that comes [. . .] [it refuses] to abandon a rational structure and comprehensible language’.2 He was contrasting these poets with their modernist and surrealist predecessors, who were international, experimental, obscure, preoccupied with the unconscious and with myth. The new play that characterized the decade was John Osborne’s realist, ‘fourth-wall’, three-act Look Back in Anger, which was angry largely at a boring and unheroic new era, not the equally successful Waiting for Godot, which was mysterious, theologically haunted, formally original and first written in French. Kingsley Amis’s bestselling first novel, Lucky Jim, had affinities with Osborne’s play. Jimmy Porter’s university is not even red brick, it is white tile, while Jim Dixon lectures at a provincial university and both characters share a contempt for the pretentious, which includes ‘high’ culture. In Amis’s third novel, I Like 14

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

2

15

It Here, a writer is awarded a grant to go to Spain and, unlike both the cosmopolitan modernists and the political authors of the 1930s, fears and suffers from the strangeness of ‘abroad’. Murdoch was to be enduringly committed to tradition, aligning herself with the English Realist tradition that encompassed Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and George Eliot, those writers who demonstrate the ‘truthfulness of great art’ and ‘overcome egoism and fantasy’.3 However, from the start she was also energized and excited by what was going on ‘abroad’. Murdoch’s first three books looked to the European as much as to the English tradition. Like many English intellectuals at the time, Murdoch was in love with France and in the first pages of Under the Net we learn that the hero owns the novels Pierrot mon Ami by Raymond Queneau, to whom the book is dedicated,4 and Murphy by Samuel Beckett, who lived in France and wrote in French as well as English. Under the Net is self-reflexive in that Murdoch, like her first-person narrator, Jake Donaghue, is a fledgling writer trying to work out what kind of novel she wants to write. Her letters to Queneau are full of ideas about the novel form; she had many discussions with him about style and she was excited at the arrival of his Exercises de Style, in which the same event is described in 99 different ways: ‘These games with language, with speech, with beingin-words – thrill me very much’, she said.5 In 1946 she read a book of essays by Rimbaud and disagreed with him about the relative importance of form in the novel. She said that for her, formal perfection came first, but she accepted that she also wished to write about ideas and understood that, as with skiing, one could lose control (IMC, p. 42). In these early post-War novels, both the problems of the age and the problems of making good art are acted out: how far should the writer follow tradition? How far should she experiment with form? And for this particular writer, how exactly should her role as philosopher inform her fiction? Murdoch’s first book was in fact philosophy, not fiction: Sartre: Romantic Rationalist, published in 1953, sprang from her meeting Sartre, her post-War experience of working in Brussels and Innsbruck, visiting Paris and her study of philosophy at Oxford and Cambridge. In 1944 she was writing of the ‘intellectual exaltation’ (IMAL, p. 214) inspired by the French existentialists and she recalled the excitement in her Introduction to the 1980 edition of her book on Sartre: ‘The war was over, Europe was in ruins, we had emerged

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

After the War

from a long captivity, all was to be remade. Sartre’s philosophy was an inspiration to many who felt that they must, and could, make out of all that misery and chaos a better world, for it had been revealed that anything was possible. Existentialism was the new religion, the new salvation.’6 Murdoch had attended Sartre’s lecture in Brussels in 1944 and met him in a café there afterwards.7 Her account of Sartre is not, however, evangelical. Her investigations of his views of language, consciousness, freedom and society lead to an impasse: ‘As a European socialist intellectual with an acute sense of the needs of his time Sartre wishes to affirm the preciousness of the individual and the possibility of a society which is free and democratic in the traditional liberal sense of those terms [. . .]. As a philosopher, however, he finds himself without the materials to construct a system which will hold and justify these values; Sartre believes neither in God nor in Nature nor in History’ (SRR, p. 105). Murdoch’s main problem as a philosopher and an atheist was to justify moral absolutes in a world without God. But she differed from Sartre in perceiving this absence as a painful dilemma and was to question the freedom and solipsism of his lonely godless modern individual. Philosophically, Under the Net is indebted to Sartre, Wittgenstein and Simone Weil. In 1945 Murdoch wrote to David Hicks about the French novel, which she thought was more exciting than the English novel at the time: French writers, ‘probably because of the continuing influence of the Church, [were] still fascinated by the basic struggle between Good and evil’. She explained existentialism to Hicks as a theory of the self and its relations with others and of the self’s attitude to death. She was interested, she said, not so much in the theory itself as in what novelists do with it (IMC, p. 39). Sartre: Romantic Rationalist focuses mainly on Sartre as novelist, rather than as dramatist or philosopher, because ‘the novels [. . .] reveal very clearly the central structure of his philosophy’ (p. 138). The first chapter concerns La Nausée, ‘his most densely philosophical novel’, which ‘contains all his interests except the political ones’ (SRR, p. 39). Its subject is the nausea felt by Roquentin at objects in general and his own existence in particular in the dreary provincial town of Bouville, teaching and trying to write a biography in which he does not believe. Although Sartre’s political interests are manifest in his unfinished tetralogy, Les Chemins de la Liberté, which takes place during the

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

16 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

17

terrible years of the Spanish Civil War, the Munich crisis and the fall of France, Murdoch’s chapter on it concentrates on the lack of relationships and communion between humans, a tenet of Sartre’s philosophy and an enemy of morality in her own. Her own dilemmas and preoccupations are evident in her discussion of those of Sartre. The third chapter, ‘The Sickness of the Language’, is a brief introduction to modernism, which analyses various consequences for literature and philosophy of the loss of faith in the referential quality of language (these are all philosophical issues that find their way into Under the Net. Hugo Belfounder is such a sceptic). Although Murdoch does not accept the logical positivist dichotomy between ‘emotive’ and ‘referential’ language or Sartre’s similar contrast between poetry and prose, these distinctions do bear some relation to her own categories of ‘crystalline’ and ‘journalistic’ novels which she later presented in ‘Against Dryness’.8 Indeed, Sartre is something of a crystalline novelist. In his philosophy the human subject is as questionable as its language, and mutual equal love is an impossibility. A sincere and solipsistic freedom is his ideal. The characters in his novels largely represent viewpoints, one reason why Murdoch considers drama his favoured medium. But she thinks Sartre’s limitations are symptomatic of his time. She concludes: ‘His inability to write a great novel is a tragic symptom of a situation which afflicts us all. We know that the real lesson to be taught is that the human person is precious and unique; but we seem unable to set it forth except in terms of ideology and abstraction’ (SRR, p. 148). So, despite Murdoch’s reservations about his philosophy, Sartre’s first novel is clearly related to her own first novel. Roquentin’s nausea at objects, with their swelling, viscous, complacent particularity, discredits theory and generalization for him: ‘I saw that there was no middle way between non-existence and this swooning abundance. What exists at all must exist to this point, to the point of mouldering, of bulging, of obscenity.’9 Yet is nausea the only, necessary or authentic response to stones, trees, people and pictures? (Murdoch’s own work displays a special fondness for stones.) ‘Why, asks Gabriel Marcel, does Sartre find the contingent over-abundance of the world nauseating rather than glorious?’ (SRR, p. 49). The abundance of the world is glorious in Murdoch’s novels. Respect for contingency is to be vital to her fiction and philosophy.10 Jake, the narrator of Under the Net, is implicitly criticized for his unease with the contingent. Hugo, whom

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

After the War

Jake both reveres and opposes, is a man without theories and he presents Hugo’s view of reality as ‘unutterably particular’.11 Murdoch’s fiction is pervaded by the dialectic between two kinds of characters who have been labelled the ‘saint’ and the ‘artist’ The saint need not be especially saintly nor the artist especially talented or even, though often a painter or a writer, literally an artist. Conversely, the saint can be an artist of a sort. Hugo has been a creator of fireworks and now heads a film company. The terms of saint and artist are shorthand for opposing attitudes towards creativity, egotism, fantasy and fabulation. Jake and Hugo dramatize this opposition in clear and comic terms. They are opposite in many ways. Hugo is a large, clumsy, shambling man with no care for personal dignity. Jake is short, trim, agile and self-aware. Hugo (like Wittgenstein) is very rich and keeps trying to disembarrass himself of his money, but always becomes rich again. Jake is a struggling writer, supporting himself mostly by hackwork, translating novels he despises, and pornography. If he acquires money, it disappears rapidly. During the course of the narrative Jake makes, loses and gives away money, and ends up with almost exactly the same sum in his pocket as at the beginning. The major difference between the ‘saint’ and the ‘artist’ concerns language. Jake perceives Hugo as a man without theories. One of the attractions of fireworks for Hugo is their instant and ephemeral quality; when they inspire criticism, classification and theory, he abandons them for another project. Jake and Hugo first meet when they share a room as guinea pigs at a cold-cure research centre. At first Jake is surly and taciturn and even wonders if the considerate unspeaking Hugo is mentally defective but, when he breaks their silence himself, he is spellbound. Indeed, Hugo is, unlike most of Murdoch’s ‘saints’, oddly charismatic. They fall into a conversation so compulsive that they keep signing up to be experimented on for further weeks until the authorities fear for their health and dismiss them. Among many other subjects, they talk of language. Hugo’s view is that we cannot tell the truth in words. His position is similar to that of Wittgenstein who, in Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,l2 uses the image of nets, with various patterns of mesh or degrees of fineness, to illustrate the view that our perceptions are organized by language and conceptualization. Hugo finally tells Jake that perhaps one should not talk at all and they laugh together because they have been talking non-stop for weeks. It is literally a reductio ad absurdum. But their

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

18 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

19

laughter implicitly makes the serious point that humans do need language for emotional as well as practical purposes. And, as Jake remarks, there are theories around, such as political theories, with which we ought consciously and responsibly to engage. In action, at least, Hugo does endorse this view: his latest donation of his money and possessions at the end of the novel is to Lefty Todd’s New Independent Socialist Party. Jake, as a writer, is compelled to defend language against Hugo’s attack. With a guilty inevitability, he writes a book on the subject. This begins merely as a private record of their conversations. But Jake finds himself recreating passages he cannot perfectly recall, sharpening arguments, reorganizing their discourse more logically and improving the style. He is, paradoxically, proving Hugo right, producing a ‘falsified’ version of their discourse. His project of transcribing a conversation should be the easiest in which to use language accurately. But even the attempt to turn spoken words into written words proves impossible. Jake regards his book as a travesty and a betrayal which Hugo would justly resent but, when he is approached by a publisher, is unable to resist. The Silencer is a commercial failure and, as soon as it comes out, Jake, unable to face Hugo, drops him without explanation. Hugo, as we learn late in the novel, was interested and not at all annoyed by the book, which he fails to recognize as a spurious representation of his own ideas. Jake was wrong about Hugo’s reactions and this is not his only mistake or illusion. Wittgenstein’s image of the net inspires the title and is quoted in The Silencer: ‘All theorizing is flight. We must be ruled by the situation itself and this is unutterably particular. Indeed, it is something to which we can never get close enough, however hard we may try as it were to crawl under the net’ (p. 80). Unlike Hugo, Jake is a theorist and most of his theories are disconfirmed during the course of the novel. At the beginning he remarks that his friend Finn is always saying that he will go back to Ireland but he never will. Finn does. Jake regularly translates the popular novels of Jean Pierre Breteuil, which he despises until Breteuil wins the Prix Goncourt with a work that Jake recognizes instantly as different and good. When Sadie Quentin, the sister of Anna, the girl with whom Jake was once involved and believes he still loves, tells Jake that Hugo is in love with her and besieges her with unwelcome approaches, Jake decides instead that it is she who is in love with Hugo and he with her sister Anna. Jake

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

After the War

has no evidence for this theory other than his preconceptions that Sadie is a liar and not Hugo’s type, and that Anna, whom he himself loves, is more lovable. Yet many new readers believe Jake, though he has ‘unreliable narrator’ written all over him (he contrasts Finn’s truthfulness with his own subtlety in the first chapter).13 The charm of his style is seductive. Jake and Hugo are both more compelling and attractive than the artists and saints of Murdoch’s later fiction. Murdoch’s first-person narrators (all male) inhabit self-constructed worlds, often locked in or partially released by the experience of falling in love. Although Jake is wilfully deluded (and literally locked in or locked out) for most of the novel, he has a wit and decency which temper his egotism. Plato’s myth of the cave is equally fundamental to the book and also recurs in later novels. In the Republic, Plato likens humans to prisoners in a cave who sit in chains with their backs to the entrance and the sunlight outside.14 A fire behind them is their only source of light. Between the fire and the prisoners, images are carried and their shadows flicker on the back wall of the cave. These – the shadows of copies seen in poor light – the captives take for reality. A note to Cornford’s translation, which Murdoch knew, suggests, ‘A modern Plato would compare his Cave to an underground cinema, where the audience watch the play of shadows thrown by the film passing before a light at their backs. The film itself is only an image of “real” things and events in the world outside the cinema’.15 For Murdoch, in whose synthesis of Freud and Plato the fire figures as the ego, the cinema is also a catalyst of unreality in its production and gratification of fantasy.16 Several of the characters of the novel are involved in this industry. Hugo owns a film company, Sadie is a movie star and so is Mister Mars, the virtuous Alsatian dog kidnapped by Jake. One of Jake’s two meetings with Hugo during the course of the novel takes place on a film set and the plot includes attempts to steal his translation of one of Breteuil’s novels for a film script. Both the ‘outer’ plot of action, intrigue, business and big money and the ‘inner’ plot of love, ideas and ideals are fuelled by fantasy. Yet Plato would presumably not share the value Murdoch places on the contingent and particular. A joke early in Under the Net is a veiled critique of Idealism, Plato’s theory that everything in this life is an imperfect copy of a general Idea. At the opening of the novel, Jake and Finn have just been evicted by Jake’s friend Magdalen, with

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

20 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

21

whom they have been living. Magdalen is both a typist and a model: she is very conventionally pretty. Her hair and make-up follow the fashions suggested by the movies and the magazines but ‘she has not succeeded in rendering herself quite featureless [. . .]. Women think that beauty lies in approximation to a harmonious norm [. . .] they fail to make themselves indistinguishably similar [because] they lack the time and the money and the technique. Film stars, who have all these, are indistinguishably similar’ (p. 10). In the Symposium, Socrates describes the ascent of the soul from the love of a beautiful body to the contemplation of the divine cosmic harmony. The love of one beautiful body leads up to the love of beauty in all bodies and finally to the love of the Idea of beauty. This erotic theology will later inform the ‘inner’ plot of The Black Prince. But Jake prefers the individual and imperfect and, despite his limitations as a narrator and a person, here he speaks for the author.17 There is an authority in Jake’s tone. One feels everyone would agree, except Plato and some typists. Reflection, in its various senses, is a constant theme in Under the Net. Jake manages to track Anna down at a strange mime theatre in Hammersmith and finds his way into a rehearsal: ‘What was going on was not clear to me but it seemed that a huge burly central figure, wearing a mask which expressed a kind of humble yearning stupidity, was being mocked by the other players’ (p. 36). This figure, whom Jake finds powerful and strangely familiar but does not recognize, is Hugo. We may sense analogies with the figure of Christ in the Passion scenes of the Mystery Plays and the holy fool Prince Myshkin in The Idiot, one of Murdoch’s favourite novels. This temple to silence is an odd place to find Anna, who is a singer. Jake realizes that the mime theatre must be Anna’s version of Hugo’s distrust of language but, as with The Silencer, Hugo himself fails to see the connection: ‘It was you reflected in Anna’, Jake later tells him, ‘just as that dialogue was you reflected in me’, but Hugo replies, ‘I don’t recognize the reflections’ (p. 229). Early in the novel, Jake admits that his main enjoyment is in reflection. Perhaps this too refers to Plato, who thought everything in the world a copy or reflection. Reflection is Jake’s refuge from the real, the compulsion and the inability to copy truthfully, and the shadowy copies themselves. His work of translation is a kind of reflection. In Paris, Jake contemplates the fragmented image of Notre Dame in the Seine, suddenly sees Anna, pursues her through crowds

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

After the War

and darkness and then catches up with a prostitute. The real woman has disappeared between the polarized images of Madonna and whore, and Magdalen, with her meretricious and saintly name, reflects the taste of the various men who support her. Jake’s relations with others and his love for them consist largely of reflection and projection. Love and ideas always animate each other in Murdoch’s fiction. In the same way that her life at this time was a confused mixture of intellectualism and intense emotional and sexual imbroglios with both genders, in Under the Net, while Jake meditates on language, theory and art, he pursues both Anna and Hugo, eager to be reunited with the ex-lover as well as the ex-interlocutor. Love is Murdoch’s major theme in all her novels. Like Murdoch, her characters, especially in the later novels, notoriously fall in love instantly or rapidly, inexplicably, absolutely and mutably. With total commitment they suddenly change partners or choose dangerous and impossible partners. Love is crucial to her philosophy because falling headlong into it can turn us into angels or demons. It can strip us of ourselves so that it can make us see others more clearly and thus make us better. Alternatively, it can titillate the fantasy life so that we become sexually obsessed, deluded and irresponsible. Murdoch was not interested in love simply for its romantic plot interest, though she maximizes its comic as well as moral possibilities. Under the Net in fact is romantically far less wild than its successors, though Anna ‘as Hugo so horribly put it [took] one look’ (p. 237), fell in love at first sight and acted wildly thereafter. Hugo rebukes Jake’s incredulity that he can love Sadie rather than Anna with a lame but wise generalization: ‘You know anyone can love anyone, or prefer anyone to anyone.’ Aptly and awkwardly, he sums up the situation: ‘it’s like life, isn’t it? I love Sadie, who’s keen on you, and you love Anna, who’s keen on me’ (p. 227). Indeed, it is like life, but it is also like Shakespearian comedy, a major influence on Murdoch’s work. The characters in A Midsummer Night’s Dream fall in and out of love during the night in the forest, convinced that they are behaving reasonably under the enchantment of the magic juice, which produces a speeded-up version of the passions and inconstancy of the daytime world. (There is even a love potion in The Good Apprentice.) ‘Love looks not with the eyes but with the mind’, says Helena, suggesting that the lover sees not the actual beloved but an image of his or her own desires.18 To use the

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

22 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

23

psychoanalytic term, the lover projects. ‘Anyone can love anyone’, says Hugo to Jake. ‘Anyone will do to play the roles’, says Julius in A Fairly Honourable Defeat. At the end of the novel, Jake is considering transferring his affections from Anna to her sister Sadie. One of the books evicted from Magdalen’s flat with Jake is his copy of Murphy, in which Beckett schematically describes the provisional perversity of romantic passion. ‘“You may sneer,” said Neary, “and you may scoff, but the fact remains that all is dross, for the moment at any rate, that is not Miss Dwyer”19 [. . .] Of such was Neary’s love for Miss Dwyer, who loved a Flight-Lieutenant Elliman, who loved a Miss Farren of Ringsakiddy, who loved a Father Fitt of Ballinclasher, who in all sincerity was bound to acknowledge a certain vocation for a Mrs West of Passage, who loved Neary.’20 Jake’s ownership of this novel is in fact a bow both to modernism and to Ireland. Murphy has a cast of mainly Irish characters adrift in London. Finn is Irish and Jake is of Irish descent. Murphy, like Jake, has to move at the beginning of the novel from one ‘cage’ to another, a negative answer to the question of human freedom which haunts Murdoch’s fiction, and late in the novel takes a job at a mental hospital. Jake finally follows the advice of his philosopher friend, Dave Gellman, and takes a job as an orderly in the hospital next to Dave’s flat (in this he is also echoing Wittgenstein). Murphy finds himself playing a lunatic game of chess with a madman, whose indifference to his partner forces a kind of deterministic reflection of his own moves upon him. For Jake, however, the hospital, with its rules, routine and duties, is a liberating experience. He has more freedom than Murphy and can increase it by his own decisions. Perhaps some change is possible in Murdoch’s world, though not in Beckett’s. Despite the debts to modernist fiction and modern philosophy, Murdoch fulfils her promise to convention and this anti-hero’s progress follows a route familiar from the traditional realist novel, that of moral discovery and development. In Paris, Jake learns that Jean Pierre has won the Prix Goncourt and he resolves to stop translating. This achievement acts as a rebuke to the secondhand. Jake should produce his own work. In Paris it also transpires that Magdalen has arranged for him the offer of a lucrative, permanent and undemanding post as a scriptwriter. Jake complains that this is a sinecure and, when he has defined this term for Magdalen, she says she thought it was what he always wanted. In a Damascene moment, Jake realizes that he does

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

After the War

not want it. He presents his dilemma in the terms of temptation, vocation and choice which the English novel inherited from Christian theology and allegory: ‘I was being offered the key to the world in which money comes easily [. . .] As for my conscience I could catch up with that in a few months. All I had to do was to shut my eyes and walk in. Why did the way in seem so hard?’ Because his life ‘simply doesn’t lie in this direction’ (p. 179). In spite of the frenetic activity of Under the Net, Jake’s pursuit of Hugo and Anna, and his kidnapping of Mars, ‘direction’ seems to be an incongruous word for him to apply to his life. But, after he collapses at Dave’s flat and then takes the job at the hospital, he becomes ‘directed’ in new ways. Jake now lives and works in the ‘contingent’ London he was determined to avoid. And the work is unexpectedly satisfying. It produces a very unfamiliar feeling ‘of having done something’ (p. 208). It occurs to him that he might at some unspecified time in the future take a part-time job as well as writing so that no day could pass fruitlessly. As if to reward this partial sense of purpose, one of Jake’s frustrated purposes is effortlessly achieved. He has sought Hugo in vain throughout the novel. Their one encounter on the film set is broken up (with the film set itself) by a brawl between Lefty Todd’s Independent Socialists and the United Nationalists, followed by the arrival of the police. Now Hugo is delivered to Jake at the hospital with an injury received at another of Lefty’s meetings. Their conversation there is the most illuminating event in the novel. In this exchange Jake learns (what he has already been told) that Hugo loves Sadie and Anna loves Hugo. Anybody can love anybody. He discovers that Hugo likes The Silencer. And he feels surprised and sick at Hugo’s differences with him. ‘“The trouble with you, Jake,” said Hugo, “is that you’re far too impressed by people. You were far too impressed by me”’ (p. 221). Perhaps Jake has been as mistaken about the impressiveness of Hugo as about his feelings. On the other hand, this may confirm rather than disprove Jake’s estimate. It is what a saint would say. There is another ‘trouble’ with Jake. ‘“Some situations can’t be unravelled”, said Hugo, “they just have to be dropped. The trouble with you, Jake, is that you want to understand everything sympathetically. It can’t be done”’ (p. 228). Hugo is speaking of his painful and hopeless relationships with Sadie and Anna. He plans to drop these situations by moving to Nottingham to become a watchmaker. But, like the version of his views in The Silencer, this remark seems by implication to be an

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

24 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

25

attack on the novel itself, the genre most devoted to sympathetic understanding. Despite Murdoch’s expressed admiration for nineteenthcentury novelists, for whom the basis of morality and the moral purpose of the novel is the development of sympathy and understanding, she suspected futility and even danger in the compulsion to understand. In her own novels there would be a dialogue between the conviction that some rules should be followed and the conviction that they should be understood and evaluated. It is a version of the old theological problem of whether God wills the good because it is good or the good is good because God wills it. At the human level, harmful relationships can be promoted and sustained by the desire to comprehend and resolve their problems, which is, among other things, an aesthetic desire for pattern. Hugo’s decision to drop the situation shows a humble acceptance that its story will be unfinished. Jake’s appalled response to their conversation is to question the patterns he has created and, as his images of Anna and of Hugo dissolve, his relationships with them change: ‘for the first time, Anna really existed now as a separate being and not as a part of myself [. . .] Why had I pursued [Hugo]? He had nothing to tell me’ (p. 238). And, the morning after their meeting, Jake questions the patterns made by art: I wanted to hold on, just a little longer, to my last act. A premonition of pain made me delay; the pain that comes after the drama, when the bodies have been carried from the stage and the trumpets are silent and an empty day dawns which will dawn again and again to make mock of our contrived finalities. (p. 239) Tragedy bestows at least the consolations of dignity and completion. But Under the Net would have an open ending. In the final chapter, Jake returns to Mrs Tinckham’s shop, his first refuge after being evicted by Magdalen at the beginning of the novel. There he opens his mail and a parcel of his own manuscripts. Finn amazes him by writing from Ireland. Mrs Tinckham says, ‘“But he must have told you he wanted to go back?” “He did [. . .] but I didn’t believe him” And somehow this phrase had a familiar ring’ (p. 247). The despised Jean Pierre has sent a copy of his prize-winning novel and Jake recognizes its quality. He looks at his manuscripts and his resolve to do his own writing is renewed. A patently duplicitous, charming

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

After the War

and affectionate letter from Sadie contains the offer to buy the ageing, valueless Mister Mars. The payment asked for will leave Jake with about the same amount of money as he had in the first chapter. He accepts and knows that he and Sadie will meet again. She is, as Hugo told him, more intelligent than Anna. Perhaps this is a case of mimetic desire or homosocial rivalry. Perhaps Hugo has given him the idea of loving her. Perhaps he is reflecting Hugo or perhaps Sadie is a reflection of her sister. At any rate, as Julius will observe in A Fairly Honourable Defeat, ‘Human beings are finders of substitutes’.21 But the magic of Anna or of Anna’s art asserts itself when he hears her singing on the radio. Both the song and the resolution to write recall the end of La Nausée. After his sense of nausea and meaninglessness throughout the novel, Roquentin hears a black singer on the radio. He feels that art has form and meaning, even if life does not, and that to write a book will confer a pattern on his own life. Although in her book on Sartre, Murdoch finds this a ‘thin and unsatisfactory conclusion’ (p. 46), she clearly echoes it here, but in a far warmer tone. Murdoch had complained in a radio talk in 1950 that Sartre’s ‘characters are never enchanting – and the worlds in which they live are without magic and without terror’.22 (Her second novel will contain an eponymous ‘enchanter’.) For Roquentin, art is the only way of salvaging the repulsive world which fills him with hatred and nausea. But Anna’s voice means love as well as art to Jake and it magically transfigures the shop, ‘transforming the cats into leopards and Mrs Tinckham into an aged Circe’ (p. 251). The novel closes on this miraculous note. For once Jake abandons theorizing and, unable to explain why two of Maggie’s four kittens should be tabbies and two exactly like their Siamese father, instead of all half-tabby and half-Siamese, admits, ‘I don’t know why it is [. . .] It’s just one of the wonders of the world’ (p. 253). It is a magical ending to a magical novel. After the sheer fun of the helter-skelter picaresque adventures, the comic assurance of the narration and the lyrical descriptions of London and Paris, the equanimity of the last chapter is a perfect close. Jake ends in almost the same place as he began, with about the same amount of money, but in some way better off. It is not certain that he will settle to his own writing or that it will be any good. No predictions can be made with certainty. As Mrs Tinckham observes, in a style resembling Hugo’s clumsy wisdom rather than Jake’s eloquent misjudgements, ‘You never know what you won’t want to do when the time comes’ (p. 248).

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

26 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

27

She sums up the inventive unexpectedness of the novel and the openness of the future beyond the last page. Jake thinks, ‘This too was a beginning. It was the first day of the world’ (p. 251). The epigraph ‘Tis well an Old Age is out,/And time to begin a New’ fits the mood of hope and renewal. It was one response to post-War England. ‘Optimism was in the air’, Mary Warnock writes of Oxford in the early years of peace.23 Under the Net has its sadnesses, but the aftermath of war, the destruction and the austerity are scarcely felt. Only once among the radiant portraits of London do we see the effects of the Blitz on the ruined churches near Cheapside. However, this too is a radiant description, picturesque in celebrating the beauty that remains with the atmospheric enhancements of mutability and loss. This description of the bombed City occurs during the increasingly hilarious and carefree night of the pub crawl and the swim in the Thames, an urban idyll of both camaraderie and non-attachment. It is the evening when Jake meets Lefty, whose New Independent Socialist Party is also part of the ‘New Age’. Lefty has heard that Jake is ‘a talented man who is too lazy to work and that [he holds] left-wing opinions but [takes] no active part in politics’ (p. 96). Although Murdoch herself had been politically active and a member of the Communist Party, she does not present Jake’s detachment as merely irresponsible. Lefty recommends hatred as a spur to action. ‘At the moment I hate nobody”’, Jake replies ‘lazily’ (p. 103). The absence of hatred, even if due to laziness, seems better than its cultivation. In Murdoch’s philosophical system, attitudes as well as actions can be virtuous. She presents the mother who brings herself to ‘see justly and lovingly’ a daughter-in-law she had at first disliked as an example of virtue, even if the daughter-in-law is dead or lives far away and the mother’s change of attitude has no outward effects in practice.24 Jake is as detached from religion as from war and politics. The chapter and the night end with the sound of church bells, ‘perhaps the vanishing bells of St Mary and St Leonard and St Vedast and St Anne and St Nicholas and St John Zachary’ (p. 108). To T.S. Eliot, writing The Waste Land after the earlier World War, the city churches have ‘inexplicable splendour’ and ‘reminiscent bells’ amid the fragments and ruin of Christian civilization. To Jake the bells are ‘vanishing’ and he does not seem to regret them. Unlike Murdoch, he is untormented by the loss of religion, though he differs from the empirical Dave in thinking it would be wonderful to be a natural metaphysician.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

After the War

Unlike conventional nineteenth-century protagonists, who are rooted in society, heritage and family, Jake travels light. His few possessions are usually at Mrs Tinckham’s shop. Like Roquentin, Pierrot and Murphy, he carries minimal baggage of any kind. We know little of his past life, except for his friendship with Hugo. Hugo, with his German father and his adopted English name, is indeed the only character in Under the Net who seems to have any ancestry. The only family relationship in the novel is that of the sisters Anna and Sadie, who dislike each other. Jake is of Irish descent and a Londoner, but we learn nothing else about his background. He is educated but does not mention a school or university. He has shattered nerves but will not divulge how he got them. He loved Anna once, but we know little of their earlier relationship. The novel begins with the epigraph welcoming a New Age and ends with a lovely openness and optimism on ‘the morning of the first day’. Under the Net is ‘post-War’ in moving on from the past. The Flight from the Enchanter (1956) is ‘post-War’ in the opposite sense. Published two years after Under the Net, it is as effervescent but more melancholy in its drift. The characters are haunted by the War. A number are refugees or displaced persons. Mischa, the enchanter of the title, was born in some unnamed European country, now apparently cut off behind the Iron Curtain, perhaps no longer existing. Since 1953 Murdoch had been having a relationship with the Bulgarian-born Elias Canetti, on whom this character is based, and had fallen under his spell. He was a manipulative, even cruel figure in her life, but one whom she was unable to resist.25 Like a later virtuoso of manipulation, Julius in A Fairly Honourable Defeat, Mischa’s taste for power and ruthlessness in wielding it stems from early suffering. The young dressmaker, Nina, one of his creatures, lives in permanent fear of Mischa and of being deported. So do the sinister and assertive Lusiewicz brothers. In this book, the terror of the world is more present than its magic. When Murdoch worked among refugees for UNRRA in Brussels and then Innsbruck from 1945 to 1946, she saw people deported to almost certain death and survivors who would never return to their homes. She was now developing an interest in Simone Weil, who discusses in The Need for Roots the alienation caused by displacement.26 The rootlessness of Under the Net adds to its exuberance. The night Jake and Mars spend on the Embankment bench, the classic refuge of the homeless, is uncomfortable but cheerful. The mood is closer to

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

28 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

29

‘We’re a couple of swells’ than to Down and Out in Paris and London. The ruined churches and the bombsites of London have their own romance. But the London of new buildings in The Flight from the Enchanter has none. Rainborough, who works for the rootless in SELIB (the Special European Labour Immigration Board), is to lose part of the garden of his family home to a hospital extension. The wisteria which he has loved since his childhood is literally uprooted by his predatory secretary, Miss Casement. Only Annette, the young ‘cosmopolitan ragamuffin’ daughter of a diplomat, finds a zest in rootlessness and this is a kind of luxury.27 Her surname, Cockeyne, suggests a nowhere place free from the problems of ordinary life. Jake’s detachment from politics is also a kind of luxury not available to many of the characters in The Flight from the Enchanter. For some of them, a line drawn on the map of Europe can make the difference between life and death. The heroine, Rosa, is named after the revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg.28 Though she is educated, she works on the assembly line in a factory, like Simone Weil, for whom it was an experience of almost unbearable affliction and a kind of modern slavery. Weil usually found it impossible to keep working on her machine at the speed demanded. Nina has a nightmare in which her sewing machine turns into an unstoppable monster which savages both her and an endless cloth map of all the countries in the world. The machines in Rosa’s factory never stop, day or night. She fears being ‘caught in the machine’ (p. 39). Here she befriends the refugee Lusiewicz brothers, who arrive ‘dejected and colourless, like halfstarved, half-drowned animals’ (p. 43) but who begin to thrive and make their own conquests, including Rosa, whom they share sexually. In the English and domestic contexts, other struggles for power and autonomy are played out. Rosa has inherited from her mother an interest in a feminist journal, the Artemis, now edited by her mother’s brother, Hunter (a suitable name for a servant of the goddess of hunting), which Mischa would mysteriously like to acquire for his empire. This is energetically opposed by the older generation of activists, who are aged, comic and eccentric, but impressively uncompromising suffragettes. Compared with Rosa’s uncertainties, they show an absurd but joyous commitment. They are immune to self-doubt and are unworried by inconsistency. Rosa’s mother combined socialist convictions with ‘an almost uncanny sensitivity to social differences’ (p. 107). The redoubtable Camilla Wingfield is evidently named after

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

After the War

the Amazon warrior in the Aeneid, who might have skimmed over a cornfield as she ran without hurting it. But her egalitarian feminist principles do not apply at home, where she tyrannizes over her companion and housekeeper, Miss Foy. In the world of The Flight from the Enchanter, the personal, like the political, is largely a matter of power relations. The Lusiewicz brothers, who are political casualties, are at first Rosa’s beneficiaries, next her conquerors, then potential invaders of her house and destroyers of her brother. But she herself takes a conqueror’s pleasure in ‘forcing [Peter] to display [his unrequited love] and lay it out for her like a rich cloth’ (p. 38). Power is enjoyable, an end in itself. Rosa thinks that Mischa wants to take over the useless Artemis because it is a small independent thing. The professional and the personal merge for Miss Casement, whose rise to power in SELIB is accompanied by an engagement to Rainborough without his knowing quite how it has happened. When Miss Casement acquires a subordinate, she persecutes the helpless young typist. Power can be malign. However, it is enchanting. Rosa and Annette are both in love with Mischa. The women in this book are heavily involved in its power struggles. (Yet, beyond noting that Murdoch’s narrators were all male, early Murdoch criticism was seldom concerned with her representation of gender roles, though critics are becoming increasingly alert to it.)29 There are, however, more spiritual sources of power. In Under the Net, power is involuntarily and unconsciously invested in the figure of the saint. Hugo chooses not to exercise his power over others and they pursue him. In The Flight from the Enchanter, the ‘artist’ figure is a virtuoso in power and the ‘saint’ a scholar who is a failure in both love and work. Peter Saward loves Rosa in vain and spends his life in a fruitless attempt to decipher the ancient Kastanic script. For Murdoch scholarship, like art, can be an analogue of religion in demanding a patient abnegation of self. Like Ralph Touchett in The Portrait of a Lady, whose fatal illness forces him to love at a distance and observe life rather than participate in it, Peter has tuberculosis. However, his illness has had the ‘effect of making Saward not weaker but more powerful’ (p. 28) and he is ‘strangely gay’ (p. 25). His refusal to compete or to acquire confers a paradoxical freedom which others recognize. Rainborough describes it to himself in a political metaphor: ‘Here was a personality without frontiers’ (p. 31). Like Hugo and Jake, Peter and Mischa are opposites who get along well

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

30 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

31

with each other. Mischa even tries to promote Peter’s cause with Rosa. Peter is the only person whom Mischa does not ‘make mad’ (p. 205). He is also the only person on whom Mischa seems dependent. Mischa’s relationship with him is confiding, even confessional. In a chapter that consists entirely of conversation between the two men, Mischa talks of his childhood as they look at photographs of his home town, which Peter has obtained from the Warburg. Mischa is, very indirectly, responsible for Nina’s death. To force the sale of the Artemis, his henchman, Calvin Blick, tries to blackmail Hunter with compromising photographs of Rosa with the Lusiewicz brothers. Hunter obtains from Rainborough’s office the information that the brothers were born east of the crucial line and have no right to stay in Britain. Hunter is no match for Stefan Lusiewicz but Mischa, when Rosa appeals for his aid and gives him permission to ‘use any methods’ (p. 241), is. Questions are asked in Parliament, investigations begin and Nina, who is also an illegal immigrant but in no real danger of deportation, panics and kills herself. In Under the Net you can lose people, through neglect, distance or deciding to ‘drop’ a ‘situation’, but not destroy them. It shows the peaceful face of the fifties. The Flight from the Enchanter, for all its comedy and romance, is a novel of the Cold War. Some characters are desperately vulnerable, caught in industrial and political machines, and violence can irrupt into the lives of the more fortunate. Calvin’s underground workshop in the cellars of Mischa’s house has the air of a torture chamber and Hunter risks blinding himself with the developing fluid. Stefan Lusiewicz threatens to kill Hunter if he uses his knowledge of their birthplace against them and sets his hair on fire. Jan Lusiewicz threatens to kill Annette’s brother. Rosa attacks Annette in a fit of jealousy over Mischa and throws her out of her house. Annette has lived with Rosa and Hunter for some months but inhabits a different world. She is (so far) invulnerable, a character with a charmed life. She has no scars. She is temporarily so unhappy about Mischa that she attempts suicide, after inviting friends to a party in her hotel room, but accidentally takes only milk of magnesia. It is all harmless, comic and sociable, like a parody of Nina’s solitary and successful death. Annette’s parents act as a deus ex machina. They arrive from nowhere, save her and carry her off to another country. They offer a brief moment of benign (and privileged) power. Annette’s father, a diplomat, deals in peaceful solutions. Her mother rescues

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

After the War

Rainborough from Miss Casement, who is able to detach himself from the relationship by telling her in detail about the secretary’s treatment of her typist, and sends him off to their villa in the south of France. For once, a malign use of power backfires. Our last glimpse of the family is in the south of France as the Orient Express transports the recovered Annette away from the events of the novel to the land of Cockeyne. Rosa’s journey proves to be in the opposite direction. She impulsively travels south herself to join Mischa at his villa in Italy. She feels compelled by the enchanter. Perhaps they can be reunited. His villa is an enchanter’s castle, though it is set in a barren landscape by the sea and life is simple there. But she is persuaded to leave and go home by a conversation with Calvin Blick. He produces the photographs of Rosa with the Lusiewicz brothers, telling her Mischa has seen them, though he told Hunter he had not. ‘You will never know the truth,’ he claims, ‘and you will read the signs in accordance with your deepest wishes. That is what we humans always have to do. Reality is a cipher with many solutions, all of them right ones’ (p. 278). Rosa retorts that this view is a surrender of his power. Perhaps, like the predestinarian John Calvin, he should be expected to deal in absolutes. Perhaps a moral realist like Murdoch cannot rest with this relativism. Calvin Blick next shows Rosa a newspaper report of Nina’s suicide, remarking that ‘someone ought to have explained things to her’ (p. 279). Rosa bears responsibility in two ways. She herself unleashed Mischa’s power, authorizing him, in his sinister phrase, to ‘use any methods’ (p. 241). The end justified the means, the rationale of both Resistance fighters and totalitarian dictators, since she had to protect herself and Hunter from Stefan. And in a more mundane everyday manner, because she was so rapturously abstracted at the thought of seeing Mischa, she failed to attend to Nina’s plea for help. (‘ “I have some problems” said Nina. [. . .] “Life is a series of problems!” said Rosa merrily [. . .] “I would like to ask your advice.” “Never be afraid to ask for advice,” said Rosa, “People try to be far too independent of each other. I’m just going in now to ask Mr Fox’s advice” ’ [p. 238]). Nina has died, in part as a result of Rosa’s inattention, in part because Rosa enlisted Mischa and his methods. It is a moment of unexpected moral crisis, like Jake’s in Paris. Rosa has to leave Mischa. However, unlike Jake’s realization that he must do his own writing rather than accept a Hollywood sinecure, Rosa’s decision is one of pure renunciation. She departs for London,

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

32 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

33

unclear where the balance of power lies between Mischa and Calvin. ‘You know how to protect your own’, she tells Calvin, as though he were the devil and Mischa one of the damned. Nonetheless, Rosa does make one vital gain and discovery. She can choose to be free of Mischa and so recognize herself as a free agent. She says to Calvin, whose name tolls predestination, ‘in the past I always felt that whether I went towards him or away from him I was only doing his will. But perhaps it was all an illusion’ (p. 281). Freedom brings little happiness with it. After the jubilation at the end of the War and the Labour victory in 1945, the age of austerity continued. The closing chapter is melancholy, though it contains good as well as bad news. On her return to rainy London, Rosa goes straight to see Peter. From him she learns that Camilla Wingfield has died, leaving her all the shares of the Artemis and an annual income of £500 if she will edit the journal. The Artemis has been saved from Mischa, and Rosa has been saved from the factory and given a new purpose. A bilingual inscription has been discovered which is a key to the Kastanic script and proves Peter’s work on it to be futile. Peter is stoical: ‘One reads the signs as best one can, and one may be totally misled [. . .] It was worth trying. Now I can go back to my other work in peace. There’s nothing to be sad about, Rosa’ (p. 287). But Rosa is sad. Peter turns down her suggestion of marriage, knowing she does not really want it. The novel ends with Peter showing Rosa the photographs of the lost world of Mischa’s childhood and ‘she saw the pictures through a gathering haze of tears’ (p. 286). Under the Net looks forward, but The Flight from the Enchanter looks back. The first two novels introduce many of the figures, themes and motifs that will be pervasive in Murdoch’s fiction: the saint and the artist, refugees and displaced persons, gurus and enchanters, philosophers, civil servants, sibling rivalry, romantic triangles and polygons. Appearing in the 1950s, both deal, however lightly, with the questions of semiology, pre-empting concerns which will later be central to postmodern fiction and theory. Both novels are set mainly in London, the setting for the majority of the novels. As if echoing Hugo’s view that art should be ephemeral or predicting the ease and speed with which the author would move on from one novel to the next, both books present casual demolitions and disposals of beautiful objects, ambitious constructions and valuable collections. Anna’s mime theatre is abandoned and its props and masks are

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

After the War

whisked away; the film set of ancient Rome collapses in a riot; Hugo donates his paintings to Lefty’s Socialist Party; Annette’s party dress is torn up and she throws her jewels into the Thames. However, some themes which will be central to Murdoch’s later work scarcely appear in the first two novels. Religion is present in Under the Net only as an absence. Finn was always saying he would ‘go back to Ireland to be in a country which really has religion’ (p. 22). In Jake’s London, religion is bombed churches and vanishing bells. In The Flight from the Enchanter it is briefly remembered as a troubling possibility before Nina’s suicide. As she sits on the windowsill, she looks at a crucifix and thinks the idea that death was the end was not ‘senseless blackness’ for Christ, as it will be for her. ‘Then her thought coiled back. If not so for him, then not so for her. If for her, then for him too [. . .] For an instant she felt the terrible weight of a God depending on her will. It was too heavy’ (p. 266). She throws herself out of the window. The novel ends with the words, ‘And here is the cathedral’ (p. 287) as Peter shows Rosa the pictures of the lost pre-War world. One of the other great subjects is totally absent from Under the Net. All the characters are single. Although Murdoch wrote the novel in her thirties, in some ways it represents an undergraduate view of life, in which almost every day offers a heady freedom and a worrying choice of action or inaction unknown to most children or adults, and in which it is a major devastation to discover you did not know with whom your best friend is in love. In The Flight from the Enchanter all the characters are single except Annette’s parents and perhaps their numinous but practical power to solve everyone’s problems is derived from their mysterious married condition. When Murdoch married John Bayley in 1956, her love-life settled down and there was more room for writing. By the time The Flight from the Enchanter was finished, she was full of energy and reassured that her task in life was to write. Her literary career was now securely launched, but there were nonetheless persistent anxieties over the quality of her work. She had written to David Hicks in 1946 that she was weary because in trying to remove herself from her characters she had made them unreal; in addition, she said to Stella Aldwinckle in 1954 that she felt that what she was writing would not do, describing the disorienting experience of having been so deeply involved in the world of the novel to find it disintegrating.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

34 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

35

Occasionally she regretted neglecting the world of philosophy for the world of the novel, but her love of writing and the joy of having her characters around her, wondering how they would handle the next crisis in the plot, was the stronger pull (IMC, pp. 69 and 42). Her next novel, The Sandcastle, is dedicated to John Bayley and is on the surface a fairly traditional – perhaps too traditional – account of a dreary marriage threatened by the arrival of a younger woman. The major novel which follows it, The Bell, explores the marital, sexual and spiritual problems of its characters in the context of a religious community. Marriage and religion are now major subjects.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

After the War

Triangles and Polygons The Sandcastle (1957), The Bell (1958), A Severed Head (1961) and An Unofficial Rose (1962)

Murdoch’s reputation as a novelist was undergoing a meteoric rise when The Sandcastle was begun in the autumn of 1955. She was now dividing her time between her family home in Chiswick and teaching at St Anne’s. The book was finally published in 1957 and can be viewed either as a new development in Murdoch’s work or a retreat down well-trodden fictional paths.1 The situation is a familiar one. A man or woman is faced with a choice between a safe but unexciting marriage and a passionate romantic exotic alternative. Obvious examples are Sense and Sensibility, Emma and Mansfield Park, Wuthering Heights, The Golden Bowl or (sequentially and from the viewpoint of the second wife) Rebecca. But Murdoch did not have to look outside her own life to research her plot: during the period in which this novel was conceived, she was heavily involved with John Bayley and increasingly determined to marry, desperately needing security and wanting a release from her complex love-life. Elias Canetti, who was to be an enduring temptation, was a huge romantic and intellectual influence, and Bayley was distressed, on finding her journal of their affair in her flat, to know that she was still involved with him.2 She was also in the throes of an affair with the writer Brigid Brophy, had holidayed with Peter Ady, fallen out with Arnold Momigliano, who was upset by her plan to marry, and was close to the philosophers John Simopoulos and David Pears. The decision to marry was difficult, but after the ceremony at an Oxford registry office in September 1956, Murdoch recorded in her journal the simplicity and joy of her new life. 36

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

3

37

This contest between domestic calm and respectability and the thrill of romantic excitement animates the plot of The Sandcastle. Its moral psychology focuses on the motives that drive infidelity and the pain that either choice engenders for perpetrators and victims alike. Murdoch imaginatively tests her decision to forego sexual intrigue for domesticity, envisaging how a ‘safe’ marriage might stand up to sexual allure and the consequences of the inability to resist. Mor, a middle-aged schoolmaster trapped in a miserable marriage with a nagging disappointed wife and two taciturn rebellious teenage children, falls in love with a young painter, Rain Carter. Mor’s name is symbolic: he wants more. Rain offers the promise of renewal to his waste land, has talent, optimism, money, a house in France and an equal sexual passion for Mor. But an ominous gypsy puts in an occasional appearance, auguring ill. Mor’s colleague, the art master, Bledyard, voices his disapproval in terms central to Murdoch’s moral vision: ‘The gifts of the spirit do not appeal to the imagination’ (p. 213). Using shabby or sinister methods, his wife and children defeat Mor’s will to leave, though Nan has to compromise by letting him stand for Parliament, a desire she has always mocked and blocked. Otherwise, one is tempted to feel, the novel ends unhappily ever after. The claims of the imagination have their own authority. The sandcastle, doomed by the tide, suggests the vulnerable structure of Mor’s marriage and of his love for Rain. Perhaps it also symbolizes the erosion of its own structure, the apparently conventional realist form. Here Murdoch implicitly acknowledges her debt to Henry James and covertly reveals the innovative aesthetics of her style.3 She said that the only writer she is sure she was influenced by was James: ‘he is a pattern maker too.’4 The double subject of this novel is two portraits: one, Rain’s portrait of the retired Headmaster, Demoyte; the other, Murdoch’s literary portrait of Mor. Both Murdoch and her fictional painter seek to portray human character as accurately as possible, both physically and spiritually. Both are torn between a commitment to realism and to formal patterning; both are influenced by a father figure and see that ‘part of [their] task is to cover that surface with a pattern’ (p. 102). Demoyte literally becomes a ‘figure in the carpet’ when Rain paints him against the background of an oriental rug.5 Rain, too, is a figure in a carpet when, as Mor meets her for the first time in Demoyte’s study, she is indistinguishable from the riotous colours of the same oriental

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Triangles and Polygons

rug on the wall behind her. These playful allusions to figures in carpets suggest that, as with James’s work, readers must attend to the form of the novel as well as the plot to perceive meaning. The book responds to theories of modern art in its attempt to render the inner lives of characters through an expressionistic use of space, perspective and colour. But Murdoch’s quite revolutionary attempt to combine the naturalistic idea of character with an expressionistic use of form was largely misunderstood or not perceived. Critics were baffled, finding the novel ‘puzzling’ or ‘irritating’. A.S. Byatt complained that ‘the tendency of art to impose its own shapes on the stuff of life, criticized by Bledyard in the book, is too much apparent’.6 Such criticism failed to understand how form is being used in the book, that Murdoch’s dealings with it here are part of the novel’s theoretical probing. But literary theory did not have a terminology or a paradigm for what Murdoch was attempting at this time.7 ‘Art is tested by knowledge of the ordinary world and we apply such tests instinctively and sometimes wrongly’, Murdoch has said, ‘as when we dismiss a story as implausible when we have not really understood what kind of story it is’.8 While her enduring desire to be ‘thought of as a realist writer in the sense in which English novelists have been realists in the past’9 remained sacred, she was experimenting with infusing her traditional realism with a brand of linguistic expressionism. The combination of the two continued to be the hallmark of her narrative technique. Critical dissatisfaction with this book was caused partly by a failure to understand her aesthetics10 and by too rigid attempts to read her novels solely from a realist perspective. The omission is particularly significant in this book because its aesthetics reveal its moral. Murdoch soaks the world with colour to subliminally inform the reader of Mor’s moral sickness – his guilt and depression. As the affair with Rain progresses, a cold white light veils the world, evoking the joyless place into which it has been transformed as a result of his deception. The affair conflicts with his strong instinctive moral propriety. Underneath a sultry and oppressive green light filtering through the glass roof of the school squash court, Bledyard pronounces a stinging moral judgement on Mor, triggering his guilt. The boys’ screeching and rain drumming on a glass roof provide a dramatic primitive aural accompaniment. Mor’s self-disgust triggers ‘an unpleasant odour [. . .] in his nostril, as if he could literally

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

38 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

39

smell the sulphur of the pit’ (p. 230). The synaesthetic enterprise is intended to stimulate the readers’ senses to the point that they experience, not merely read about, Mor’s self-disgust. But Murdoch was more cautious from here on in about relying too heavily on expressionism to convey meaning. The superficially light, conventional, romantic plot and this failure to understand its aesthetics caused The Sandcastle to be received with some disappointment. After the brilliance and individuality of the first two novels, it appeared on the surface to be rather drab and commonplace. In her letter accepting The Sandcastle, Norah Smallwood welcomed this contrast: ‘It is, of course, a very different sort of book from either Under the Net or The Flight from the Enchanter but I think that’s a good thing. It will show people that you can write a straight story without any fantasy element & create ordinary people as convincingly as eccentrics.’11 Most reviewers, however, thought the novel too ordinary and found gratuitous fantasy in the gypsy and the children’s attempt to sabotage their father’s affair by witchcraft. The novel was dismissed by some as the stuff of women’s magazines. However, the two most popular women’s magazines, Woman and Woman’s Own, refused it for serialization, stating that it was ‘not suitable’. Presumably they found the treatment of the love affair too sympathetic. This was the reason given more explicitly by John Davies in rejecting The Sandcastle for serialization in John Bull: ‘The theme of the extra-marital love affair is not one we can really take – not at any rate when it is handled as “an advanced study in passion and guilt”.’12 The Sandcastle was, however, read in 12 installments on the BBC radio programme Woman’s Hour in September 1964. Times had changed. The Bell, published in 1958, has always been regarded as one of Murdoch’s best novels. It was her own favourite among her early work. In an interview with Simon Blow in 1976, she said that she now saw her first three published novels as experiments and thought that she had only begun to find herself as a writer with The Bell.13 It was written at a time of great happiness during the early halcyon days of her marriage to John Bayley. The first draft was completed at Cedar Lodge, their country house 14 miles outside Oxford, in the village of Steeple Aston, where they were to remain for the next 30 years. The book was published in November 1958. For the first time, religion is a major theme, as it would continue to be in Murdoch’s fiction. Her family background was Ulster Protestant

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Triangles and Polygons

and she was confirmed into the Church of England while she was at school, giving her ‘a feeling of communing with God’ (TCHF, p. 209). Throughout her adult life she denied the existence of a personal God, the divinity of Christ and a belief in life after death. However, she was deeply committed to preserving many aspects of Christianity and increasingly borrowed aspects of the Buddhist faith for what she termed her ‘neo-theology’. There was always some tension throughout her life between a denial of God and a desire for God.14 In the late 1940s she made three visits to the Anglican Benedictine Malling Abbey in Kent, which provided the model for Imber Abbey in The Bell. She longed to affirm the absolute moral values which believers imagine to emanate from God. Her last philosophical work, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals, valorizes religion as an aid to moral enquiry, but she was involved with such issues as early as her days in post-War Oxford, when she was at odds with linguistic philosophers, engaging with the ideas of Wittgenstein and Nietzsche and sharing in the considerable interest in contemporary debates on how Christianity could evolve to accommodate the horror of two World Wars and the Holocaust. In the late 1950s and 1960s there was a move towards ‘religionless Christianity’, but Murdoch realized that although these debates were crucially important for humanity, the specialized discourse of academics and philosophers had little resonance in society. For this reason, The Bell brings to the fore her lifelong commitment to the novel’s place in the discussions of faith, the existence of a personal God, how a good life can be lived without the communal support of traditional worship and without the moral focus that belief systems once provided – all of which are the central themes of The Bell. From The Bell onwards, clergy and religious seekers, former priests, monks and nuns would figure in Murdoch’s novels. Michael in The Bell, for whom prayer is ‘a surrender of himself to the Ground of his being’ (p. 79),15 is an ex-future priest and religious liminality pervades the novel. The Bell is mainly set in Imber Court, a lay Anglican community in Gloucestershire attached to a medieval abbey. The two central characters are Michael Meade and Dora Greenfield. Michael is a member of the community and the owner of the property. His previous career as a schoolmaster and his desire to be ordained were ended by a questionable affection for one of his pupils, Nick, who in an emotional reaction to an evangelical preacher confessed

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

40 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

41

everything (or perhaps more than everything) to the headmaster. Now, years later, Nick, disturbed and drinking heavily, and his twin sister Catherine, awaiting entry to the Abbey as a postulant, are both, to Michael’s dismay, at Imber Court. Dora had left and has now returned to her husband Paul, an art historian temporarily working on manuscripts at Imber. The third character to whose consciousness we have access is the young Toby Gashe, at Imber for the summer before going up to Oxford. Dora and Toby find and raise from the lake a lost and legendary medieval bell, planning to substitute it for a new bell which is to be ceremonially received into the Abbey. Michael, after several drinks, expresses his attraction to Toby, whom Nick forces, in a kind of replay of his own history, to confess the incident. Various tragic consequences ensue and the community is dissolved. Dora, however, has found during her time at Imber the insight and courage to finally leave Paul, to see the world and others more clearly than she did and take a job. The medieval bell was made by ‘Hugh the Belyetere’ or Hugo Belfounder. In Under the Net we are told that when Hugo’s German father moved to England, he took the name ‘Belfounder’, which he found on a tomb in a Cotswold churchyard. As such, the maker of this bell was one of Hugo’s adoptive ancestors and it shares his compelling and mysterious quality. He unwittingly takes after the bell-founder in his decision to become a watchmaker. (This is not the only crossreference between Murdoch’s novels.) Round the rim of the bell is written ‘Vox ego sum Amoris. Gabriel vocor’ (‘I am the voice of Love. I am called Gabriel’).16 Love, in its many guises, is Murdoch’s major theme. She sees falling in love, although so often powered by fantasy and projection, as revelatory, one of life’s most intense experiences and granting the rare sense of another person’s existence and value. It can offer a secular or Christian version of Plato’s ascent of the soul. The wise Abbess tells Michael, ‘God can always show us, if we will, a higher and better way; and we can only learn to love by loving. Remember that all our failures are failures in love. Imperfect love must not be condemned and rejected but made perfect’ (p. 235). In his anguish after Nick’s death, Michael realizes that he should not have avoided him at Imber: ‘Nick had needed love and he should have given him what he had to offer, without fears about its imperfection’ (p. 307). At the heart of the moral debate in the novel are two sermons,17 delivered to the community on successive Sundays by James Tayper

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Triangles and Polygons

Pace and Michael. Both use the symbol of the bell but in different senses. This could suggest, like Calvin Blick in The Flight from the Enchanter, that ‘you will never know the truth and you will read the signs in accordance with your deepest wishes’18 or that the bell, the voice of love, means and includes both (and more) interpretations. James gives the first sermon. We are told that he has a ‘deep and unquestioning spiritual life’ (p. 84). He comes from a military family and served in the War. He has evident leadership qualities and, if it had met with the approval of the Abbess, Michael would have been glad to surrender his unofficial position as head of the community to him. James believes in following rules. Almost his first words in the novel are ‘The train was punctual for once. We shall just be in time for Compline’ (p. 26). His sermon begins, ‘The chief requirement of the good life is to live without any image of oneself’ (p. 31). He quotes Christ’s command, ‘Be ye therefore perfect’ (p. 131), advocates unquestioning obedience (he has not been in the army for nothing) and deplores analysis and self-examination: ‘Truth is not glorious, it is just enjoined: sodomy is not disgusting, it is just forbidden’ (p. 132). The beauty of the bell is in ‘its simplicity. There is no hidden mechanism’ (p. 135). This is a position for which Murdoch here, and elsewhere, shows respect. She sees virtue as grounded in unselfing. She argues that, except for those who consider moral laws to be entirely subjective, there is considerable general agreement on what they are. But James’s example of the forbidden, sodomy, would not gain general assent. When The Bell was written, almost all educated liberal opinion was in favour of legalizing homosexual acts between consenting adults.19 Murdoch told a friend that she identified with male homosexuals (IMAL, p. 522) and there are likeable and admirable gay characters, such as Michael (including Humphrey Finch in An Unofficial Rose [1962], Uncle Theo in The Nice and the Good [1968], Axel and Simon in A Fairly Honourable Defeat [1970] and Bellamy James in The Green Knight [1993]), in the novels. James acts decisively on learning of Michael’s mild involvement with Toby: he sends Toby away. Michael is appalled and fears that Toby will suffer disproportionate guilt and anxiety, but it seems that James’s action was for the best. As Hugo says in Under the Net, ‘Some situations can’t be unravelled, they just have to be dropped. The trouble with you, Jake, is that you want to understand

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

42 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

43

everything sympathetically’.20 But Jake, like Murdoch, is a writer. Novelists analyse hidden mechanisms and try to understand their characters sympathetically. Murdoch respects James’s position but shows his limitations. While he leads a good life, he is unimaginative and unsympathetic to those who seem to him to act wrongly. Michael’s sermon presents the opposite view to James’s. It opens: ‘The chief requirement of the good life is that one should have some conception of one’s capacities’ (p. 200). Whereas James had celebrated innocence, Michael praises wisdom and self-knowledge. For James, the ‘good man [. . .] does the best thing, breaking through the complexities of situations [. . .] but the man without faith calculates. He finds the world too complicated for the best thing and he does the second best thing’ (p. 132). However, Michael argues that ‘we must not arrogate to ourselves actions which belong to those whose spiritual vision is higher or other than ours. From this attempt, only disaster will come’ (p. 204). He uses the image of the bell very differently, urging his audience to ‘learn to understand the mechanism of [each person’s] spiritual energy’ (p. 204). Members of the community at Imber Court, unlike the nuns at the Abbey, do seem to be aiming at a higher spiritual level than they can sustain. Most dramatically, the motives of Catherine, a kind of spiritual mascot for the community, are revealed to be mental illness and unrequited love. Dora, who dislikes and is rather despised by the community, is the only person to sense that Catherine does not want to enter the Abbey. As soon as his sermon is over, Michael returns to thoughts of his own problems and realizes that ‘it was complicated; it was interesting [a loaded and suspect term in Murdoch’s work] [. . .] he was always engaged in performing what James had called the second best act: the act which goes with exploring one’s personality and estimating the consequences rather than austerely following the rules’ (p. 205). Neither Michael’s moral vision nor James’s vision is adequate to deal with the situation, which ends in Nick’s suicide. While James thinks it was a mistake to admit Nick to Imber and would presumably believe that Michael should follow the rules and keep well away from the ‘tempter’ from his past, Michael is racked after Nick’s suicide by the knowledge that ‘he had concerned himself with keeping his own hands clean’, that ‘Nick needed love and he ought to have given him what he had to offer, without fears about

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Triangles and Polygons

its imperfection’ (p. 307). Wiser than both James and Michael, the Abbess wanted Nick to be offered what Imber could give and acknowledges the imperfect as a step towards the perfect. Dora, frivolous and hedonistic, is a surprisingly sympathetic character. Before her marriage to domineering Paul, she is a recognizable student of the 1950s, ‘plump’ and fond of ‘big multi-coloured skirts’ (p. 7) and much more docile than the godless rebels Murdoch would teach at the Royal College of Art in the 1960s. Without spiritual pretensions, she learns and develops more than anybody else at Imber Court. Although she has no religious belief, she does have a spiritual experience, not at Imber but in the National Gallery. In her philosophical work, Murdoch argues that art does have a vital role to play in a godless world: contemplation of a work of art can be a version of prayer or provide a spiritual revelation. Dora’s experience is described in religious language: the pictures are ‘shrines at which she had worshipped so often before’ (p. 190). They ‘were something real outside herself, which spoke to her kindly yet in sovereign tones, something superior and good’ (p. 191). Murdoch was later to write a philosophical book called The Sovereignty of Good and Dora, no philosopher, is recognizing the force of the Good. She finds the pictures ‘something real and something perfect. Who had said that about perfection and reality being in the same place?’ (p. 190). It was James, whom Dora finds ‘a bit alarming’ (p. 133), in his sermon. But much earlier, it was also St Anselm in his ontological proof of the existence of God, to which Murdoch devotes a whole chapter in Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals. Dora, no theologian either, has a similar apprehension, even a mystical experience of transcendence and the loss of self, before Gainsborough’s picture of his daughters. The experience passes one of the Church’s tests of a divine vision: it has a beneficial result on her life. She had fled from Imber to see a lover in London. Now she leaves the gallery, hails a taxi and returns to confront and deal with the problems of her marriage. While James’s view might be that fidelity to marital vows is enjoined and unquestionable, it is clear that this marriage has been a mistake, sustained by fear and dependence on Dora’s part and a contemptuous possessiveness on Paul’s. At the end of the novel, Dora has decisively separated from Paul and is painting watercolours of the Abbey, beginning to enjoy classical music, learning to swim (a highly valued activity in Murdoch’s life and novels), having

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

44 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

45

conversations with Mother Clare (the ‘aquatic nun’ who saved her from drowning but whom she had earlier refused to see) and is about to take a teaching job in Bath. Despite Nick’s death and Michael’s despair, the novel ends with a quiet equanimity as Dora rows on the lake at Imber, reconciled at last to the place and willing to move on into the future. The Bell introduces or continues major themes in Murdoch’s work. James and Michael, though not saints or artists, present a version of the saint/artist debate in their sermons. James recommends detachment from self, while Michael advocates an examination of self. Serenely detached from such argument, the works of art – paintings, bell – silently proclaim their own authority. The Freudian compulsions of repetition and substitution animate Michael’s story. He tries to avoid Nick, but both he and Nick repeat their earlier disastrous involvement through the figure of Toby. Later novels will dramatize the theme of repetition with more frequent and polymorphous substitutions. The Bell is a less promiscuous novel and perhaps therefore more powerful and convincing. One obvious substitution, that of a sibling (used in Under the Net, The Flight from the Enchanter, A Severed Head and A Fairly Honourable Defeat), is explicitly, if allusively, ruled out. ‘It might be thought that since Nature by addition had defeated him of Nick, she was now by subtraction offering him Catherine: but this did not occur to Michael except abstractly and as something someone else might have felt’ (p. 109). The allusion is to Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet XX’, in which the speaker regrets that Nature has added a penis to his male beloved and made him the wrong sex for his ‘purpose’. The Bell is not Twelfth Night. Richard Todd actually attributes the success of the treatment of homosexuality in The Bell to ‘the probability that that this source [Shakespeare] was not, at the time of the writing of The Bell, a prior concern’.21 Nonetheless, the influence of Shakespeare is more diffusely present. As with Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies, none of Murdoch’s novels is purely tragic or comic. While The Bell (unlike A Fairly Honourable Defeat) does not follow A Midsummer Night’s Dream in suggesting that anybody can fall in love with anybody, it does employ a similar structure to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, As You Like It and The Tempest in removing its characters from the city to a greener world which may both intensify and resolve their problems. Dora exasperates Michael by looking like a character in ‘an absurd

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Triangles and Polygons

pastoral frolic’ (p. 121). Like The Comedy of Errors, Twelfth Night, Pericles and The Tempest, The Bell contains a rebirth through Dora’s near-death experience of drowning. Like the abbey in The Comedy of Errors, the ‘tomb’ in Much Ado About Nothing and the temple in Pericles, the Abbey is a sacred space which offers wisdom, acceptance of death and restoration. Another writer alluded to in Murdoch’s later novels is the fourteenth-century mystic Julian of Norwich, from whose Revelations of Divine Love Catherine reads to the community at lunch. In this passage Julian recalls that ‘me thought it was impossible that all things should be well, as our Lord showed’ (p. 159), but that the answer was in the ‘Showing of our Lord God [. . .] I shall save my word in all things and I shall make all things well’ (pp. 159–60). Although The Bell does not commit itself to such faith, much of its appeal lies, if not in Christian optimism, in its radiant celebration of the beauty of nature, art, holiness and the vexed comedy of human interaction. To many readers, The Bell seems one of Murdoch’s most ‘real’ novels, dramatizing moral and religious problems through the experiences of sympathetic and credible characters. A.S. Byatt opens her chapter on The Bell in Degrees of Freedom as follows: ‘here we have a novel which has the solid life that Miss Murdoch praises in the great nineteenth-century novels. The characters are not tied up neatly at the end of the book; they have a life of their own which exists beyond it’ (p. 79). But others have found the characters insubstantial. Soon after its publication, in a letter to Peter Calvocoressi at Chatto, refusing to do a short talk on The Bell, John Bowen commented, ‘I don’t think she knows very much about the nature of people, and I think this fault shows up more and more glaringly the more she writes about people and the less about ideas’.22 Despite the opinion of the Spectator that Murdoch was now the foremost novelist of her generation, she was despondent about the quality of her novels and was attempting to find ways of improving her writing. She wrote to Canetti, asking to meet him, feeling the need for an abrasive opinion of her work. He provided it. When they met for lunch in January 1959, he told her that her work so far was weak and sentimental. Such criticism may have sapped her confidence, for the novel she was working on at that time, Jerusalem, which was about idealistic Utopian socialists, was eventually abandoned. She also thought that her attempts at a series of poems were mediocre.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

46 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

47

In February 1959, she said she was ‘sickened’ by praises for The Bell and felt that she had achieved an easy success. She was determined to improve from what she perceived as a second-class novelist to a first-class one. The potential contrast between ‘ideas’ and ‘characters’ embedded in ‘solid life’ that John Bowen had spotted was one that particularly vexed her. Byatt mentions Murdoch’s praise of nineteenth-century novels, probably referring to ‘Against Dryness’. This essay, written in 1961, was Murdoch’s attempt to clarify her own position and decide where she was heading artistically. Beginning with the context of the Welfare State and modern philosophy, Murdoch considers contemporary fiction and makes a much-quoted distinction between ‘crystalline’ and ‘journalistic’ novels. She writes, ‘the nineteenth-century novel [. . .] was not concerned with “the human condition”, it was concerned with real various individuals struggling in society’ (EM, p. 291) (although she acknowledges that there were exceptions to this rough assessment). The twentieth-century novel is usually either crystalline or journalistic; that is, it is either ‘a small quasi-allegorical object portraying the human condition and not containing “characters” in the nineteenth-century sense, or else it is a large shapeless quasi-documentary object, the degenerate descendant of the nineteenth-century novel, telling, with pale conventional characters, some straightforward story enlivened with empirical facts’ (EM, p. 291). Murdoch does not name any English examples of these sub-genres, but one might call Animal Farm and Lord of the Flies ‘crystalline’ and, though hardly peopled by ‘pale conventional characters’, the early novels of Angus Wilson ‘journalistic’. Although Murdoch thinks that among contemporary novels the crystalline are usually the better, she concludes with a defence of character and contingency: A respect for the contingent is essential to imagination as opposed to fantasy. Our sense of form, which is an aspect of our desire for consolation, can be a danger to our sense of reality as a rich receding background. Against the consolations of form, the clean crystalline work, the simplified fantasy-myth, we must pit the destructive power of the now so unfashionable naturalistic idea of character. Real people are destructive of myth, contingency is destructive of fantasy and opens the way for imagination [. . .]

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Triangles and Polygons

Too much contingency, of course, may turn art into journalism. But since reality is incomplete, art must not be too afraid of incompleteness. Literature must always represent a battle between real people and images; and what it requires now is a much stronger and more complex sense of the former. (EM, p. 295) This passage presents values central to Murdoch’s thought: her respect for contingency, imagination and the incomplete; and her suspicion of form, fantasy and consolation or of form as generated by fantasy to provide consolation. In Under the Net we may recall Jake’s talent for personal mythology, his discredited fantasies about other characters, his tendency to perceive real people as images, and the fear of contingency which makes him nervous about living in Goldhawk Road. The novelist is subject to similar temptations, hence Murdoch’s praise of ‘incompleteness’. Although it is not clear in what sense, if this world is all we have, ‘reality is incomplete’, it is certainly imperfect and the atheist in Murdoch gives way to the Platonist. Despite Dora’s beneficent vision in the National Gallery, the work of art can offer a false consolation and a semblance of perfection. Rain’s inability to finish the portrait is a sign of grace. The novels usually end with an elegant (‘tonight she would be telling the whole story to Sally’ in The Bell)23 or ragged (‘what next, I wonder?’ in The Sea, The Sea)24 gesture to the future. Even the presence in most novels of minor as well as major characters can be seen as a kind of discrimination against their ‘reality’. In An Accidental Man a chorus of minimal characters pursues its own absorbing affairs in a whirligig of cocktail party chatter. At the end of The Time of the Angels, a person who has been vainly trying to get into the vicarage and the novel since Chapter 1 is identified as a past lover. John Bayley’s critical book The Characters of Love was published in 1960, the year before ‘Against Dryness’. The title seems to anticipate Murdoch’s defence of the ‘naturalistic idea of character’ and, like her, to link it with the experience of love. Bayley said that he had never had a serious conversation with his wife. However, the consonance of The Characters of Love with Murdoch’s own observations on love, character and literature suggests either conversation or a telepathic intellectual compatibility. ‘Everyone recognizes that – whatever you call it – sexual love is for most people the most interesting and memorable aspect of life [. . .] love is preoccupied with the uniqueness of

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

48 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

49

the individual’;25 ‘Love may sometimes give us a marvellous degree of mutual consciousness but it also enforces our most intractable solipsism’ (p. 5); ‘Taking other people’s reality for granted is the first requirement of love. And it is also the first requirement of character creation’ (p. 273); ‘An author’s love for his characters is a delight in their independent existence as other people’ (p. 7); ‘The writers whom we admire today do not appear to love their characters’ (p. 8); ‘We have a passion for understanding what is happening to us, or at least for coining myths and terminologies which seem to present to us a picture of what is happening’ (p. 266). Compare these with Murdoch’s The Fire and the Sun: ‘“Falling in love” [. . .] is for many people the most extraordinary and most revealing experience of their lives, whereby the centre of significance is suddenly ripped out of the self, and the dreamy ego is suddenly shocked into awareness of an entirely separate reality. Love in this form may be a somewhat ambiguous instructor’ (EM, p. 417). Despite Murdoch’s advocacy of the ‘naturalistic idea of character’ over the ‘consolations of form, the clean crystalline work’, the term ‘crystalline’ was to become a weapon used against her by critics. Aptly or ironically, one of her most crystalline novels, A Severed Head, was published in 1961, the same year as ‘Against Dryness’. Echoes of her personal life infiltrate the plot, for she had been reconciled to her Oxford contemporary Philippa Foot in April 1958 after an estrangement which resulted from the triangular relationship between Murdoch, Philippa and M.R.D Foot, whom Philippa eventually married. Now, however, he had fallen in love with his secretary in London and a flurry of letters between the two women re-established their friendship. In February 1959 Murdoch herself recorded in her journal her romantic fascination with a female colleague at St Anne’s. Again, sexual imbroglios were to be at the centre of A Severed Head (1961). In a kind of contemporary Restoration comedy, six affluent and educated characters combine and recombine sexually in almost every possible heterosexual permutation, including incest, and are stirred by homosexual undercurrents (although it can slightly offend one’s sense of symmetry that not every hypothetical coupling takes place). The Times reviewer of the later dramatization of the book used another phrase which re-echoes through criticism of the novels: a ‘sexual square dance’.26 The New York Times reviewer cautioned: ‘I don’t

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Triangles and Polygons

think she was half so serious about it all as impressionable readers may be led to believe.’27 In a letter to Norah Smallwood, however, Murdoch suggests otherwise: ‘I have weird feelings about this book and can’t be objective about it.’28 The disappointment many readers felt at the conventionality of the plot of The Sandcastle after the exuberance and invention of Under the Net and The Flight from the Enchanter had been dispelled by the satisfactions of The Bell, a novel of ideas embodied in people and places, free from numinous gypsies and magnetic enchanters. It appears to eschew experimentalism and offers the familiar seductions of realism: one can believe in the characters and care what happens to them. By contrast, A Severed Head is highly patterned and the characters, falling passionately in love again and again throughout the novel, seem strangely heartless. The narrator, Martin LynchGibbon, a wine merchant and amateur military historian, loves his beautiful older wife, Antonia, and his young mistress, Georgie, a lecturer at London University. Antonia announces that she is going to leave him for her psychoanalyst, Palmer Anderson, to whom Martin is himself attracted. Martin falls in love suddenly and violently with Palmer’s sister, Honor Klein, a Cambridge anthropologist, whom he at first thoroughly disliked. Finally (or for the time being?) Antonia is with Martin’s sculptor brother Alexander, who always used to steal his girlfriends, Georgie with Palmer and Martin (‘You must take your chance!’ ‘So must you, my dear!’) with Honor.29 Since all the characters act on their desires, there is a great deal of movement. The Lynch-Gibbons’ exquisite possessions shift from place to place with each change of feeling. Crucial meetings, partings and denouements take place at a station and an airport. Martin becomes so disoriented that he almost loses his sense of time. The volatility of relationships seems to herald the permissiveness of the 1960s, enabled or encouraged by the advent of the contraceptive pill and easier divorce laws. The novel can be read as a satire on the ‘best’ of contemporary society. Between them, the cast represent the intelligentsia, scholarship, psychology, art and cultivated leisure. Yet their talents and culture promote rather than prevent self-seeking and self-deceiving hedonism. The characters themselves might say ‘why not?’. There are no children to be damaged and everyone else behaves the same way. Occasionally the novel invites a moral assessment. Martin envies his artist brother for having

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

50 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

51

‘a technique for discovering more about what is real. “So have you” said Alexander, “It is called morality”. I laughed. “Rusted through lack of practice”’ (p. 43). But when Honor Klein asks Martin whether Antonia and Palmer are doing the right thing and he enquires, ‘Do you mean morally?’, she is close to scorn: ‘No, not morally’ (p. 63). Honor is presented as a wise woman whose understanding goes deeper than that of Freud and Christian moralists. In later novels Murdoch quotes or alludes to the maxim ‘All is permitted’, Dostoevsky’s nightmarish summation of moral breakdown if God is dead. This novel, for all its comic and cultured surface, is apocalyptic. Like The Time of the Angels, a vision of demonism after the loss of faith, it takes place largely in half-light or darkness. Unlike The Sandcastle and The Bell, A Severed Head does not present moral conflict in terms of generally accepted ethical views which individuals consider, query, modify, respect or reject on the evidence of their own reason, experience, delusions and desires. It attempts, with ironic elegance, to expose the fragility of civilization and the superficiality of its understanding. Palmer’s confidence that ‘We are civilized people [. . .] [who] must try to be very lucid and very honest’ (p. 28) is soon discredited. Psychoanalysis is only one of various beliefs and mythologies competing in the novel. In January 1959, Harold Solomon, an Oxford postgraduate, committed suicide by gassing himself after he had been undergoing psychoanalysis. Murdoch’s journals reveal that she was deeply affected by his death and, in addition, her entries about psychoanalysis become less favourable. She seems to be experimenting with how the novel form itself could provide a valid and less dangerous place for a more objective meditation on the inner life. The novel begins just before Christmas, but on New Year’s Eve, Palmer and Antonia go to Götterdämmerung,30 observing the death rather than the birth of gods. Despite Palmer’s advocacy of the lucid and the civilized at the beginning of the novel, he later looks to Martin like ‘some half-remembered picture of Dionysus’ (p. 165), the god of frenzy and intoxication. Martin, a wine-dealer, is himself a servant of Dionysus. As military historian he is also, from a safe distance, a servant of Mars. He describes Antonia’s personal faith as less her ‘vestigial Christianity’ than a ‘metaphysic of the drawing room’ (p. 17). Honor arrives in a London fog at Liverpool Street Station, which smells of ‘sulphur and brimstone’ (p. 53) and

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Triangles and Polygons

reminds Martin of the Inferno. Half-Jewish, she seems to him like the Ark of the Covenant. She is also an expert in Japanese swordsmanship and says that in Martin’s eyes she is a ‘severed head such as primitive tribes and old alchemists used to use’, a ‘terrible object of fascination’ which might be primed to ‘utter prophecies’ (p. 182). Alexander explains this symbol in Freudian terms as ‘the female genitals, feared and desired’, but this is surely a reductive view of its ambiguity (p. 44). The severed head suggests a violent separation of the brain from the body. Are the characters in the novel chattering severed heads or instinctual creatures driven by primordial urges? Martin’s surname Lynch-Gibbon is as double-edged as the samurai sword: does its owner want to sever himself from his evolutionary past and lynch the gibbon or assert the claims of passion against the reason of the Enlightenment and lynch Gibbon? Edward Gibbon’s progressive eighteenth century ended in an orgy of head-severing, a Revolution to inaugurate an age of reason which escalated into a state-sanctioned lynch mob. The novel continually suggests deeper and darker explanations for the erotic whirligig of the ‘civilized’ characters. The psychological account is plausible but inadequate. Palmer asserts that ‘mechanical models’ explain the psyche best (p. 31). Driven by unconscious compulsions, Martin, his older wife and the analyst father-figure form a classic Oedipal triangle; Martin dreams of incest and Palmer and Honor practise it; Martin and Alexander are sibling rivals with a history of wanting the same women. Such textbook Freudian patterns are now too familiar to be very disturbing. Martin experiences a more profound catabasis. He literally descends into a cellar to his crucial unexpected revelatory encounter with Honor Klein. Honor, the most controlled and authoritative character, seems like a priestess of dark gods, aware of violence and unreason beneath the thin polished surface of the urbanity of the others. Afterwards, Martin writes three versions of a letter to her, each less courteous and more direct than the last (‘Dear Dr Klein’, ‘Dear Honor Klein’, ‘Dear Honor’), and restrains himself with difficulty from composing a fourth. These recensions, a device employed in other novels, seem like a microcosm of A Severed Head, in which Martin is forced to confront himself at ever deeper levels. Early in the novel he says ‘It was like being flayed’ (p. 33), a brief allusion to a myth central to Murdoch’s thought, the flaying of the satyr Marsyas by Apollo, in neo-Platonic exegesis an allegory of

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

52 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

53

the agonizing discipline and liberation of the spirit. But the experience of reading the novel should be considerably more devastating than it is. It works far better as satirical comedy than as an exploration of an atheist’s dark night of the soul. Its schematic clarity is formally satisfying, its gestures towards unfathomable mysteries less so. The incongruity between the two is more ironic than revelatory. An Unofficial Rose, Murdoch’s sixth novel, was begun in the autumn of 1960. By now Murdoch’s relationship with a female Oxford don was causing anxiety. She records her despair after their meeting in a pub after her class in November 1961. An Unofficial Rose deals with the loves of three generations and includes a lesbian relationship. The central couple of the middle generation are Ann and Randall Peronett, the ‘saint’ and ‘artist’ of this novel, through whom Murdoch presents one of her central ideas, that goodness is drab and unattractive. The dangerous seductions of the imagination have been vividly exposed in earlier novels, but the negative face of virtue has not. Ann is graceless and unattractive, at least to her husband. They own and manage a rose garden. Ann provides most of the work and Randall a creative genius for horticulture, though he is making a dubious attempt to re-create himself as a writer. He sees Ann as lacking structure, formless, like ‘a bloody dogrose’ destroying his imagination. (‘If you mean Ann is unselfish’ interprets his father.31) Ann tries to live by the principles of her Christian faith and not imagine Randall’s infidelity or, while she is married to him, an alternative future with Felix Meecham, whom she loves and who loves her. Randall, who feels no such scruples, is in love with Lindsay, the beautiful and mercenary companion of the elderly novelist, Emma Sands, with whom his father, Hugh, had once been in love. Hugh, however, had stayed with his wife. The novel opens with her funeral and he now feels free to consider Emma again. Randall leaves Ann, who, despite her misery, begins to feel free to consider Felix. His sister Mildred, companionably married to a homosexual, feels free to consider Hugh. In the youngest generation, the Peronetts’ nephew Penn, visiting from Australia and baffled by the hostilities and reserve of the English family, falls in love with their spiteful daughter Miranda. She has secretly worshipped Felix all her life and succeeds in sabotaging his relationship with Ann. Most of these loves end in disappointment, raising the question of how free any of the characters are to exercise their newfound sense

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Triangles and Polygons

of freedom. Hugh and Ann, who have been loyal to their marriages, are not given a second chance by death or desertion. The unscrupulous are not much more successful. Randall’s love for Lindsay seems likely to end in disillusionment. Miranda has prevented her mother marrying Felix, but he will now disappear to marry a girlfriend in India. Both Randall and Hugh are dismayed to realize that his affair with Lindsay has initially been willed by Emma. Emma’s final irony is to reveal that she is fatally ill and, had Lindsay stayed with her, would have left the young woman all her money. As in The Sandcastle, the influence of Henry James is pervasive.32 This influence or resemblance can be seen throughout their fiction. (What are Rowland Mallett and Roderick Hudson but the saint and the artist?) In An Unofficial Rose, as in many of James’s novels, the choice of virtue or vice proves equally unfulfilling and the wasted life is a major theme. Hugh admits to Randall that he wishes he had left his wife for Emma. Now it may be (and is) too late. But he can, like some of James’s characters (Rowland Mallett and Ralph Touchett), find vicarious satisfaction in financing another person to live for him or enact his own desires. And (again, how Jamesian) a work of art is crucial to this design, to be traded for love or the hope of love. Randall proposes that Hugh should sell his beloved Tintoretto drawing of Susanna and the Elders (another story of thwarted desire) so that he can buy Lindsay with the proceeds. She will not accept him without money: ‘No dough, no go’ (p. 125). (Kate Croy would not express herself so crudely.) The ripples of calculation spread outward. Hugh, at first shocked and appalled by Randall’s request, does sell the Tintoretto and his motives are not entirely disinterested. Like Rowland in Roderick Hudson or Ralph in The Portrait of a Lady, he can finance his son to do what he could not do himself, to live for him. And perhaps he can still live himself. If Randall takes Lindsay away, he will create a gap in Emma’s life which Hugh can fill (in the event, Emma briskly provides herself with another young female companion). When, quite unconscious of her feelings for him, Hugh appeals to Mildred for advice, she finds herself in a Jamesian kind of dilemma on the sale of the Tintoretto. If Hugh keeps it, Lindsay will stay with Emma, leaving Hugh available for Mildred. If he sells it, Randall will desert Ann, leaving her available for Mildred’s brother Felix. The Jamesian theme of vicarious living is also expressed through deaths, both literal and metaphorical. There is an exchange

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

54 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

55

of vitality such as the narrator of The Sacred Fount obsessively perceives in all the couples around him. Hugh feels revivified by his dead wife: ‘Already he felt, from her death obscurely more alive. She fed him’ (p. 49). On receiving the money, Randall ‘felt as if he had killed his father. The sensation was not unsatisfactory. He was himself the more increased’ (p. 168). The boundaries of conscious awareness or ‘consciousness’, Murdoch said, ‘are hazy’ and some of these outer states are ‘more easily suggested by novelists and poets than described by philosophers’ (MGM, p. 196). The desire to emulate the way that James constructed metaphors for the quality of consciousness of characters produced what some critics judged to be another unsatisfactory novel. In her Jamesian reliance on the metaphorical use of a painting to illustrate inner consciousness and make a moral point, the novel fell short of its mark.33 As a student she wanted to become either a Renaissance art historian or a painter and felt she would have been ‘a moderate painter if [she] had given [her] life to it’.34 But after her work with UNRRA and meeting Sartre in Paris, she decided to take up philosophy instead. Murdoch’s literary, philosophical and artistic interests, however, always overlapped. Her passion for painting spills over into the novels throughout and she upholds the tradition of generations of writers who have drawn on painting for inspiration and exploited painterly devices to expand meaning and enrich form. She said that ‘painting often serves as a kind of explanatory metaphor for the other arts’ (EM, p. 243). The fictitious drawing of Tintoretto’s Susannah Bathing is used to the same ends that James had used the image of the pagoda in The Golden Bowl: as an explanatory metaphor in the form of an image.35 Randall’s and Hugh’s obsessions with Lindsay Rimmer and Emma Sands respectively are conveyed to the reader by proxy, as the psychology of obsession is explored by means of the psychology of the painting rather than a more conventional narration. The painting bears the weight of illustration as the tightly woven curls and Medusa-like coils of Susannah’s golden hair are echoed in descriptions of Lindsay, who also has ‘plaits of hair, with the docility of gold, beaten into a close chain around her head’ (p. 62) and Emma, who has ‘honeyed wit’, hands ‘golden in the sunshine’ and like Susannah the ability to ‘enslave’ (p. 89). Murdoch’s ‘play’ with the painting is audacious, bold and detailed, entwined crucially and extensively into the story

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Triangles and Polygons

to illustrate its moral centre. For example, when Hugh confesses his obsession with Emma to the wounded Mildred, he paces before the Tintoretto and Murdoch mischievously makes reference to his bald head. As he faces the Tintoretto and ‘threw his tonsured head back’, he becomes the missing figure from the fictional Tintoretto drawing in the novel who appears in the actual painting by Tintoretto. Hugh and the elder become synonymous and he is seen as a silly and deluded man. Mildred on the other hand emerges as the novel’s good person as, in a valiant act of renunciation, she advises Hugh to sell the painting because she realizes it will make him happy. Seeing Hugh truthfully, she refuses to transform reality into illusion, renounces what she desires and is rewarded in the novel by finally winning Hugh for herself. A.S. Byatt was one of the critics who complained about the book, in particular the perfunctory nature of Randall’s character. She felt it to be without depth, as was the nature of his relationship with Lindsay. She found the writing ‘pretentious’ and suggested that a psychological exploration of Randall’s feelings executed with love on Murdoch’s part would have turned this novel into a good one.36 Of course, if Randall’s character is understood in the light of the Tintoretto painting, it offers the emotional and intellectual analysis that the novel fails to provide by more conventional means. The technique may not provide the realism necessary to make the book successful, but it does enable a deeper understanding of both Randall and Hugh – and Murdoch’s narrative technique. The eight years since the publication of Murdoch’s first novel had seen huge successes with her more conventional realist novels but critical unease with, and lack of understanding about, her more experimental novels. Critics ignored the fact that Murdoch had been exposed to the new internationalism of form and perspective in the novel in Paris after the War and that these European influences inevitably led to her experimenting with literary form. To Brian Magee she said: ‘literature, like other arts, involves exploration’ (EM, p. 11). In Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals she expresses the idea that ‘of course, art changes and changes mysteriously, in its unspoken relation with the zeitgeist. Many artists find they cannot do traditional things and must do new things and this is proper to the continued life of art. But this change, this interweaving of old and new is subtle and various, and each artist must find his own way’ (MGM, p. 207).37

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

56 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

57

In the light of such views, it seems odd that she marginalized her experimentation in the many interviews where she aligned herself predominantly with the English Realist tradition. In her next book she was to experiment formally again, this time with an established genre that she had not used before, the Gothic, and her location was to change. For the next two novels, The Unicorn (1963) and The Red and the Green (1965), Murdoch was to return to her roots, Ireland, for her settings, although she had already experimented with a Dublin setting in a very early short story, ‘Something Special’, which was written in the early 1950s. The short story had been published by Macmillan in an anthology, Winter’s Tales, in 1957, and in a small volume in Helsinki, Four Poems and A Story, but was not published as a single volume until 1999, after her death in that year.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Triangles and Polygons

Ireland ‘Something Special’ (1999), The Unicorn (1963) and The Red and the Green (1965)

Biographical information on Iris Murdoch usually begins with the fact that she was born in Dublin. She presented – and to some extent misrepresented – herself as Anglo-Irish. Murdoch was indeed born in Dublin, but her claim that she spent her first year or two there was exaggerated. Her father gave a London address on her birth certificate and the family settled permanently in London when she was a baby. Her ancestry on both sides was Irish and both her parents grew up in Ireland. However, her talking of Ireland as ‘my poor native land’ and her proud declaration that ‘of course, I’m not English, I’m Irish’1 might suggest a youth spent in Ireland apart from her time at boarding school and university. In ‘The Irish – Are They Human?’, an amusing undergraduate article written for the student newspaper Cherwell, she purports to speak as ‘we Irish’.2 Her ‘Irishness’ is a question and a problem that has engaged Murdoch scholars. The first chapter of Conradi’s biography is entitled ‘You ask how Irish she is?’ and provides a detailed account of her forebears and family. A.N. Wilson calls a chapter in his memoir ‘Considers herself Irish’ and writes, ‘when I came to attempt my biography of IM, it was over the Irish question that we began to come unstuck’.3 Her nationality was evidently a sensitive area.4 Wilson quotes The Philosopher’s Pupil, where ‘someone says, “you’re just pretend Irish”, only to receive the reply, “all Irish are pretend Irish”’. Wilson comments, ‘this isn’t true. We all know that most Irish are real Irish’ (IMKH, p. 120), implying that Murdoch, ‘pretend Irish’ herself, denied a genuine distinction in favour of an overall myth of self-construction. Her descriptions of her origins show ‘a willingness to mythologize’ (IMAL, p. 26) or are ‘a little voulu’ (IMKH, p. 118). 58

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

4

59

The connotations of ‘Anglo-Irish’, recalling the Ascendancy, great houses and aristocracy, seem misleading to both Conradi and Wilson, though Conradi traces Murdoch’s mother’s family back to the seventeenth-century owners of an estate dissipated in the nineteenth century and finds ‘the phenomenon of downstart Anglo-Irish gentry […] familiar’ (IMAL, p. 18). He recalls Murdoch, the year before her death from Alzheimer’s, saying, ‘Who am I? Well I’m Irish anyway, that’s something’ (IMAL, p. 28). That sense of an Irish identity remained, when so much else was lost. A sense of identity is a psychological fact, irrespective of passports, maternity wards and addresses. In particular, it can persist through the diaspora and descendants of people persecuted, vilified or displaced. Jewishness is one impressive example. An early passage in Nuns and Soldiers lengthily considers the ‘Polishness’ of a character born in England to expatriate Polish parents. Many Americans will proudly describe themselves as Irish (or English or Dutch or French) when their forebears migrated centuries ago and they have never set foot in their ancestral country. Conradi’s analogy, ‘Iris had as valid a claim to call herself Irish as most North Americans have to call themselves American, generally after a shorter time on that continent’ (IMAL, p. 24), seems to get it the wrong way round. Wilson’s statement that she was a tiny babe when she left Dublin and only returned to Dublin Bay for two-week summer holidays with cousins minimizes the powerful imaginative effect of childhood holidays, particularly holidays always spent in the same place. Such experiences inspired Proust to write À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, Woolf to write To the Lighthouse and L.P. Hartley to write The Go-Between. Two of Murdoch’s first-person narrators are Irish by descent but sound dismissive about it. Jake, in Under the Net, says ‘my name is James Donaghue, but you needn’t bother about that, as I was in Dublin only once, on a whiskey blind, and saw daylight only twice, when they let me out of Store Street police station, and then when Finn put me on the boat for Holyhead’.5 Martin Lynch-Gibbon, in A Severed Head, comes from an Anglo-Irish family on his father’s side: ‘I have never lived in Ireland, though I retain a sentimental sense of connection with that poor bitch of a country.’6 Martin’s relation to Ireland is similar to Murdoch’s, but she would not express it thus. These are the characteristic tones of these narrators early in their narratives: Jake’s raffish detachment announcing the rolling stone,

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Ireland

Martin’s patronizing detachment which is masked as attachment. Jake’s companion, Finn, is a lapsed Catholic who keeps saying he will go back to Ireland, a country with religion, and finally surprises Jake by doing so. Patrick Fenman, in A Message to the Planet, ‘a penniless poet from Ireland whose aim, successfully achieved, was to become a penniless poet in Soho’,7 is in fact a stage Irishman, alcoholic, superstitious and wavering about his rejected Catholicism. Beautiful Joe in Henry and Cato, though scarily powerful, is something of a stage figure too. He is kin to the ex-Catholic thug Pinkie in Brighton Rock. Joe is an unemployed teenage crook from an Irish immigrant family in London, a ‘cheerfully lapsed’ Catholic fascinated by guns and knives, living in fantasies of becoming a pop star or ‘going to Belfast to kill those Protestant shits’8 and is drawn to tease, torment and terrorize the priest, Cato. When Cato visits Joe’s mother, he finds her battered, drinking and filled with hatred for all her sons named after saints Dominic, Francis, Patrick, Benedict and Damien, Joe’s elder brothers are in prison, dead from drugs, pimping or vanished. ‘Fuck off’, she says when Cato speaks to her of Christ and the Church (p. 164). These characters range from the nominally Irish to nearstereotypes. Except for the Irish novels, The Unicorn and The Red and the Green, all of Murdoch’s Irish characters live in England, though a few return to Ireland, and are former or non-Catholics. A 1955 dust-jacket to Under the Net confides, ‘I should like to write about Ireland – but I think I should find it very difficult not to be, in some way, absurdly emotional about it’.9 ‘Something Special’, a short story probably written in 1954, is anything but ‘absurdly emotional’. It is the only short story Murdoch wrote for publication and appeared only in a 1950s anthology until it was rediscovered and published by Chatto after her death in 1999.10 Set in Dublin, it depicts a dull and unromantic city. It recalls Joyce’s The Dubliners with its narrow lives, vague yearnings and ghastly evenings out. Yvonne, a trivial and irritable girl, lives in real poverty above a shop and shares a bed with her mother. Her family urge her to marry Sam, a kind and sensitive Jewish boy who seems a good catch, but Yvonne objects that she wants ‘something special’. Having had her head turned by women’s magazines, romantic novels and a brief fling with an Englishman who brought her flowers and sang to her, she does not appreciate or care for Sam. The working man’s Dublin is at the heart of the story and is evocatively rendered as Yvonne and Sam head into town. Sam wants to

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

60 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

61

watch the mail boat go out and they walk over O’Connell Bridge onto the quays where the Liffey flows ‘oily and glistening, as black as Guinness, bound for Dublin Bay’ (p. 22). Bored, Yvonne lures Sam to Kimball’s, where she refuses to drink in the new ‘saloon lounge’ because it is as ‘quiet as a Church’ and insists on going down to the rowdy bar where ‘nice’ ladies never go. A drunken brawl in the bar results in Yvonne getting everything she dreams of, even the flowers and a serenade. A red rose is pushed down her dress by a brawling drunk. After they have to leave for her safety, the drunk pursues, singing and dousing her with flowers and dirt gouged out of hanging baskets. This is a savage punishment for a rather simple girl from an impoverished and confined environment with not unusual romantic dreams. The savagery is turned on readers at the end of the story when, surely believing the relationship between Yvonne and Sam is utterly unworkable, they witness Yvonne getting into bed beside her mother and languidly telling her that she will indeed marry Sam. Poor Sam. But poor Yvonne too. Yvonne is a dislikeable heroine and her romantic longings seem tawdry and pathetic, but they are poignant as well: with resignation she decides, like so many people, to settle for less than she desires. This drab small-scale abnegation of hope is a rather depressing picture of Ireland and the Irish. Two almost consecutive novels written during the next decade are set in Ireland and dramatize large-scale romantic longings for heroism, sacrifice and martyrdom. The Unicorn (1963), a contemporary but timeless story, takes place in a mythic unidentified Ireland, and The Red and the Green, Murdoch’s only historical novel, is set in and near Dublin during the week of the Easter Rising in 1916. The Unicorn is the first of Murdoch’s experiments with the Gothic form. Avril Horner, the most recent critic to explore Murdoch’s use of the genre, suggests that she uses it in the sense that ‘modern Gothic novelists look into the human psyche and its obsessive desires, murderous impulses and dysfunctional fantasies in order to explore the origins of evil’.11 Mixing Ireland and the Gothic at this time was brave for an established literary writer. Horner notes, ‘at this time Gothic fiction was generally dismissed by academics as popular trash or as the rather puzzling underside of high Romantic art and writing’. However, she suggests that in drawing on Gothic devices and conventions, Murdoch is also calling attention to the seductive power of narrative itself:12 ‘The Unicorn certainly draws attention to itself as a literary artefact by

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Ireland

referring to other forms of story telling, including myth, legend, the Bible, fairy tales, narrative poetry, Gothic stories and Jacobean and Shakespearean drama.’ In 1978 Murdoch was to say that she would ‘not like to be labelled as a Gothic novelist’,13 but after The Unicorn, she continued to experiment with the genre periodically throughout her oeuvre.14 The Gothic always functions in this double sense: it not only conventionally illustrates the dramatic pull and concrete effects of the desires within the unconscious mind but also alerts her readers to the equally potent and potentially dangerous power of the story itself. The Unicorn begins with the arrival of a governess who is to teach in a castle on an unnamed but obviously Irish coast. The sea is too perilous for swimming. Inland, the landscape is a negative sublime: resistant to the human, barren, dangerous, almost treeless, with treacherous bogs and invisible paths. Like the moors in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, it is a terrain one might die in. This is a feudal, somewhat Yeatsian Ireland, inhabited by the upper classes and their servants, some of whom chatter in their own language. An old woman keens at the death of her son. The novel also uses its Gothic/Irish setting to frame Murdoch’s first meditation on the power of erotic enchantment, its unreality and seductiveness, and how far people themselves have the power to break its hold over them. It centres on Hannah Crean-Smith, lady of the castle and allegorical unicorn for whom the ‘governess’ has, in fact, been employed to be a companion. Seven years before Marian’s arrival, Hannah had an affair with Pip Lejour and allegedly tried to murder her husband, Peter. As in Wuthering Heights there are two contrasting houses which are the scenes of most of the action and the homes of most of the characters. The scholar, Max Lejour, Pip’s father and a wise old Platonist, lives at ‘Riders’, its name aptly suggesting the two horses of the soul in the Phaedrus, which each person must drive and control. ‘Lejour’ is also a Platonic name, recalling the prisoner who escapes from the cave into the light of day but can hardly communicate his clear vision to the captives of illusion. The two houses then symbolically represent enchantment and the possibility of clarity of vision respectively. Since Hannah’s affair, Peter, now living in New York, has kept his wife imprisoned at Gaze, with Gerald Scottow as gaoler and a whole entourage of servants supporting this status quo. Scottow is a Heathcliff-like character who began as a servant but has risen to a sinister position of power over everyone. An attempt to rescue

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

62 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

63

Hannah by one of the entourage, young Jamesie, has resulted only in his enthralment to Gerald. Everyone is enthralled in some sense to the beautiful and tragic Hannah. She attracts worshippers, such as Effingham, who knows that he is suffering from Courtly Love. Pip still gazes at Gaze through binoculars. Hannah is the lady of medieval romance, adored hopelessly from afar, trapped in a castle by an ogre and a wizard, exciting homage and literal prostrations.15 She is described as the ‘princesse lointaine’. Gaze sometimes seems like the spellbound castle of the Sleeping Beauty, with all the others frozen at their tasks. Two conflicting perspectives on Hannah are offered: on the one hand, she is a victim held against her will; on the other hand, she is a dangerous woman who wilfully allows her suffering to be romanticized by those who love her in order to enslave and thus punish them. The ambience of the novel evokes Hannah’s deadly fascination and the unhealthy claustrophobic space of erotic servitude. At the human level, all this enchantment is numbingly boring. Marian and Hannah doze over La Princesse de Clèves, smoke and drink whisky. As in a fairy tale, at the end of seven years the spell may be broken. Peter is about to return. Marian and Effingham plan another rescue which, like Jamesie’s, fails. Hannah is always seen from the outside, gazed at and gazing inwards. The centres of consciousness are Effingham, a regular visitor, and Marian. Like Lockwood in Wuthering Heights, they struggle to understand the dark history of the houses, its present consequences and its spiritual significance, and they leave at the end of the action. The love that everyone feels for Hannah is only one of many loves in the novel. Unlike the courtly lovers of medieval poetry, no one is absolutely faithful. Marian successively or simultaneously loves Geoffrey (from whom she has tried to free herself by leaving England), Hannah, Gerald, Jamesie, Effingham and Denis. Marian is loved by Hannah and approached by Violet, the grim housekeeper who is reminiscent of Mrs Danvers in du Maurier’s Rebecca. Denis, chaste, virtuous and animal-loving, loses his virginity (the custom of the country is to keep it until marriage) to Marian. Alice Lejour, Max’s daughter, loves Effingham and has tried to seduce Denis. Effingham loves Hannah but briefly decides on a more ‘realistic’ love for Alice. Pip still loves Hannah, as perhaps does Peter. Like many of Murdoch’s later novels, the plot of The Unicorn (though not its atmosphere) is easily forgotten. One can feel that

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Ireland

too much happens to too many people and that much of it does not much matter. But the multiplicity and disposability of the relationships are vital to its meaning. Like the weird and forbidding dolmen on the heath, they are ‘seemingly pointless yet dreadfully significant’.16 All the loves and Hannah’s penitential suffering are open to question. In the Symposium, Plato describes the ascent of the soul from human love, from the first step of the love for one body to the contemplation of the Ideas. But in Murdoch’s erotology, love may be provisional rather than absolute and the lover can go down the steps as well as up. Love can be an approach to a selfless valuing of another or a self-regarding delusion and projection. Effingham’s adoration of Hannah may be the indulgence of feeling without the danger of action, but Max himself proposes an idealistic definition of ‘Courtly Love’: ‘because beauty is a spiritual thing it commands worship rather than arousing desire’ (p. 97). Close to death as he sinks into the bog, Effingham realises that the self is the barrier to love and its loss enables the love of everything else. But the vision fades after his rescue by Denis, almost a Christ-like figure, as he appears out of the gloom with a wild donkey. Hannah may also be taken as a Christfigure, a scapegoat whose suffering is inspiring and redemptive (however, it is the prospect of death, rather than his own or Hannah’s suffering, that produces Effingham’s moment of vision, the most powerful experience in the novel). ‘Crean-Smith’ is an anagram of ‘Christ name’ and the unicorn is a symbol of Christ. Max describes her as ‘our image of the significance of suffering’ (p. 98) but cautions that sacred as well as profane love may deal in illusion: ‘she may be just a sort of enchantress, a Circe, a spiritual Penelope keeping her suitors spellbound and enslaved’ (p. 99). Hannah’s dangerous complicity in the way she enchants others is made clear. Such descriptions, resonating through the novel, may suggest that the author herself is in thrall to a self-indulgent romanticism, but their tenor is really the opposite. The insistence of the symbolism points to the human need to construct or impose meaning and significance. Throughout the novel, Hannah herself is disturbed by others’ interpretations of her, imprisoned in their images as much as in Gaze Castle. The novel ends with the death of Peter, drowned by Denis, while Hannah and Pip commit suicide, indicating the real possibility for tragedy in erotic servitude. Hannah is destroyed in effect by the weight of meanings in her story, and Murdoch, by implication, hints

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

64 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

65

at the magical power of art itself, which seduces both its creator and its client. But life goes on at Riders and Marian survives. After loving so many people and witnessing the Gothic horrors set in motion by faithlessness and jealousy, she has recovered from the relationship she came to Gaze to escape and she leaves on a cheerful, sensible, everyday note: ‘She would dance at Geoffrey’s wedding’ (p. 264). By contrast with the timeless, unplaced, fictive quality of The Unicorn, The Red and the Green confines itself largely to realism, providing detailed and specific accounts of Dublin in the week leading up to the Easter Rising in 1916, when the Irish Volunteer Army brought to fruition its insurrection against English rule in Ireland. It draws on both memory and research. Murdoch said she ‘tried to get everything right – what day a particular article was published on, what day and how they changed the plan for the insurrection, and what the English were doing’.17 The action proceeds day by day towards the fatal Easter Monday, houses are placed in actual streets (including Blessington Street, where Murdoch was born, and Eccles Street, home of Joyce’s Leopold Bloom), the Republican groups and splinter groups are carefully distinguished, and newspaper articles are considered. In a paragraph reminiscent of Ulysses, Barney notes advertisement slogans and, in discomfort, a couple of pages later, recalls irrelevantly ‘Zam-buk the only cure’.18 The book is also specific to saturation point about family relationships. As in Middlemarch, almost everyone is related to everyone else, emphasizing the peculiar agony of a divided society close to civil war. Most of the characters are connected by blood or marriage and even on a second or third reading it is difficult to remember their exact relationships.19 These complex family structures, labelled ‘les cousins et les tantes’ in Nuns and Soldiers,20 are to be a recurring problem in Murdoch’s later novels. Such complex relationships echo the complexity of the dilemmas of Irish politics and emphasize their human cost, but we may, however, recognize within them some characters as stock types in her fiction. There is the enchanter, Pat Dumay, whose fascination compels most of the women and some of the men, and the siren, Millie, another lady with a castle, desired by all the men. It is a weakness of the novel that neither character seems that irresistibly seductive. There is the failed would-be priest and aspiring writer, Barney, whose unconsummated marriage to the drab, virtuous, ‘formless’ Kathleen again sketches the artist/saint opposition.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Ireland

Pat Dumay’s dedication to the Irish cause constitutes his power and his limitations. Yeats’s poem ‘Easter 1916’ pervades the novel to emphasize one of its main themes and warns, ‘Too long a sacrifice/ Can make a stone of the heart’. Pat’s absolute need to fight, and perhaps die, for Ireland verges on the abstract: a defining act of will. He cares for nothing else, except his younger, and even more fanatical, brother Cathal and sees this love as the flaw in his armour. In contrast to most of the other characters, Pat is totally assured of his identity as Irish. Hilda Spear notes, however, that the novel is ‘less successful in making readers believe in the depth of emotion that ties Pat to Ireland and to Catholicism than in convincing us of his deep affection for [...] Cathal’.21 Pat’s cousin, the Englishman Andrew Chase-White, has a background similar to Murdoch’s, which creates an ambiguity: ‘Andrew’s family were Anglo-Irish, but he had never lived in Ireland, although he had spent most of his childhood holidays there’ (p. 10). He ‘had grown up in England and more especially in London, and felt himself unreflectively to be English, although equally unreflectively he normally announced himself as Irish’ (p. 10). He becomes a cavalry officer in King Edward’s Horse (Murdoch’s father’s regiment in the First World War) out of a need to emulate his Irish cousins (‘a race of young horsemen, passing him by’ [p. 12]), although he hates and fears horses. Like millions of other young men who served in that War, he is doomed. Yeats’s epitaph for himself concludes: ‘Horseman, pass by!’22 When Andrew dreams of owning a car after the War, ‘a rendezvous in the future with a Vauxhall Prince Henry’ (p. 34) (a divided Prince Hal contrasting with Pat’s mounted Hotspur? [p. 89]), we know that his rendezvous will be, like Yeats’s Irish airman’s, with death. The dark allusions to the Great War also touch the equally doomed Pat, who refuses to serve in it. He ‘cursed them all [Connolly’s engineers] for incompetent oafs’ (p. 97) like Siegfried Sassoon: ‘Now the soldiers he smiled at are most of ’em dead/And we’re cursing his staff for incompetent swine’ (‘The General’). Andrew’s unrequited love for his cousin, Frances, is one of the network of love entanglements that interweave and complicate the political affiliations within the book. ‘Red’ and ‘green’ are not the absolutes and opposites Pat and Cathal assert. Red is associated with the British army, the ‘redcoats’, and green is the national colour of Ireland. Red also traditionally symbolizes blood and green symbolizes nature or growth. The Republicans see Ireland

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

66 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

67

and England as opposites and trust that bloodshed will lead to rebirth. But many points of view and shades of opinion are represented in the novel. Most of the main characters are not purely Irish or English. Like Andrew, some come from England. His mother, Hilda, and her brother, Barney, were brought up in London. Barney, partly under the spell of childhood holidays in Ireland, moved there after Cambridge. Hilda has recently moved to Ireland to escape the Zeppelins. Christopher Bellman, the father of Frances, whom Andrew assumes he will marry, is ‘English, though Irish by adoption through his wife’, an Irish ‘enthusiast’, though he keeps ‘aloof from all politics and controversy’ (p. 28), and undertakes research on Irish antiquities. His is one of the most judicious and impartial voices in the many discussions of Irish politics. But, suddenly and unexpectedly, he tries to join the rebels in the Post Office and is killed by a bullet, from which side nobody knows. Most of the characters are in some sense ‘Anglo-Irish’ and thus, in some sense, Protestant. But in several generations there have been converts to Catholicism, including Kathleen and both her husbands, Brian Dumay and Barney. Pat and Cathal, the children of the first marriage, are therefore cradle Catholics, though their religion seems more a matter of national identity than spiritual conviction. Few of the characters have much conviction. Andrew hears the ‘horrible sounds’ of an evangelical hymn such as Murdoch learned during her Irish holidays and reflects that, if pressed, he would have to choose that ‘appalling vulgarity’ (p. 57) rather than the other, Catholicism. However, religion is a vital force in the individual (though not the shared) lives of Kathleen and Barney, through whom the unbelieving author expresses some of her most deeply felt religious views. The devout and dowdy Kathleen, exhausted by her charitable work, is (in her role as a successor to Ann Peronett in An Unofficial Rose [1962]) condemned by her husband as ‘formless’.23 But this argues a commitment to virtuous action rather than an egotistic absorption in herself. Barney Drumm, like Murdoch, was born a Protestant and was brought up in London but converts to Catholicism and trains for the priesthood. Corrupted by the emotionally voracious Millie and thus unable to become a priest, he prefers self to saints. He has abandoned a book on Irish saints for ‘the more interesting task of self-analysis’ and is writing a memoir. He knows that the work is self-exculpating and untruthful and on Good Friday, after an awareness of God’s presence at Tenebrae, resolves (temporarily) to give up the memoir,

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Ireland

stop seeing Millie (the cause of his disgrace and departure from the seminary) and confess both infidelities to Kathleen. However (in a scene reminiscent of Jake and Hugo’s hospital conversation in Under the Net), when he tells Kathleen that he is writing a memoir, she merely replies, ‘Sure, why shouldn’t you?’ (p. 223) and says in a matter-of-fact way that she knows he sees Millie. The ‘saint’ frustrates the ‘artist’s’ desire for drama. At the Easter Mass, Barney, who has always found the resurrection rather a disappointment, the risen absent Christ replacing the ‘recognizable victim’ (p. 262), has an insight central to Murdoch’s spirituality. His meditations on the human, suffering Christ have been a kind of self-indulgence. ‘What was required of him was something which lay outside the deeply worked pattern of suffering, the plain possibility of change without drama and even without punishment [. . .] Absence not pain would be the rite of his salvation’ (p. 233). In The Unicorn, when Effingham thinks he is about to drown in the bog, his vision of his impending death and non-being enables a love of all being. Death rather than suffering is ‘salvation’ in Murdoch’s theology – or would be if the realization of death did not rule out a self to be saved. Barney experiences this realization within the pattern of Christianity, but it is an understanding more emphasized in Buddhism. During the last chapters that are set before the Rising, the English and the Irish confront each other in the cousins Andrew and Pat. Pat succeeds in disabling Andrew and Cathal from fighting on their different sides by imprisoning and handcuffing them together, an image of how so many characters are ‘united in the strife that divided them’. He could not have disarmed Andrew without Millie’s help, a whispered revelation – or allegation – of incest in his family, which she will reveal if he does not comply.24 When Frances and her father discover the captives, she explodes in grief and rage at Andrew: ‘Have you forgotten you’re an Army officer? [. . .] you should have shot him as a traitor! You’ve betrayed your King and country. You’ve dishonoured your uniform [. . .] You did it because you were afraid of Pat. You’ve always been afraid of Pat’ (p. 303). Does Frances, who has unexpectedly turned down Andrew’s proposal, condemn him as a coward before his heroic cousin? Is she distraught because he might have prevented the Rising and did not? Does she think that ‘honour’ demands loyalty to one’s own side in any circumstances? The final section modifies and complicates her outburst.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

68 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

69

The novel concludes with an Epilogue, set in England in 1938, in the home of Frances and her English husband. There is civil war in Spain and the threat of another world war. Frances is full of fear for her son, whose best friend has joined the International Brigade to fight in Spain. Her husband is dismissive about Ireland, the Irish and ‘the nineteen sixteen nonsense [which] made no sense at all’ (p. 316). When he leaves for work, Frances and her son agree that ‘nineteen sixteen was wonderful’, though she doesn’t ‘quite see what good it did’ (p. 316). Her son’s enthusiasm for freedom fighting reminds her of Cathal Dumay. He questions her about the characters involved and receives a roll-call of the dead: her father and Pat Dumay in 1916, Cathal in the civil war of 1921, Andrew, winning an M.C. at Passchendaele in 1917. She describes them as ‘inconceivably brave men’ (p. 318). She reveals, for the first time in the novel, that she was in love with Pat Dumay. She corrects her son’s description of Andrew: ‘He wasn’t English, he was Irish’ (p. 318), mysteriously contradicting her furious Easter 1916 tirade. The Epilogue has been praised and condemned. ‘J.R’ of MetroGoldwyn-Mayer wrote ‘how beautiful and moving is that last elegiac chapter set twenty-five years later. I cannot recall a better done chapter of [its] kind’.25 But both Elizabeth Dipple and Donna Gerstenburger find it a romanticizing volte-face. Dipple comments on the observation that ‘they were inconceivably brave men’ and suggests that ‘these words ring false in terms of Murdoch’s realism’.26 Gerstenburger finds the description of Andrew as Irish ‘meant to be a salute [but] wholly gratuitous’, though she thinks Frances’s ‘overstatement of the Irish cause [. . .] somewhat balanced by the letter she receives from Kathleen [which] speaks to the reality of the situation and implicitly balances out Frances’s uncharacteristic romanticism’.27 She concludes, ‘it is not like Murdoch as a novelist to accept romanticized absolutes about historical events or to see value in such judgments. The familiar irony and distance which have characterized the rest of this novel [. . .] are gone’ (p. 68). But does Frances speak for the author or express her own need to memorialize Andrew as ‘Irish’ and all the dead as heroes? Yeats wrote in ‘Easter 1916’ that they were ‘changed, changed utterly’.28 Here, as in the rest of the novel, a variety of viewpoints – Frances’s, Kathleen’s, Frances’s husband’s – are given, and to recognize the courage of the rebels is not to endorse their cause or condone their methods. The Epilogue is surely less a verdict on the Easter Rising than a sad but accepting recognition

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Ireland

of the nature of memory and the passage of time. ‘Elegiac’ is the exact word for its sense of a lost and perhaps imaginary age of heroism and a humdrum present. And this strikes chords in readers who were not Irish expatriates remembering the Easter Rising in 1938. Frances’s feeling ‘that these thoughts were always with her, and that she had lived out, in those months, in those weeks, the true and entire history of her heart, and that the rest was a survival’ (p. 318) evokes that mythic power our late teens and twenties retain for many of us. The morning routine in Frances’s kitchen, Kathleen’s account of Millie’s failing health and reduced circumstances are all too convincing to the middle-aged. The Epilogue reminds one of the relatively depressing and plausible Finale to Middlemarch, introduced by the question: ‘Who can quit young lives after being long in company with them, and not desire to know what befell them in their after-years?’29 Perhaps we would rather not know, but the realism as well as the romanticism of Murdoch’s Epilogue must be recognized. The Red and the Green was the only novel Murdoch was ashamed of (IMAL, p. 465). It appeared in 1965, four years before the outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland which was to last the rest of her lifetime. She came to find the admirable even-handedness of the novel too tolerant towards the Republicans. Her sympathies were strongly with the Ulster Protestants and A.N. Wilson recalls her, strident and redfaced, sounding like Ian Paisley in arguments on the subject.30 In The Philosopher’s Pupil, written nearly 30 years after The Red and the Green, the character Emmanuel Scarlett-Taylor reflects some of Murdoch’s own anguish on the subject, though it drives him to reject rather than exaggerate his Irishness: ‘Brought up as a vague Anglican’, singing in his English school choir but loving the Latin mass and ritual, he thought ‘religion was history and history taught tolerance. Then the shooting started’.31 The description of ‘the gratuitous, untimely cause of “United Ireland”’ (p. 126) sounds as much authorial as free indirect discourse. The destruction of Belfast by the IRA and ‘Protestant murderers, as vile as their foes’ gives Emmanuel his first ‘close-up view of human wickedness’ (p. 126). The ‘changed, changed utterly’ heroism of The Red and the Green and the mythic quality of The Unicorn seem far away from the reality of bombed Belfast.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

70 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

New Directions, Constant Themes The Italian Girl (1964), The Time of the Angels (1966), The Nice and the Good (1968) and Bruno’s Dream (1969)

Harold Wilson famously spoke of a ‘wind of change’ in 1960 and the impetus toward new directions infected Murdoch, who was looking for fresh challenges in the early years of the decade. The 1960s turned out to be politically chaotic for the country and emotionally and creatively turbulent for Murdoch. She was spreading her wings, experimenting with different genres. A 100-page cycle of poems, ‘Conversations with a Prince’, was sent to Norah Smallwood at Chatto (in 1989 they were returned) and she gave the novelist and dramatist J.B. Priestley a draft of a play based on A Severed Head. He disliked it but nonetheless rewrote it and the play opened in Bristol in April 1963. Murdoch was exultant after the opening night. In June the play opened at the Criterion Theatre in London (starring Robert Hardy, Heather Chasen and Sheila Burrell) where it was to run for over 1,000 performances.1 Reviewing the production for the Guardian, Philip Hope-Wallace attributed its lack of depth to the medium itself: ‘Miss Murdoch’s novel is post-Freud Henry James [. . .] what happens is much less important than what a lot of mixed-up people think is happening. It’s all inside their own severed heads. The fun [. . .] in reading the book was the fun of its gruesome surmise. And that quality “surmise” is just what the theatre is least good at.’2 From Under the Net onwards, interest was often expressed in filming Murdoch’s novels and in 1977 she wrote to her theatrical agent, Peggy Ramsey, ‘I’d like to see a decent film of one of those books, in any language, before I die’.3 Although there have been a number of radio and television adaptations, A Severed Head is the only novel to have been made into a film, with Claire Bloom as a cogent 71

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

5

(but too beautiful) Honor. In 1969 Murdoch attended the shooting of the scene of Honor’s arrival at Paddington and was excited by it (Paddington was used rather than Liverpool Street because in the film Honor is, like Murdoch, a don at Oxford rather than Cambridge, a detail which links character and author). But when Murdoch saw the film, she thought it ‘terrible’. Although Murdoch dedicated 1969 to writing plays, she found the process difficult and none emerged that year. Only Priestley’s rewritten dramatization of A Severed Head and an adaptation of The Italian Girl by the young playwright James Saunders came out of this decade. ‘The Italian Girl is A S[evered] H[ead] in reverse, the spell repeated backwards’, she wrote in her journal.4 The Italian Girl itself was written between The Unicorn and The Red and the Green, and is slight and formulaic. It opens with a haunting and beautiful description of the narrator’s homecoming after his mother’s death, but unfolds as a rather obvious Freudian narrative of siblings, splitting and surrogates. Like A Severed Head it is a short, closed and crystalline novel with a first-person male narrator and multiple sexual relationships and attractions between the small cast of characters. It is both a Freudian family romance and a Gothic romance. As in other Murdoch novels, there is a pair of contrasting but connected brothers, both artists, refugee siblings and finders of substitutes. Although Murdoch was an only child, siblings, with their loves, hates, complicity and rivalries, figure largely in her novels. Another recurring motif is the confrontation of two very different men, though Edmund, the narrator, feels that he and his brother Otto are in some way the same person. Edmund is an engraver, belittled by Isabel, his sister-in-law, as dealing in ‘tinification’. He is controlled, almost celibate, teetotal and vegetarian, living in London at a safe remove from his wild family and possessive mother in the north. Otto is a gross, extrovert, violent stonemason. Edmund returns for his mother’s funeral, thinking that it will be his last visit and meaning to depart as soon as possible, but he is drawn into the vortex of his family’s problems. Otto and Isabel are sleeping with (respectively) Elsa and David, another pair of siblings and Russian Jews, and their daughter Flora is pregnant by David. The desperate Isabel strips to the waist for the embarrassed Edmund and he inadvertently puts his arms round Flora. Tinification indeed, but these events lead to a terrible climax of arson and death, to a new freedom for most of the characters and to liberation and commitment

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

72 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

73

for Edmund. All this has been observed by the Italian girl, Maria, the last in a succession of Giulias, Carlottas and Gemmas, scarcely distinguished from them by Edmund but a second mother for him. At last he can see Maria for herself, leaves his family and is off to Rome with her – an ambiguous ending. The Italian Girl is the slightest of Murdoch’s fictions and she did not care whether it was published or not (IMAL, p. 460). It is the only one of her novels with chapter headings and they seem to suggest a slightly satirical second narrator, a distance between the author and her story: ‘Isabel Feeds the Fire’; ‘Edmund is Tempted’; ‘Edmund Runs to Mother’; ‘Lydia’s Sense of Humour’. Both Norah Smallwood and Marshall Best wanted Murdoch to do more work on the book but, as usual, she was resistant to editorial suggestions. The novel received some poor reviews. Elizabth Janeway described it as ‘Cold Comfort Farm rewritten during an unlikely collaboration between Henry James and D.H. Lawrence’.5 However, it was the Book Society alternative choice in September 1964 and James Saunders’s dramatization was put on at the Bristol Old Vic in 1967 and in London at the Wyndham’s Theatre in 1968. Murdoch travelled to Bristol in September 1967 for rehearsals of the play and when it opened at the Bristol Old Vic, like the novel it received very mixed reviews.6 In the early 1970s, two plays, The Three Arrows and The Servants in the Snow, emerged out of this drive towards drama and were published in a composite volume in 1973. But there were no more plays from then until The One Alone, which was broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in February 1987 and Joanna, Joanna, published in 1994.7 However, the last three novels of the 1960s seem to reflect Murdoch’s interest in drama which is in turn linked to her continuing desire for innovation in the novel form. Her enduring worries about the decline of religious belief in the West are also evident, perhaps because they were intensified by contemporary theological debates generated by John Robinson’s Honest to God, published in 1963.8 Throughout this decade, after the unconvincing experimentalism of some of the earlier writing, Murdoch re-emphasized her commitment to nineteenth-century realism, and such a stress obscured those aspects of her novels that continued to enlarge and extend it. In 1960, when she was judging the Prix Formentor, won by the Italian Carlo Emilia Gadda, she cited James’s The Golden Bowl and Tolstoy as influences on her own work. In 1964 she spoke again of her love for George Eliot, Dickens and Henry James, the only writer she claimed

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

New Directions, Constant Themes

to have influenced her. 9 In July 1966 she wrote to her PhD student at the RCA, Rachel Fenner, that she was just an old traditionalist. She was to highlight her commitment to the realist tradition again in 1966 in an interview in Books and Bookmen and in 1967 in an interview in the Listener entitled ‘Talking with a Traditionalist’. In 1968 she pointed out to W.K. Rose that in her early fiction she alternated between ‘open’ and ‘closed’ novels. The ‘open’ novels are those where there are more accidental, separate and free characters, while the ‘closed’ novels are those where the work has a stronger formal intensity and where her own ‘obsessional feeling about a novel draws it together’.10 She highlights the difficulty of reconciling the two styles and would like not to oscillate between them. She achieves a marriage between the two styles most successfully for the first time in The Nice and the Good (1968), but the other two novels which form the focus of this chapter, The Time of the Angels (1966) and Bruno’s Dream (1969), are ‘closed’, driven by her own internal passions. In later novels, where she manages to merge the two styles successfully, she creates the impression of a more traditional realism, although a close reading of these novels does not completely confirm it. In an interview with A.S. Byatt and Ronald Bryden (one of the few critics of the 1960s to appreciate her experimentalism) in the Listener in 1969,11 she equivocated her commitment to traditionalism. Now she was careful to distinguish her work from that of the nineteenthcentury realists rather than align herself with them. She said that while those writers focus on the larger society, her novels are psychologically and mythically centred. The great challenge to the writer as she saw it was to represent the unobservable inner life of characters and it is to this end that her attempts to expand the possibilities of form were directed. She most admires Shakespeare in this sense, drawing on this ability to combine mythical pattern with free characters. In May 1967 she wrote an article (which remained unpublished until it appeared in the Iris Murdoch News Letter in 1999) on her relations with her characters, where she discusses the battle between character and form at the centre of novel writing and says that sadly she always thinks that form wins through, though she would prefer it if character wrecked form. This tension between the necessity of form and the freedom of characters underlies all her work. The convoluted love-plot of A Severed Head (1961), which has intrigue and infidelity at its heart, prophetically echoes the political

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

74 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

75

scandals of the 1960s: in March 1963, the Government minister John Profumo was suspected of having jeopardized national security by sharing a lover, Christine Keeler, with a KGB agent. Profumo claimed his innocence, but was later unmasked and forced to resign. The scandal was to run and run and the infidelities in the upper echelons of British society in A Severed Head, and in the civil service in particular in The Nice and the Good, probably fuelled the popularity of Murdoch’s novels at that time. Murdoch herself was undergoing a precarious balancing act to avoid her own sexual scandal: she resigned her philosophy fellowship at St Anne’s12 partly because a romantic relationship with a female colleague was causing discomfort. Her ostensible reasons were that lecturing made her nervous and that she wanted more time to write. With her wide philosophical and literary interests, she also found the Oxford syllabus rather constrained by the examination requirements. Her move to the Royal College of Art in 1963 to teach philosophy to Art History students (‘a wilder bunch [. . .] than she had ever encountered at Oxford’)13 generated an unwise if not improper relationship with a student there. David Morgan was a quite brilliant but damaged young man to whom Murdoch initially acted as a moral guide; however, she became increasingly drawn into the sexual mêlée that characterized his life. Murdoch’s friendship with him came close to a scandal that could have damaged her career and her personal relationships. Although she continued to write philosophy as well as fiction, was married to a don and spent most of her life in or near Oxford, she did not choose to develop as primarily an ‘academic’ novelist. None of her novels was to be set exclusively in Oxford and her favourite urban location was always to be London.14 She met friends and lovers there and it was there that she undertook the more public aspects of her career, giving lectures and recording discussions and interviews for the BBC. She had, since 1960, set up a permanent London home, renting a small flat at 59 Harcourt Terrace, SW10. On returning to London to teach at the RCA, she spent part of the week at Harcourt Terrace during termtime. The London of the 1960s was of course very different from the wartime London of the 1940s: class barriers were being broken down, traditions and customs were being disregarded and the sex-obsessed bohemianism of the ‘swinging sixties’ was practised by the rebellious RCA students. Murdoch was at once ‘shocked, fascinated, delighted

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

New Directions, Constant Themes

and appalled’ (IMAL, p. 471), and this bohemian environment was to feature in the novels of the 1960s and early 1970s. Oxford figures in the novels only as a place characters are going to, leaving or revisiting, a place of expectation and memory, future or past. Toby in The Bell is spending a summer interlude at Imber before going up to Corpus. Hilary Burde destroys his lover, her unborn child and his Oxford career in a tragic accident on the road to London. The Book and the Brotherhood opens with the reunion of middle-aged friends and former students at an Oxford college Commemoration ball, but the current undergraduate career of Tamar is interrupted by her mother’s spite and envy. However, the novels feature numerous academics, schoolteachers, former and future teachers: Dave Gellman in Under the Net, Peter Saward in The Flight from the Enchanter, most of the characters in The Sandcastle, Michael and Dora in The Bell, Georgie Hands in A Severed Head, Marian and Max Lejour in The Unicorn, Nora in The Time of the Angels, Jessica in The Nice and the Good, Morgan and Julius in A Fairly Honourable Defeat, Hilary and Gunner in A Word Child, Henry Marshalson and John Forbes in Henry and Cato, Rozanov in The Philosopher’s Pupil, Jenkin and Levquist in The Book and the Brotherhood and Marcus Vallar in The Message to the Planet, among others. The Abbess in The Bell describes teaching as one of the few jobs in the modern world which can ‘readily be invested with a spiritual significance’.15 Murdoch valorizes learning, together with love and art, as a means of ‘spiritual’ progress or secular enlightenment: ‘Attention is rewarded by a knowledge of reality’ (EM, p. 373). The relationship between student and teacher is crucial in novels other than The Philosopher’s Pupil. In A Word Child, Hilary Burde’s escape from the abuse and poverty of his childhood to an academic career is enabled by the attention and generosity of his ‘wonderful schoolmaster’16 Mr Osmand, whose later suicide he might have prevented. Years later, at Oxford, his desire for his tutor’s wives results in the deaths of both women. Teaching can be less fatally unrewarding. Murdoch also dramatizes the frustrations and embarrassments of pedagogy in Mor’s evening class and Bledyard’s spiritual but unintentionally hilarious lecture in The Sandcastle. In The Philosopher’s Pupil, the philosopher is exasperated by a devoted and demanding ex-pupil. The Book and the Brotherhood and The Message to the Planet suggest the dangers of an infatuated coterie of disciples.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

76 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

77

Murdoch continued to teach regularly for another four years. Her part-time position at the Royal College of Art required her to teach one day a week in the General Studies programme. The RCA was a small and distinguished college, including among its graduates David Hockney, Bridget Riley and Ossie Clark. But General Studies, headed by Christopher Cornford, did not fit entirely happily into this ambience. It was unpopular with most of the students and with some of the colleagues in other departments. The Coldstream and Summerson Reports had recommended that all students in higher education should reach a reasonable standard of literacy. At the RCA this was assessed by the requirement for a dissertation supervised by the Department of General Studies, which also provided lecture courses intended to widen the students’ intellectual horizons. Much later, on an interview panel at the RCA in 1977, Murdoch kept repeating, ‘the job of the Department of General Studies is to get artists to read books’ (IMAL, p. 473). But many of the recipients thought this pointless. They wanted to draw, paint and sculpt: ‘anything I thought a waste of time I just ignored. I think perhaps I did half an essay for them’;17 ‘I just managed to escape that thing of being told what books to read and take lectures on philosophy [. . .] I disdained to write a clever thesis or anything like that’.18 Memories of Murdoch’s lectures on philosophy vary. Her students perhaps had an aversion to the intellectual, dealing in the tactile. Yet while some students found the course irrelevant to them, some found it stirring and suggestive. ‘Some felt that attending [her lectures] was like eavesdropping on a soliloquy. She communed aloud with herself, frowning a trifle nervously in a corner about a philosophical problem, while her listeners overheard’ (IMAL, p. 473). Her essay topics were close to her heart and relate to the preoccupations of both her philosophical and fictional work: ‘Discuss in detail any work of literature which seems to you to throw light upon the problem of freedom’; ‘Sartre and Marcel both compare a moral act with a work of art. Discuss this comparison’; ‘Describe and criticize the “good man” as conceived by Sartre’.19 As at St Anne’s, Murdoch was very sympathetic to her students20 and she sometimes bought their paintings. Some, such as David Morgan and Rachel Fenner, became and continued to be friends. Fenner’s dissertation topic, ‘The Imagination as a Moral Tool’, was one of Murdoch’s preoccupations. She also became friends with some colleagues in the General Studies department.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

New Directions, Constant Themes

Frederic Samson, who taught European Literature and the History of Ideas, was, like some characters in her fiction, a refugee from Nazi Germany, the ‘latest of [her] Jewish teachers’ (IMAL, p. 482). Cornford, whom she already knew, designed the dust-jackets for several of her books. Murdoch’s teaching at the RCA was informed by her own extensive knowledge of and interest in the visual arts, and she had painted herself. The link between the visual arts and the novels becomes a motif after Gainsborough’s The Painter’s Daughters Chasing a Butterfly appears in The Bell. A fictitious drawing of Susannah Bathing by Tintoretto appears in An Unofficial Rose, Bronzino’s Allegory on Venus Cupid Folly and Time mirrors the plot of The Nice and The Good and Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love is alluded to in the title of The Sacred and Profane Love Machine – to name only a few of many associations between what she termed, like James, the ‘sister’ arts.21 She had considerable sympathy with artists. When meeting, among a crowd of academics, a university wife who said ‘I’m an artist’, Murdoch replied ‘God bless you!’22 There are almost as many painters as writers in her fiction and artists inhabit her work from her early novels, years before she taught at the RCA, to her latest: Rain in The Sandcastle, Dora in The Bell, Alexander in A Severed Head, Edmund and Otto in The Italian Girl, Jessica, Tim and Daisy in Nuns and Soldiers, Jesse in The Good Apprentice, Jack and Marcus in The Message to the Planet and Moy in The Green Knight are artists. Paul in The Bell, Simon in A Fairly Honourable Defeat and Henry in Henry and Cato are art historians. Emil in The Green Knight is an art dealer. Some of the creators – Otto, Jesse and Jack – are possessed by the egotism of the ‘artist’ in Murdoch’s familiar contrast. Others (perhaps because they are less talented) are unpretentious. For all her frivolity, Dora can on occasions be very fair and clear-sighted. When her lover, Nick, says that Paul is jealous of her creative powers, she retorts briskly, ‘I haven’t any creative powers. And Paul’s terribly creative’ (p. 185). Dora is much less judgemental than most of the more intelligent educated characters who surround her and her judgement is often better because it is more instinctive. The novels contain a myriad of such references to painters and paintings, delicately enlarging her moral philosophy, hinting at the difference between good and bad art, clarifying the inner life of her characters or simply pointing outwards toward the rich texture of the world outside the benighted consciousness of the characters.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

78 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

79

Despite the problems of the General Studies’ requirement at the RCA, an art college was a congenial as well as a challenging contrast with Murdoch’s usual academic environment. She often found the students refreshingly creative, sceptical and questioning as well as frustratingly ignorant, rebellious and unreceptive. She described them as ‘utterly different from Oxford students, they don’t accept anything on trust, they question everything [. . .] they’re wild!’ (IMAL, p. 476). She was, however, there at a time when the universities were also becoming wilder. The mythical ‘Sixties’ did not begin in 1960 but in the middle of the decade, and the sex, drugs and anarchy that startled Murdoch at the RCA were exploding at the same time in the university world. Jessica in The Nice and the Good (1968), who learned nothing about the history of painting at art school and makes the children she teaches destroy their work at the end of the lesson, is symptomatic of some of the general educational trends of the time which Murdoch deplored. Like the RCA students (‘religion means nothing to them’ [IMAL, p. 476]) Jessica is ‘entirely outside Christianity’ but her restless need for ‘artistic activity’ is ‘a spiritual hunger’.23 The first draft of The Time of the Angels was begun in April 1965 just after Murdoch had read Heidegger’s Being and Time and after, in June of that year, the United States bombed Hanoi in communist North Vietnam. Murdoch deeply disapproved of American intervention in Vietnam. In October 1964 she had visited Ireland to become the first woman to address the Philosophical Society at Trinity College Dublin, speaking on ‘Job: The Prophet of Nihilism’. The Time of the Angels is a dark novel set in a present of waning faith. It is a time of moral crisis. When Murdoch started to write novels in the 1950s, theologians were aware that, after two World Wars and the Holocaust, Christian faith would have to be redefined or reinterpreted. Her novels offer a workable ‘neo-theology’ that can be integrated into the day-to-day lives of those readers whose faith has lapsed or who feel unable to participate in conventional religious practice. Her books have much to offer to those who might be struggling to live a good life without the traditional concept of God. The Time of the Angels addresses the problem central to Murdoch’s theology: can morality survive without religion? She was born into an Irish Protestant family; ‘I could pray as soon as I could speak and I knew that God was present [. . .] I had a feeling of communing with God’ (TCHF, p. 209). Nonetheless, she consistently

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

New Directions, Constant Themes

denied the existence of a personal God, the divinity of Christ and life after death. She was suspicious of Christian dogma and iconography. Her faith was ‘removed by the image of Karl Marx’ in the 1930s and she joined the Communist Party (TCHF, p. 210). In ‘The Sovereignty of Good’ in 1970, she was to argue that ‘human life has no external point’, ‘we are transient mortal creatures subject to necessity and chance’ and ‘our destiny can be examined but it cannot be justified or totally explained. We are simply here’ (EM, p. 365).24 ‘Neo-theology’ was being popularized in 1960s Britain. John Robinson, Bishop of Woolwich, drawing on the thinking emerging from post-War Germany and German expatriates at this time, published Honest to God in 1963. It was immediately influential and controversial. Although Murdoch later described it as ‘mild tinkerings’ (MGM, p. 455), its questioning of traditional Christianity is similar to her own. Like Murdoch, Robinson argues for a demythologizing of Christian belief – the concept of God as ‘up there’ has gone and so must the concept of a deity ‘out there’ – though he accepts that these pictures have metaphorical and emotional validity. Throughout her work Murdoch presents the necessity for questioning and recreating religious and other images. Both Robinson and Murdoch are indebted to and quote the theologian Paul Tillich. Robinson’s favourite new image for God is Tillich’s, the ‘Ground of our Being’, the title of one of the chapters in Honest to God. Murdoch also uses this phrase in The Bell, the first of her novels to deal centrally with religious experience: Michael’s ‘prayer was [. . .] the surrender of himself [. . .] to the Ground of his being’ (p. 79). Murdoch refers to Tillich several times in Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals, using his terminology of ‘heteronomous’ and ‘autonomous’ morality and twice quoting his remarks on the ontological argument for the existence of God, which he views as limited but important in its appeal to unconditionality. Like Plato’s faith in the Good, this chimes with Murdoch’s desire for absolute and objective values, irrespective of the reality of ‘God’. But, like Robinson, she is moved by and shares Tillich’s appreciation of Psalm 139, a radiant celebration of God’s omnipresence and omniscience. The last paragraph of Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals states, ‘We need a theology which can continue without God’, but the book closes by quoting the psalm: ‘Whither shall I go from thy spirit, whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend into heaven thou art there, if I make my bed in hell, behold thou art there. If I take the wings of

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

80 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

81

the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.’ This is an unexpected conclusion for an atheist. The central character in The Time of the Angels (1966) is Carel Fisher, a priest who has lost his faith and now lives in a fog-bound rectory with no attendant church in the bombed-out East End of London. Nobody in the novel believes in traditional Christianity, except the simple, uneducated and exploited Pattie, his servant and mistress, who finds her religion a comfort and support. Carel’s brother Marcus is writing a book on the demythologizing of morals, to ‘rescue the idea of the Absolute’ and ‘to eschew both theological metaphor and the crudities of existentialism’,25 a project close to Murdoch’s ‘The Sovereignty of Good’. But he fears the death of Christianity, wants other people to believe in it, is horrified to learn that Carel does not and is thoroughly unnerved by the views of a demythologizing bishop. Muriel and Elizabeth, Carel’s daughter and ‘niece’, ‘at an early age convinced each other that there was no God’ and ‘prided themselves on being theoretical immoralists’ (p. 42). Immorality remains, in Muriel’s case, highly theoretical. Leo, the son of Eugene, Carel’s other servant, is actively amoral. He claims that values are only relative, describes himself as ‘a bit like what’s-his-name, that chap in Dostoevski’ (p. 68) and lies whenever possible to keep his creed in practice. He also steals. The only possession left to the porter, Russian émigré Eugene, after the exile of his rich cultured Russian family and his years in refugee camps and menial jobs is an icon of three angels, representing the Trinity. He has lost almost everything else, including his Orthodox faith. ‘He loved [the icon] as a blank image of goodness from which all personality had been withdrawn’ (p. 57), suggesting the pure and demythologized ideal that replaces the myths of religion in Murdoch’s philosophy. In Carel’s study, after being stolen by Leo and retrieved by Marcus, they look ‘weary with humility and failure’ (p. 175). The horror felt at the theft by the reader and by all the characters who know of it suggests that we are stirred by some pieties: care for another’s pain, the obligations of family relationships and the preservation of individual and cultural history. (Perhaps the response to the beauty of a work of art is another kind of piety.) But for how long, when the faith expressed in the icon has disappeared? Will the moral values taught by Christianity survive it? Leo, representative of

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

New Directions, Constant Themes

a younger generation, is indifferent to these claims.26 All the other characters, including the ‘immoralist’ Muriel and even the demonic Carel, feel the tug of moral obligation. Carel consciously turns himself into a false God, tries to corrupt the naive and vulnerable Pattie, causes the deaths of his wife and brother, commits incest with one daughter and brutally rejects the other. Yet on the first page of the novel he says, ‘Mind that spider, Pattie. Rescue him, would you’ (p. 7). And even Carel has his soft side: he loves Swan Lake. Murdoch has considerable sympathy with the commonsensical view of the crass headmistress Norah, who says, ‘Goodness is good conduct and we all know what that is’ (p. 94), and is impatient with the abstraction of theology and philosophy: ‘I don’t see any point in denying or affirming that the Good is One. I still ought to pay my bills’ (p. 195). She dismisses Carel as merely ‘batty’ (p. 196). However, batty Carel also expresses some of Murdoch’s views in a dark and despairing vision. God is dead and the fragments of his thought are ‘angels’, meaningless multiplicity in a world governed by chance and power – a world of evil, if such a concept could even survive: ‘Suppose only evil were real, only it was not evil, since it had lost even its name?’ (p. 172). The concept of good is only a more consoling fiction: ‘All altruism feeds the fat ego’ (p. 173). This is a point Murdoch has made herself and Carel essentially quotes her when he asserts, ‘One must be good for nothing, in a world without sense or reward’ (pp. 173–4). But Carel rejects the philosophers along with the theologians. ‘Who could face this? The philosophers have never even tried. All philosophy has taught a facile optimism, even Plato did so. Philosophers are simply the advance guard of theology’ (p. 172). This apocalyptic statement is made to Marcus, sweeping away his liberal idealistic interventions. Conradi comments, ‘if we are to be good for nothing then the full force of that “nothing”, that pointlessness, must itself also be apprehended. And a demonic negation is paradoxically always nearer to the truth than the unreconstructed liberal posture [. . .] Murdoch divides herself between Carel and Marcus; Marcus’s thought, like hers, risks being surreptitiously dependent on the theology it claims to supplant. He is given her moral idealism; Carel her desire for a position “beyond consolation”’ (SA, pp. 176–7). But the author also distributes herself among other characters and their views: Eugene with his reverence for the icon, Norah with her assertion that the ‘good’ or, rather, the right action is

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

82 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

83

usually obvious and the Bishop, who says, like Tillich and Robinson, that ‘mankind is growing up’, that the former Christian symbolism has become ‘positively misleading’ and must change. However, while the ‘outward mythology changes, the inward truth remains the same’ (p. 93). Even the slightly absurd Anthea Barlow, who has caused such erotic havoc in the past between Carel and his brothers, is, like Murdoch, an ex-communist and an ex-Christian and now ‘a sort of Buddhist’ (p. 229).27 As Murdoch said, if we were characters in a novel, we would be comic characters. Although it takes place in an almost permanent fog, The Time of the Angels is conceptually a very clear novel. It is ‘crystalline’ and ‘closed’, mostly taking place in the Rectory from which Carel bars the outside world as much as possible, deputing Pattie to repulse all callers. The Rectory stands isolated on a building site in the City. Its Wren church is ‘nonexistent’, destroyed, apart from the tower, in the Blitz. It is a waste land ignored by Carel Fisher, its Fisher King – a waste land more desolate than Eliot’s, devastated by another war and the destructions of ‘development’. Eugene tells his son that it was ‘wrong’ to steal the icon but ‘The words as he uttered them seemed to Eugene totally meaningless. One might as well have said them to Hitler or a hurricane’ (p. 114). The first assault on the City and its churches was by Hitler but the second is no act of God. We are a long way from the post-War euphoria of Jake’s nocturnal walk with his friends through the ruins. More is being demolished than the buildings and the faith they enshrined. The Bishop’s description of his time as an ‘interregnum’ may be optimistic. Perhaps we confront the death of Good as well as the death of God. The Nice and the Good takes off from The Time of the Angels and is a complete contrast. If the death of God is causing anxiety and fear in the ‘closed’ The Time of the Angels, in the ‘open’ The Nice and the Good it is liberating and uplifting, although with a sting in its tail. Murdoch shifts perspective from a meditation on spirituality informed by her inner musings to a meditation on sexuality informed by what she was observing in her years at the RCA. Almost everyone in The Time of the Angels is unhappy; in The Nice and the Good some characters are very happy, the unhappy become happier and almost everyone feels a nice, natural, human impulse towards happiness. It was one of Murdoch’s own favourites among her novels for this reason. The Time of the Angels ends with the suicide of a demonic priest

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

New Directions, Constant Themes

whose allegiance is to no-God. The Nice and the Good begins with the suicide of a dabbler in black magic. The Pauline ‘principalities and powers’ receive opposite definitions in the novels. For Carel they are ‘the magnetism of many spirits’, terrible angels, the fragments of the dead God’s thought, evil if they had a name. For Willy, equally unbelieving, ‘there is grace, there are principalities and powers, there is unknown good which flies magnetically toward the good we know’ (p. 173). In both novels (as in A Severed Head) there is a descent into a cellar, which contains, in The Nice and the Good, dead birds, Carel’s image of dark meaningless reality, as well as the paraphernalia of a black mass. But these practices come to be seen as trivial rather than disturbing. Murdoch quotes elsewhere Hannah Arendt’s famous comment on the Eichmann trial about the ‘banality of evil’ (MGM, p. 103). John Ducane, the civil servant appointed to investigate the suicide of his colleague Radeechy, is shown the cellar under Whitehall by the office messenger and blackmailer McGrath and, after his initial disquiet at the creepy scene, thinks ‘It’s the dreariness of evil that stupefies’ (p. 194) and suddenly finds the freedom to make the decision to shake off McGrath’s threats. Willy, the concentration camp survivor who has experienced more evil than any other character, places no value on catabasis. When asked (in connection with Aeneid VI) ‘Do you think everyone ought to descend to the underworld?’, he replies briskly, ‘Certainly not! It’s very dark and stuffy and one is more likely to feel frightened than to learn anything. Let the schoolroom of life be a light airy well-lighted place!’ (p. 248). The Time of the Angels is a dark, stuffy, foggy novel. Most of it takes place indoors in winter. The Nice and the Good is a sunny book, light and airy, taking place in a summer heatwave. The heat is oppressive in London, but most of the novel is set on the Dorset coast, a green world where the ambitions, secrets, betrayals and corruption of the capital are resolved or forgotten in a kind of Shakespearian contrast between city and country. The Time of the Angels inhabits a cityscape of desolation and destroyed churches, specifically recalling the aridity of Eliot’s waste land longing for water. Pattie has never seen the sea. The Nice and the Good is full of the sea and closes with welcome rainfall at last. The London scenes take place in Whitehall and the homes of Ducane, McGrath, Ducane’s ex-mistress Jessica and Biranne, another civil servant blackmailed by McGrath because of his involvement with the Radeechys. Trescombe, the house in Dorset, is owned by

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

84 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

85

Octavian Gray, the head of Ducane’s department, and his wife Kate, generous, hospitable and happy, parents of clever attractive Barbara, the epitome of the nice. They preside over a household of more needy people: the widowed Mary and her son Pierce, Paula, divorced from Biranne, and their twin children Edward and Henrietta, Octavian’s brother Theo and the refugee Willy, whose refuge is now a cottage at some distance from the house. John Ducane is a frequent visitor. The book reflects the sexual freedom of its time and Murdoch’s ambivalence concerning its excess. The Satanist Radeechy carves ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of law’ in a cellar in the bowels of Whitehall, a national emblem of rationality and propriety, where ubiquitous sex has led to suicidal perversion. These sexual shenanigans, the suicide and the initial fears of a threat to security probably owe something to the Profumo scandal. Murdoch had consulted a friend, Toby Milsom, in December 1965, weeks before she began the first draft, for some legal information she needed for the novel she was writing. She enquires about a legal inquiry like the one that Lord Denning conducted on the Stephen Ward case and the Profumo affair. He responded in April, two months into the writing of the novel, and she was hugely pleased. Ducane is the same age as Murdoch when she went to the RCA and Jessica is very like the students she taught there. Jessica is representative of many of her generation, a young girl with no spiritual foundation who embodies the moral softness of the decade. She is rootless, fatherless, without faith or even knowledge of God, and her creative liberal education has given her little moral or historical awareness. Murdoch links Jessica’s aimlessness as a painter to her generation’s aimlessness as human beings: ‘Jessica had never developed the faculty of colouring and structuring her surroundings into a moral habitation, the faculty which is sometimes called a moral sense’ (p. 82). Promiscuity is the result because ‘nobody cares’. But everyone in this novel craves for the absolute (‘that which is most fixed, most permanent, most solid and most old’ [p. 82]) that they are busy rejecting. It is this absolute that Jessica perceives in the older, respectable and ostensibly straitlaced Ducane, whom she relentlessly pursues long after he has become disenchanted with her. Despite herself, she desires the good as well as the nice. Perhaps the warmth, tolerance and pleasure of the Grays’ ménage are nice rather than good. The ‘nice’ and the ‘good’ of the title equate with

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

New Directions, Constant Themes

low and high Eros. The ‘nice’ originates in the Freudian compulsions of the unenlightened mind; the ‘good’ is the desire for knowledge and God that can release prisoners from the cave. Uncle Theo, who has made his own sexual mistakes, despairs at the merely ‘nice’ goings on at Trescombe: ‘all of them sex maniacs [. . .] all is vanity’ (p. 127). Kate’s charm should not obscure her folly: her ‘halo of wiry golden hair’ (p. 200) links her to the cherubic Folly in Bronzino’s Allegory of Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time, around which the plot is structured. She does not speculate on the effects of her actions on others and her emotional generosity is a veiled desire for power. The book ends with a dialogue between Kate and Octavian that makes clear his covert infidelities with his secretary. Like Bronzino’s Folly, Kate is oblivious to the thorn in her heel, though readers should not be. Ducane, one of Trescombe’s many beneficiaries, has some sterner ideals. He wants to be a good man and is alert to the demon in that desire, the image of the self. In his investigation of the satanic mumbo-jumbo he becomes aware of the ordinary egotistic darkness of the self as the real cause of evil. He wishes to be the just man, the just judge. Close to death in the rising waters in the cave, he vows, if he survives, never to judge again. Forgiveness and love matter more than justice. He lets off Biranne, witness to a murder, on condition that he attempt a reconciliation with Paula, which takes place in the National Gallery before Bronzino’s painting. This is obviously a better solution, though appointing McGrath as his new chauffeur may be going a bit too far. Are these actions good or nice? Kate and Octavian agree, perhaps with some relief, that ‘John’s a very nice chap but he’s not the wise good man that we once thought he was’. Kate in Dorset has learned (from McGrath) of Jessica in London, the not especially bad muddle which has compromised John’s own idea of his probity. He had been a man who did not lie, a man who had decided he should not have love affairs. Love can make people less good and less nice. Cupid is a knavish lad. Cupid was not born in the 1960s. The formula of Shakespearian comedy, A loves B who loves C who loves A, operates here with many variations, with its scepticism and with its final generosity. Most of the characters are in love and most find requital or at least consolation in the moonlit couplings which end the novel. The complacently happy marriage of Kate and Octavian is not threatened by the growing amitié amoureuse between Kate and Ducane, and they share a good laugh over

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

86 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

87

a spontaneous unexpected kiss between Kate and Ducane’s duplicitous chauffeur. Other people are more anguished. Theo hopelessly and silently desires Pierce, who suffers agonies of unrequited first love for the exasperated Barbara, while she flirts with Ducane. He has stopped sleeping with Jessica and wants to stop seeing her, but she desperately clings to the relationship. Ducane, conscientious and controlled, pities Jessica, loves Kate, later falls in love with Mary and is subject to the vagaries of unwelcome desire. He absentmindedly puts his arm round his chauffeur and makes himself resist the blandishments of ‘Helen of Troy’, McGrath’s beautiful wife, decoy and accomplice in blackmail. Paula still loves Biranne, regrets their divorce and is plagued by the impending return of the lover who caused it. Willy loves Barbara, thinking himself the ass to her Titania, and is loved by Mary, who later falls in love with Ducane. Tragic Willy and heartbroken Jessica surprisingly cheer each other up one afternoon and perhaps his flight and her pursuit to the graveyard ends in a lovers’ meeting in the last chapter. After the purgative and Shakespearian near-death by drowning, most of the characters pair off happily, if perhaps temporarily. Even the feuding cat and dog are sleeping in the same basket. The Grays’ ‘court’ will be fragmented into departing couples. ‘Darling,’ says Octavian to Kate, ‘you’ll soon get other ones’ (p. 308). Only Theo is left alone at the end of the novel, wondering whether he will return to his Buddhist monastery in India. This too has its Shakespearian echoes. In As You Like It Jaques chooses to remain in the forest and join the ‘convertite’, Duke Frederick; in Twelfth Night and The Merchant of Venice one character (called Antonio in both plays) is left out of the marriages and engagements of the last scene, perhaps because he cannot be accommodated in this heterosexual pattern. Theo had left his monastery after an involvement with a young novice, who later drowned. Like Willy, who out of fear betrayed two people to their deaths in the concentration camp, and like Paula, whose husband accidentally maimed her lover, he feels bound by the guilt and violence of the past. Theo is the most spiritual of the characters, beginning ‘to glimpse the distance which separates the nice from the good’ (p. 315). He is also the most inert. Although he was disillusioned to find the same ‘relentless egotism’ (p. 315) in himself in the monastery, his near-invisibility, his inability to interest the other characters, may be a sign of grace in Murdoch’s theology. The ‘interesting’ is always suspicious and perilous. Perhaps to be uninteresting is to still the ego

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

New Directions, Constant Themes

a little. He is also scruffy, dirty and even smelly, often signs of grace in Murdoch’s creations. The highest good lies beyond the boundaries of the novel, but Murdoch points to it through Theo’s final relinquishing of himself to ‘the blank face of love [. . .] that blank demand [which] implied the death of his whole being’; the ‘action without fruits’ (p. 351), sought in the knowledge that it can never be achieved. This is a love of oneself and others without hope of perfection; loving for nothing, with no self-fulfilling motive. No one in the book gets this far, but it is filled with compassion for all such human failings. Murdoch said that no one in the novel was good. The nine-year-old twins come closest to the ideal. Only they are fancy-free, interested in everything but themselves, collectors of stones and shells, budding naturalists and classical scholars, graced by the vision of flying saucers, though doomed in due course to suffer the torments of adolescence and the complications of adulthood. Unlike the twins (and the author), Theo has no love for stones: ‘Their multiplicity and randomness appalled him. The intention of God could reach only a little way through the opacity of matter, and where it failed to penetrate there was just jumble and desolation [. . .] Yet was it not all jumble and desolation, was it not all an expanse of senseless random matter, and he himself as meaningless as these stones, since in real truth there was no God?’ (p. 139). However, this moment of nausea is balanced by the narrator’s loving description of the multifarious stones in the next paragraph. In The Time of the Angels practical Norah says, ‘I don’t see any point in denying or affirming that the Good is One’ (p. 195). The ancient problem of the One and the Many underlies the confusions of The Nice and the Good. The ‘pagan’ Jessica, an art teacher with no knowledge of art history, who makes the children destroy their creations at the end of each lesson, lives in a kind of Heraclitan flux, which the narrator charitably identifies as ‘some poor untutored craving for the Absolute’ (p. 74). The novel is full of multiplicity trying to compose into forms or couples and of patterns fragmenting into chaos or couples. Considering the objections to his theory of the Forms, Plato asked whether there could be Ideas of hair and mud. The twins, lovers of the Many, empty from a rubbish bin a ‘mess of screwed up paper, coffee beans, old lettuce leaves and human hair’ (p. 12). Theo, hopeless aspirant towards the One, describes his eye colour on his passport as ‘Mud’ (p. 80). Given Roquentin’s nausea at the contingent, Bouville (‘Mudville’) is aptly named. Love, linked in Plato’s thought with the

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

88 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

89

desire for the One, does begin with the desire for the individual, in Murdoch’s novel for many individuals. Perhaps that is the distance between the nice and the good. For the form of this novel, Murdoch borrows once again from a painting that features in the plot perhaps more centrally than in any other novel. Bronzino’s Venus, Cupid, Folly and Time, which the National Gallery Companion bills as ‘the most frankly erotic painting in the Collection’ (p. 104), not only makes a guest appearance in the novel but the characters and the plot mirror its content. Its depiction of a moment of intense and illicit sexual excitement is particularly appropriate to the close focus Murdoch brings to sexuality in the novel.28 The painting is an allegory which depicts Time and Truth removing a curtain to reveal Venus and Cupid, who are frozen in the deeply erotic moment before sexual consummation: ‘the long still moment of dreamy suspended passion before the spinning clutching descent.’29 The book and the painting marry the concepts of the ‘nice’ and the ‘good’ in the coexistence of their content (which is ‘nice’) and their exquisite form (which points toward the ‘good’). In the novel, the beautiful, descriptive prose and the lyricism of the narrative voice camouflage its depiction of human weakness and depravity and, to a certain extent, its underlying moral caveat. In their magical transformation of human folly into aesthetic beauty, the book and the painting mirror each other. Yet neither the novel nor the painting attempts to distort reality by transforming evil into good: each demands a refined perception capable of perceiving both clearly. As Mary sits in a boat waiting to learn if her son has been drowned in the cave, she thinks ‘Death happens, love happens, and all human life is composed of accident and chance [. . .] There is only one imperative, the imperative to love: yet how can one endure to go loving what must die, what indeed is dead? [. . .] Since death and chance are the material of all there is, if love is to be love of something it must be love of death and chance’ (pp. 278–9). Murdoch’s next novel, Bruno’s Dream, completed in December 1967 and published in January 1969, was her last published novel of the decade and it meditates on love, death and last things. In September 1967 she noted in her journal that she feels so much more strongly about ordinary private things than about politics. The 1960s had given Murdoch reason enough for such private meditation: Carolyn Ste Croix, the daughter of some friends, committed suicide in January 1964 and Murdoch was

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

New Directions, Constant Themes

haunted by guilt that she had not paid enough attention to her. She had brooded through the 1960s on her own personal losses, the relationships with the female companion at Oxford and with the writer Brigid Brophy, which had ended with a spite that had cut Murdoch deeply. In 1965 she had visited her former Headmistress Beatrice May Baker, whose lifelong companion had just died and in March 1966 she had written in her journal that she had been thinking about the ‘great void’ of Kant’s categorical imperative. When she began Bruno’s Dream in June 1967, she was reinforced in her belief that love is the way and the only way at the same time as she was experiencing some sadness, feeling that she had been giving time and attention to people who did not care for her at all. She confessed to Tony Forster in 1967 that she was missing Frank Thompson deeply. This brooding on love, loss, remorse and putting things right was to find expression in Bruno’s Dream. The resentfully still centre of the book is the aged and dying Bruno, cared for by his hedonistic son-in-law, Danby, and the creepily spiritual Nigel.30 Bruno suffers the fears, frustrations and indignities of old age, aches and pains, guilt and regrets, and boredom. He knows that he has become physically repulsive, he yearns hopelessly for forgiveness from his dead wife for his infidelity, he feels his significance to others ebbing with his life. His dressing-gown will outlive him. What did his life signify? Has it only been a dream? Tweedledum and Tweedledee alarm Alice by suggesting that she is only a character in the Red King’s dream. Do other people exist only in Bruno’s dream? Bruno can, however, find distractions and diversions: spiders, his main interest and the subject of his unwritten book; his father’s valuable stamp collection; tea and champagne; and deliberate calls to wrong numbers. Around him the usual erotic whirligig consoles others for their griefs and bereavements. Miles, Bruno’s son, lost his Indian wife Parvati and their expected child in a plane crash, but his longsuffering second (second-best) wife Diana lovingly creates a perfect home for him and his work, which is peacefully accepted until he falls in love with her serious clever sister Lisa. Gwen, Bruno’s saintly daughter, drowned in the Thames, attempting to rescue a child who swam to shore. Her devoted husband Danby, who sees the comic side of the accident, now sleeps with Adelaide, the housekeeper, foxtrots hopefully with Diana and falls in love with Lisa. Adelaide has always been in love with one or both of the twins, Nigel and

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

90 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

91

Will, who stage a duel between Will and Danby on the shores of the Thames. Finally most characters are paired off and most pairings are unexpected. Adelaide and Will marry, the poet Miles is re-visited by his muse, the ascetic altruistic ex-nun Lisa is taught the pleasures of fast cars and smart restaurants by Danby, and Diana, aesthetic votaress of gracious living, grows to love hideous Bruno and befriends him until he dies. The sisters change places. Murdoch’s plot, as well as her principles, corrects Miles’s dismissal of Danby as ‘contingent’. Eros works again through substitutions, siblings and strange reversals. The novel operates between Eros and Thanatos, symbolized on one side of the river by the Battersea Power Station and on the other by the Brompton cemetery. How can these opposed imperatives be reconciled? Some governing ideas in Murdoch’s later fiction are stated very explicitly in Bruno’s Dream. Her growing respect for Buddhism rather than Christianity is adumbrated here. Suffering flatters the ego, while death denies it. Lisa acknowledges, ‘Death contradicts ownership and self’.31 Bruno says, ‘I never went in much for suffering. But I wouldn’t mind it now if I felt it had any meaning, as if one were buying back one’s faults. I’d take an eternity of suffering in exchange for death any day’ (p. 90). The acceptance of death is the unselfing of a self which was dream-like anyway. Bruno confides to Lisa, ‘I’d like to know what I’m like’, and she replies ‘Perhaps there isn’t any such thing, Bruno’ (p. 154). Dying, Bruno thinks, ‘I have lived my life in a dream and now it is too late to wake up’ (p. 263), but he does have the apprehension that his betrayed wife must have forgiven him at the end. Diana, sitting beside him, ‘lived the reality of death and felt herself made nothing by it and denuded of desire. Yet love still existed and it was the only thing that existed’ (p. 269). In the first paragraph of ‘On “God” and “Good”’, published in the same year as Bruno’s Dream, Murdoch assumed that ‘there is no God’ (EM, p. 361). She considers other possible sources of grace and virtue, such as art and love. She states, ‘We need a moral philosophy in which the concept of love, so rarely mentioned now by philosophers, can once again be made central’ (EM, p. 337). However, near the end of the essay she writes, ‘this [love] is the most important thing of all; and yet human love is normally too profoundly possessive and also too “mechanical” to be a place of vision. There is a paradox here about the nature of love itself’ (EM, p. 361). Her next novels will expose and explore this paradox.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

New Directions, Constant Themes

The Love Machine A Fairly Honourable Defeat (1970), An Accidental Man (1971), The Black Prince (1973), The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974) and A Word Child (1975) In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Murdoch was still uncertain about the path her career was to take. Undaunted in her desire to write more plays, she was still finding it difficult (Peggy Ramsey read Joanna, Joanna in August 1968 and had pointed to some very old-fashioned theatrical techniques).1 Working on her plays on a cold evening in June 1969, she seemed to hear a message saying ‘WAIT’ (IMC, p. 115). Perhaps the inner voice was a cautionary one. She turned back to the novel and the 1970s were to be prolific years. Unsurprisingly, though, a distinctive feature of the first novel of the decade is its dramatic structure. The first draft of A Fairly Honourable Defeat was begun in June 1968 after Murdoch’s relationship with Brigid Brophy had ended.2 The desire for a clarity of form may also have been a refuge from the complexity of her personal life. In her journal at that time she had noted that the people she loved were the unworldly and it is the meek and unassuming Tallis Browne, the good man of the novel, and his counterpart, the cruelly sadistic Julius King, on whose quality of consciousness she meditates. (Julius is based in part on Murdoch’s lover, Elias Canetti, to whom she was still emotionally attached.) Murdoch pointed to the fact that A Fairly Honourable Defeat has a clear allegorical structure: Julius represents Satan, while Tallis represents Christ, and they are opposed in their struggle for Morgan, who represents the human soul.3 Without this authorial gloss, probably no one would have thought of it. With it, one can pick up a few clues. The structure she suggests is that of a medieval morality play. However, the main analogies in A Fairly Honourable Defeat are with Shakespeare, whom Murdoch was reading fervently to help improve 92

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

6

93

her playwriting.4 In February 1969 she read King Lear and The Tempest (which made her weep). She was thinking of The Tempest throughout the spring because it concerns the triumph of the free power of the spirit over the power of magic. ‘Magic’ for Murdoch is the power of the fantasy world that deludes and pulls one away from reality. This novel hinges on a demonstration of the power of such delusions. Julius, a scientist, sets up an experiment to prove that he can create and destroy relationships. As in Much Ado About Nothing, he makes two people fall in love by telling each that he/she is loved by the other. But he also plans to make people fall out of love. Like Iago, he destroys a happy marriage. The comedy thus turns into a tragedy, ending, like Othello, with death. Julius, like Satan in Job, is determined to discredit a good man and, like Iago, he sets out to prove that his cynical view of human nature is correct. Iago too is associated with diabolical imagery and Julius has a similar reputation for ‘honesty’: ‘Julius is a tremendously straightforward person’ (p. 26), says his major victim.5 It is Murdoch’s most disturbing exploration of evil since The Time of the Angels, conducted not in a ruined church in a foggy bombed inner city but in summer sunshine among successful educated liberals with expensive London houses, swimming pools and country cottages. And Julius is not a pure allegorical figure of evil. He is a survivor of Belsen and his suffering accounts for his cynicism and detachment. He would not regard himself as evil but as realistic. The good man whom Julius targets is Rupert Foster and the relationships are Rupert’s marriage to Hilda and the gay partnership between Axel Nielsen and Simon Foster, Rupert’s brother. Rupert is a senior civil servant and is writing a book which sounds rather like ‘Morality in a World without God’, Marcus’s project in The Time of the Angels and Murdoch’s ‘Sovereignty of Good’ Like Marcus and like Murdoch herself, Rupert is an atheist who wants to believe in objective moral values. This is ‘cosy Platonic optimism’ according to Julius, who adds approvingly that in his late work, The Laws, Plato abandoned ‘those dreams of high places’ and reduced humans to mere puppets (p. 225). His own philosophy seems to be close to the logical positivism that Murdoch resisted at Oxford. He regards the terms ‘good’ and ‘evil’ as no more than a ‘consoling superstition’ (p. 225). However, although he denies that the words have content, he uses them. ’Human nature’, he tells Rupert, ‘absolutely precludes

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Love Machine

goodness’ (p. 224). In as far as it exists, goodness is dull and dreary; evil is vital and profound (pp. 223–4). The novel tends to bear him out. Most of the characters find moral Tallis dreary and are fascinated by amoral Julius. In January 1969 Murdoch said that in A Fairly Honourable Defeat she was criticizing her own Platonic ideas (IMC, p. 113). Rupert’s philosophy is signally ineffective in the novel, especially in relation to his son, Peter, who seems likely to drop out of Cambridge. The novel was published in 1970 and Rupert suggests that the students of the late 1960s belong to a new generation, ‘the first generation that’s grown up entirely without God’ (p. 20) (an interesting point, but many of that generation of students, however godless, threw themselves into ‘mysticism’ and idealism). Peter is now lodging with Tallis, who his parents hoped would be a good influence, but whose virtue seems as useless as Rupert’s philosophy. Peter has taken to shoplifting. Tallis, unable to convince him that stealing is wrong, asks Rupert why it is. Rupert replies in a long, closely reasoned disquisition which leaves Tallis more confused than before. When he puts the same question to Julius, he is told: ‘Stealing is a concept with a built-in pejorative significance. So to say that stealing is wrong is simply to say that what is wrong is wrong. It isn’t a meaningful statement. It’s empty [. . .] Remarks of that kind aren’t statements at all and can’t be true or false’ (p. 337). However, Julius concurs with Morgan when she describes her behaviour in pocketing most of the money Rupert has given her to repay her debt to Tallis as ‘caddish’ (p. 231). And, even if Tallis is no match for Julius at theory, he can act effectively. He stops the growing violence in a Chinese restaurant by hitting one of the thugs. He can also make Julius obey him. When Julius confides his plot to him, Tallis orders him to disabuse his victims. The plot is to shake or destroy Rupert’s marriage by making him and his sister-in-law fall in love. Hilda’s sister, Morgan, is married to but separated from Tallis and has been badly hurt by an affair with Julius. She and Julius meet by chance in the Tate Gallery. Arguing that human relationships are ‘flimsy and unreal’ (p. 233), Julius makes a bet with her that he can break up any relationship in three weeks. He suggests that of Axel and Simon and Morgan readily agrees, not suspecting that she and Rupert will also be Julius’s ‘puppets’. She is of course already colluding and being corrupted by accepting the bet. Julius

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

94 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

95

has also poisoned her response to art. After their conversation, Julius’s contempt for the paintings by Turner which had made her feel so ‘calm’ has tainted her, and ‘she could see now how limited and amateurish they really were’ (p. 235). Even Julius is surprised at the ease and speed with which his plot against Rupert, Hilda and Morgan succeeds. Ironically, it would have been more difficult with less civilized and intelligent people. Rupert and Morgan are delicate with each other. Neither bluntly states what the situation is supposed to be. They address each other with a Jamesian sensitivity and ambiguity: ‘You’re behaving beautifully’, says Morgan to Rupert (p. 311), meaning that, hopelessly in love with her, he is admirably self-controlled. He takes her to mean that, hopelessly in love with him, she is finding him sympathetic and supportive on their frequent clandestine meetings. And their discussions and reflections on the ‘situation’ do make them half in love with each other. The words ‘drama’ and ‘interesting’, always danger signals in Murdoch’s novels, apply. Rupert feels ‘profoundly interested’ (p. 311) but recognizes, ‘There’s too much drama in these meetings’ (p. 312). ‘Let them have their little drama’, says Julius. ‘Let them work the machine themselves’ (p. 268). Humans, with their proud delusions of freedom, are actors of predetermined roles, workers of a mindless machine. Morgan shares this view: ‘I’m mechanical. I’m just a machine’ (p. 264). Although Julius does not mean to do more harm than humble two conceited people, his plot results in Rupert’s death. He feels no serious remorse. The novel ends with him enjoying Paris, where he feels a properly ‘cold pleasure’ at the paintings in the Louvre, dines at a restaurant recommended by Rupert and has a ticket for L’Incoronazione di Poppaea, an opera about Nero.6 Julius has not entirely succeeded. The apparently more precarious relationship of Axel and Simon does survive his sabotage because Simon decides to tell the truth plainly, no matter how silly it makes him sound. Thus, the defeat of love and idealism is only partial and fairly honourable. Nonetheless, despite its beauty and humour, this novel is pessimistic. If not a devil, Julius is a devil’s advocate, putting the case against good people and to a large extent proving that he is right. On the evidence of the behaviour of her characters throughout her fiction, Murdoch largely agrees with Julius’s view of human nature, if not with his view of morality.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Love Machine

The most obvious religious source of the book is the Book of Job. Leonard, Tallis’s curmudgeonly father, stands for God the Father. He says, like an embittered creator, that it all went wrong from the start. His son, determined not to believe this, refuses to despair and comes in for much paternal abuse. But Leonard’s complaints often sound more like those of the creature against the creator. He seems to be playing the parts of God and Job. Julius, like Satan, tests humans, wanting them to fail, and describes himself as ‘an instrument of justice’ (p. 431). Although in this manifestation he and Tallis have not met before, Tallis ‘thought [he would] turn up sometime’ (p. 334) and Julius says at the end of the novel, ‘I suppose in the nature of things we shall meet again’ (p. 431). He tells Tallis, ‘I didn’t quite take you in when I first saw you. However, I’m bound to say – you’re a disappointment’ (p. 338). Christ should be more impressive. Julius is repelled by Tallis’s filthy kitchen, poverty of spirit and body, modest career as an adult education lecturer and humble attempts to do good: ‘I am an artist. This is just a mess’ (p. 431). Yet, like most of Murdoch’s antithetical ‘saints’ and ‘artists’, they get along well together. As in The Vision of Judgment, which also cites Job and ‘might show/From the same book, in how polite a way/The dialogue is held between the Powers/Of Good and Evil’, Tallis and Julius are courteous, like Byron’s Archangel and Satan. ‘Yet still between his Darkness and his Brightness/There pass’d a mutual glance of great politeness.’7 Murdoch noted in January 1970, as she began to think about An Accidental Man, how oddly different the atmosphere of one novel is from another (IMC, p. 117). If the meditations in A Fairly Honourable Defeat are largely on how human beings are so predictable and vulnerable, she focuses for her next novel on the accidental and contingent, which also have an enduring and important place in her thought. At its most truthful, art is a ‘pierced structure’, subverting its own patterns, attesting to the randomness and shapelessness of life.8 Yet, even if faith in a divine plan has faded, she perceives patterns and predetermination, especially psychological, in human lives. The tension is like that between the crystalline and journalistic. Acknowledgement of the accidental can be a strength, even a grace, for both writer and reader. But the accidental is so extreme for the central character of this novel that it seems to the reader to be willed and to him fated: ‘I am an accidental man’, says Austin. ‘What do

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

96 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

97

you mean?’ asks sensible Mavis, ‘Aren’t we all accidental? Isn’t conception accidental?’ He replies, ‘With me it’s gone on and on’. ‘We are all like you’, she says. ‘Yet he had been unlucky, she thought’ (p. 412). The accidents include an injury to Austin’s hand in childhood, the drowning of his first wife, the electrocution of his second wife Dorina, the death of a little girl whom Austin runs over while drunk and the brain damage Austin fortuitously inflicts in a scuffle with her stepfather, who is blackmailing him. As is often the case in Murdoch’s novels, there are sets of siblings here. Austin is the unlucky, destructive, accidental man; his brother, Matthew, is successful, charismatic, well-off, generous and Buddhist. He is also self-indulgent, grows fat, recognizes that he should give up his desire to be a monk and feels his life has not amounted to much. Each brother is a Jonah to the other. Austin blames his paralysed hand on Matthew: he has a memory (true or false) of his brother throwing stones at him. He believes (falsely) that Matthew has seduced both his wives. He was driving Matthew’s car when he hit the child; sober Matthew refused to pretend to be the driver and the blackmailer is emboldened by the fact that his victim has a wealthy, distinguished brother to sponge off and protect him. There are also two sisters, one fortunate and the other unfortunate. Clara is happily married to George, a civil servant soon to be knighted. They have a pretty daughter, a clever son and a circle of friends whom Clara loves to entertain and fuss over. Her sister Charlotte has spent much of her adult her life looking after their ailing mother, who was expected to leave Charlotte rich but, in an apparently last-minute change of plan, bequeathes everything to her granddaughter. Perhaps on her deathbed Alison meant to undo this, indistinctly murmuring, ‘Treece’, the name of her solicitor, but her family misunderstand and think that she is uncharacteristically asking for a priest. They summon the local vicar and she dies before they can call the lawyer. What is perhaps an accident leaves Charlotte homeless, penniless and embittered. Clara’s good fortune seems to be inherited. Her daughter, Gracie, has no qualms about accepting her unexpected legacy and goes on a spending spree. Theologically, her name ‘Grace’ means unearned and unmerited blessings: ‘I have a talent for happiness’, she tells her earnest fiancé. They are a very incompatible couple. Gracie is sharp but idle and ignorant, hedonistic and rather hard-hearted. Ludwig

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Love Machine

is a classical scholar, with a puritanical sense of duty and a talent for anxiety. Ludwig certainly has a real cause for anxiety. He was brought up in America by devout Protestant parents, originally from Alsace and Bavaria, who emigrated to get away from Hitler. Ludwig happened to be born in England and this accident gives him a right to British nationality and the opportunity to avoid being drafted to Vietnam to fight in a war of which he totally disapproves. England offers all he could want, a legal escape from this moral dilemma, Gracie and a job at Oxford. Gracie, of course, cannot see any problem, but Ludwig is in torment. Murdoch found American action in Vietnam as abhorrent as Ludwig does, though she only rarely and cautiously allows contemporary political situations into the novels. In an interview in September 1968 Murdoch had been asked by W.K. Rose whether the writer should be a polemicist. She answered that the writer’s first duty is to his art but that he also has a duty to be active in the politics of his country.9 In 1967 there had been demonstrations against Vietnam in London and Murdoch was herself active in her condemnation of it. In her contribution to a collection of authors’ statements about it, she wrote: ‘The American war in Vietnam is one of the more wantonly wicked actions of the human race, appalling in its cold-bloodedness.’10 At an Oxford dinner during that war, she sat next to Tim Lankester (now President of Corpus Christi College), who mentioned that he had just returned from doing graduate work at Yale. Leaping to the conclusion that he was American (despite his English voice and his attempts to correct her) and that he must be in favour of the war (which he was not), Murdoch harangued him unstoppably throughout the meal about the evil of ‘his’ government’s actions. The novel ends with the engagement broken off and Ludwig‘s return to America to plead conscientious objection. The accident of his English birth has after all done no more for him than cause additional anguish. Most of the accidents in the novel are not as accidental as they seem. Perhaps the only disaster which really was an accident was the injury to Austin’s hand, which he is determined to believe deliberate. And perhaps he was not seriously injured and the symptoms are hysterical: at the closing party in the novel, he is seen to move his ‘paralysed’ hand again. He is suspected of murdering his first wife, who, although a good swimmer, was ‘accidentally’ drowned. The death of the child is an accident but is not merely unlucky: Austin

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

98 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

99

was drunk and speeding. The death of his second wife is accidental but would not have happened if Ludwig, wretched after a quarrel with Gracie, had not chosen to pass the even more wretched Dorina in the street. Inaction, as well as action, has consequences. Austin’s son, Garth, is haunted by the memory of a night in New York, when he too walked on instead of intervening to try to prevent a murder. Matthew has a very different memory of a Russian man joining a group of protesters in Red Square and being arrested with them. Does such a heroic act of commitment have any consequence or is it futile, swallowed up uselessly by oblivion? Murdoch later wrote a radio play, The One Alone, in which a doomed political prisoner revolves this question in solitary confinement.11 The stories of the main characters in An Accidental Man are punctuated by fragmentary snatches of conversation at parties. There are also exchanges of letters written by the major players and the partygoers. The minor characters are conducting their own lives and loves, and spurned lovers manage by deft manoeuvres to end up with those they love by the last party of the novel. Most of the major characters, except predictably Gracie and surprisingly Austin, are less fortunate. Their stories suggest not so much that life is accidental as that it is unjust. Gracie inherits rather than Charlotte and soon finds a successor to Ludwig. Matthew did not seduce Austin’s wives but Austin prevents his marriage to Mavis, simply by moving in and being needy. ‘She’s quite put me on my feet again’ (p. 398), he tells his displaced brother. For an accidental man, he is doing quite well. Murdoch’s attempts at drama had quietly paralleled the production of her novels. In 1972 they became public. Her play The Servants in the Snow (which was also an opera with music by William Matthias) opened at the Greenwich Theatre in London. It is the story of a young liberal-minded heir who takes his wife to live in his country estate in nineteenth-century Europe. His attempts at reform fail and he finds out that his inheritance is steeped in blood. Murdoch described the play as an exercise in political philosophy, but this dramatic exploration of political power and sovereignty turned out to be an unwise digression. The play was a failure and Alun Vaughn Williams found Murdoch in tears at Greenwich Station after she had seen it. However, perhaps the disappointment spurred her on, for her next novel, The Black Prince, published in 1973, was widely acclaimed and won the James Tait Black Memorial Prize. Murdoch

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Love Machine

later adapted it for the stage and the play had a successful run at the Aldwych Theatre in 1989.12 This novel is thought by many critics to be her finest work but is equally disliked by others. Either way, it was impassioned and not long in the writing. The final draft of An Accidental Man had been completed in September 1970 and the final draft of The Black Prince was finished by December 1971. In her journal in April 1971 Murdoch recorded the need to live alone with one’s daemon (IMC, p. 122) and the following month she began writing The Black Prince. The novel tackles core philosophical and theoretical issues crucial to her art and, as such, is central to her oeuvre. It comprises a book within a book, written by Murdoch’s first-person narrator, the retired civil servant and writer, Bradley Pearson. The title of Bradley’s book is The Black Prince: A Celebration of Love and it is in one sense a simple love story. Another journal entry in July 1971 records Murdoch meditating on the fact that a human being’s craving for love in infinite (IMC, p. 122). In The Black Prince, the 58-year-old Bradley Pearson falls head over heels for Julian Baffin, the 20-year-old daughter of his best friend and rival writer, Arnold Baffin, and the book is Murdoch’s attempt at rendering as accurately as possible the change in consciousness occasioned by falling in love: ‘I had fallen in love with Julian’ says Bradley, ‘The words are easily written down. But how to describe that thing itself? It is odd that falling in love though frequently mentioned in literature is rarely adequately described’ (p. 205). One of the questions the book poses is how one tells the difference between the love that cracks the ego, triggering the absolute loss of self that in turn generates goodness, and when one is in the throes of sadomasochistic self-indulgence that generates evil. Bradley’s funny and frantic responses to his realization that he loves Julian take up the beginning of Part Two of the novel. Murdoch’s complex psychological acuity illustrates, paradoxically, that any deep-rooted love comprises both. In her moral philosophy, Murdoch suggests that erotic love can play a crucial, perhaps the most effective, role in unselfing: ‘“Falling in love” [. . .] is for many people the most extraordinary and most revealing experience of their lives, whereby the centre of significance is suddenly ripped out of the self, and the dreamy ego is shocked into awareness of an entirely separate reality’ (EM, p. 417). Bradley negotiates the tension that Murdoch sees within the human soul between low and high eros – the unwilled

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

100 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

101

unselfing that enables us to look on the world and the loved one in the light of the good, and the voracious desire to possess and devour that comes out of the Freudian id. Sentence by sentence, the pull between Bradley’s desire to see the world and the self-deceiving inner life that blinds him to it is illustrated. He fails, of course, but the brilliance of the narrative is in its depiction of the struggle inside his head: ‘I felt that I was, at every instant, creating Julian and supporting her being with my own. At the same time I saw her too in every way as I had seen her before’ (p. 208). As with many of Murdoch’s middle-aged, highly intelligent male protagonists, what is perhaps most disturbing is that even in those moments when Bradley is aware of the way he deceives himself, he can do nothing to stop it. He does succeed in loving Julian selflessly, but only after she is lost to him. The pain caused by this loss provides the novel with its counterpart meditation on suffering. The descriptions of Bradley’s suffering in terms of flaying links the novel imagistically with Titian’s The Flaying of Marsyas, a myth traditionally interpreted as the stripping of the soul for its ascent to heaven. Murdoch offers the painting as an alternative to images of Christ’s suffering on the cross as a focus for a meditation on human suffering.13 She thought that conventional Christian iconography offered a false promise that suffering has a point and encourages self-regard and sadomasochism. All the characters in this book suffer appallingly and, like the figure of Midas, who meditates on Marsyas’s suffering in Titian’s painting, readers observe the suffering of a variety of characters and are required to judge how far they suffer purely (holding suffering within themselves) or whether they fulfil Ate (the passing of pain on to others).14 Only Bradley’s suffering is linked to the image of flaying, suggesting that he alone suffers selflessly and achieves grace. However, his self-absorption has contributed to two deaths: that of his sister Priscilla, whose terrible pain on the break-up of her marriage he fails to attend to, and Arnold Baffin, murdered by his wife, Rachel, partly because Bradley fails to be accountable for his previous emotional involvement with her. Furiously jealous of his love for her daughter, Rachel frames Bradley for Arnold’s murder. It is not for the achievement of selfless loving or suffering that Bradley is rewarded by a visitation from the God,

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Love Machine

Apollo, who helps him publish his book, it is for his attempt at doing so, which for Murdoch is perhaps as close as any human being can get. Formally this is another experimental novel. In the early 1970s, when Murdoch was writing The Black Prince, the liberal humanist method of interpreting literary texts was being challenged by High Theory15 and the book is a metafiction that engages with the aesthetic and moral considerations of storytelling. The novel in fact plays out the history of the novel in its form: Part One is a Realist depiction of Bradley’s life before falling in love with Julian; Part Two contains a subjective Modernist description of his changed inner consciousness and perception as a result; the postscripts cast postmodern doubt on the truth of Bradley’s account and expose the book’s fictionality. The book was written only six years after Barthes had declared the author to be dead and post-structuralism had identified the text as a site for a plurality of meanings, replacing the author with a decentred system of language. Deconstructionist textual analyses came to prevail, while Foucault’s locating of an omnipresent force in the space left by the absent author paradoxically opened the floodgates for the psychology of the writer to be pillaged by psychoanalytic discourse, which delved beneath the surface of the text to find the unconscious mind of the author. This dialogue was brewing as Murdoch wrote The Black Prince and the book is, in part, her response to it.16 If postmodernism argued that there is no certain access to the real, in one sense The Black Prince subscribes to that position. The narrative comprises two distinct voices: one tells the story from the point of view of how the narrator felt when the events took place, while the other is that of the older, wiser narrator who questions his younger self’s perception, hints at future outcomes, philosophizes on morality and provides lyrical meditations on the nature and function of art. The voice of the wiser narrator is distinct from that of the deluded one but needs careful unravelling. Although Murdoch herself has said that ‘it should be evident how you interpret the wanderings and maunderings of the narrator, where you should believe him and where you should not believe him’,17 some critics have decided to trust the tale and not the teller.18 The text certainly appears to destabilize authorial authority. Yet, at the same time, the moral imperative of the text relies on the reader deciphering

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

102 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

103

Bradley’s innocence of Arnold’s murder and Bradley’s (at least partial) understanding of the personal failings that led to the double tragedy. Bradley does come to see the damage he did to Rachel and Priscilla, whose death he slowly realizes ‘was not inevitable’ (p. 389), and Murdoch herself made it clear that ‘the author does not intend us to imagine that he murdered his friend’.19 But making sense of the story seems to be made as difficult as possible. Such deliberate mystification points to the paradox at the centre of the novel: the impossibility of it presenting unequivocal truth (which undermines its moral status) that coexists with a faith that truth exists and, even if it cannot be known, art can point towards it: ‘Art is a vain and hollow toy’ says Bradley, ‘unless it points beyond itself and moves ever whither it points’ (p. 392). Only by relying on the moral imagination of the reader can the novel fulfil its moral premise, and Murdoch constructs a complex system of signs and symbols that hint at the truth but do not tell it. The Post Office Tower, for example (now the BT Tower), functions as a moral beacon for readers, a guide as to when Bradley should have tried harder to pay attention to others.20 The Tower punctuates the story on occasions when Rachel’s murderous capacity is clearly visible. Had Bradley paid more attention to her, the tragedies with which the novel ends could have been averted. In the shadow of the Post Office Tower, Rachel pathetically accepts that Bradley feels only for sympathy for her, not love. But she hints clearly at her murderous bitterness: ‘There’s a lot of fire in me. I’m not a wreck like poor Priscilla. A lot of fire and power yet. Yes. [. . .] I don’t mean anything to do with simplicity and love, I don’t even mean a will to survive. I mean fire, fire. What tortures. What kills’ (p. 182). Much later, from his prison cell, Bradley understands his lack of empathy and reflects that ‘there are no spare, unrecorded, encapsulated moments in which we can behave anyhow and then expect to resume life where we left off. The wicked regard time as discontinuous; the wicked dull their sense of natural causality. The good feel being as a total, dense mesh of interconnections. My slightest whim can affect the whole future’ (p. 125). This moral aphorism governs Murdoch’s entire oeuvre. The novel also self-consciously debates another of Murdoch’s central artistic ambitions: that of ‘negative capability’, the idea that the writer should attempt to create a work of art as free of her own unconscious as possible. Although she acknowledged that ‘all art comes out

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Love Machine

of the unconscious mind’, she also thought that ‘the intellect comes in to prevent it’ (TCHF, p. 16). The book wrestles with the problem of how far literature is unavoidably suffused with the unconscious of a writer and how far this can be minimized in order that art can imaginatively engage with the world outside a writer’s personal obsessions. The book is recognized by many critics as Murdoch’s most self-revelatory, and the idea-play is conducted by means of an intertextual play with Hamlet: ‘Did Shakespeare hate his father? Of course. Was he in love with his mother? Of course. But that is only the beginning of the tale he is telling us’ (p. 199). The book thus both acknowledges the writer’s presence in his art but parodies and ridicules overzealous psychoanalytic criticism through the absurd claims of Bradley’s former brother-in-law, the struck-off psychoanalyst, Frances Marloe: ‘Bradley Pearson presents, I need hardly say, the classical symptoms of the Oedipus complex’ (p. 397); ‘It is also clear from the most casual scrutiny that our subject is homosexual’ (p. 398). Though both observations could be partly true, ultimately The Black Prince argues that although good art will spring from deep in its author’s unconscious, it can also serve larger moral ambitions and generate empathy for human experience that is far removed from one’s own. As Bradley comes to understand, ‘all art lies, but good art lies its way to the truth’ (p. 381). The identity of the Black Prince himself has always been a source of interest for critics. Murdoch was moved to reveal his identity because there was so much speculation about the novel’s title and its dense mystification. ‘Perhaps I should say something explanatory about this book’, she said in an interview at Caen: The ‘Black Prince,’ of course, is Apollo – most critics who reviewed this book in England didn’t appear to realize this, even though there was a picture of Apollo on the front [. . .]. Apollo is the God of art and is also identified by me with the black Eros, destructive and violent: Apollo is a rapist, a murderer, as is said in the novel when they are discussing who Mr. Loxias is, who killed a low musician in a horrible way, a great power figure, but not necessarily a good figure [. . .] so there is [. . .] a profound mystification in the book in relation to Bradley, and in Bradley’s relation to the Black Prince and in Bradley’s relation to Arnold. (TCHF, pp. 76–7)

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

104 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

105

Apollo, who flays Marsyas, is at once benign and sadistic, loving and sinister, and this paradox defines not only this, but every one of Murdoch’s novels. Her ‘profound mystification’ ensures that her work perpetually attracts diverse critical attention. It is the key to the symbolic identity of the Black Prince himself, who is the unsettling embodiment of her demand that we must simultaneously understand antithetical views as equally true. This dual perception is at the heart of Murdoch’s philosophy: any monocular vision is anathema to her and a dangerous source of fanaticism. Only when one has looked into the face of the Black Prince himself can one move forward and see the world as it really, often painfully, is. The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (1974)21 sees Murdoch again using the novel as a testing ground for her philosophy. In it she meditates deeply on the problematic aspect of the idea of ‘unselfing’ and stoic endurance that is at the heart of her philosophical picture of goodness. The book reveals the capacity for self-delusion on both counts and the difficulty, if not impossibility, of identifying when attempts at either are authentic. Harriet Gavender is unaware that her husband, Blaise, has a mistress and an illegitimate son, Luca. But when Luca takes to hiding under a tree in Harriet’s garden and watching her, he brings his existence, and that of his mother Emily, into the open. Harriet is forced to react. Her decision to ‘stay upright in gunfire’ (p. 151) and hold on, not only to Blaise but also Emily and Luca, in what she believes to be a selfless act of loving forgiveness is, in fact, the antithesis of Murdoch’s ideal of selflessness. This book is one of her most bleak analyses of the capacity for self-delusion. The novel plays with the two types of hero that Murdoch had identified in her philosophy:22 ‘existentialist’ and ‘mystic’ – an active, courageous embodiment of a powerful assertion of will on the one hand, and a passive, self-denying reorientation of energy on the other. But both kinds of heroics are all too readily converted in the mind of their perpetrator into something bogus: ‘the chief temptation of the former is egoism, of the latter masochism’ (EM, p. 227). Brave courageous action may be self-aggrandizement; ignoring one’s demons allows their proliferation and encourages a dangerous repression. The integrity of either kind of heroism depends not on action but on the quality of consciousness that determines it. The discrepancy between Harriet’s self-perception and her true emotional state indicates this inner transformation of motive.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Love Machine

The men in Harriet’s life, her neighbour Monty Small and Blaise, view her kindly compassion as ‘angelic’ or ‘saintly’. By contrast, Harriet, drawing strength from her military family background, pictures herself as ‘soldier’s daughter, soldier’s sister’ (p. 151) and interprets her stoicism as bravery. But either way, Harriet is a counterfeit saint. Edgar Demarney, Monty’s old college friend, identifies Harriet’s passivity as dangerous: ‘you have not been a healer but an accomplice of evil [. . .]. Vague tolerant pity is not true kindness here. You are trying to spare yourself’ (p. 211). He forces her to see that her humility is not ‘saintliness [but a] sort of power’ (p. 250). However, Harriet’s bogus perception of self has enabled her strength and provided her with a meaningful identity. When this identity is stripped through Blaise’s ultimate defection, she refuses to take responsibility for her life. The terrorism that causes Harriet’s death at Hanover airport is not only an extreme example of the self-delusion that transforms anger, fear or desire for power into delusions of saintliness, but also an illustration of how self-image, however bogus, is necessary to survival. After Harriet’s death, Emily moves into Hood House, the family home, and the couple preside over a ritualistic garden bonfire of the intimate treasures of Harriet’s life. But the novel enacts a moral conundrum: although Harriet’s death is necessary to the philosophical framework because it illustrates the unsustainable nature of self-delusion, it also absolves Blaise and Emily of responsibility for their treatment of her. In some sense its ending implies authorial timidity and renders the moral position of the book ambivalent. The resolution leaves a feeling of injustice, which could of course be attributed to the novel’s realism; however, a moral perspective, albeit a complex one, can be reached by comparing the two women with their counterparts in the painting overtly alluded to in the novel’s title: Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love. With this allusion Murdoch brings the visual arts back to a central position in her idea-play, although the painting itself does not appear there. Nevertheless, there is an obvious parallel between the two women who are central to the plot and the two female subjects of the painting. It suggests two ways of perceiving the relationship between sacred and profane love which correspond to Dante and Plato respectively. The Dantean perspective is illustrated on the relief on the oblong fountain in the painting; the Platonic in the representation of the two female figures seated either end of it.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

106 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

107

The relief, depicting a man scourging a woman being dragged by the hair, implies that animal passion must be chastened and bridled. The complementary relationship between the nude and the clothed female figures suggests the Platonic perspective that sexual love can be transformed into spiritual love. The figure on the left appears to be sacred love, the figure on the right profane love. Edgar Wind suggests that it is futile to affix a sacred or profane character to one or other. As if to stress the sacred nature of the profane figure, Titian has painted a church behind her, while a castle, a symbol of material power, appears behind the woman who is clothed. Wind argues that ‘the painting is [. . .] an allegory in which the growth of love is pictured’.23 Both painting and novel imply that sanctity and profanity are alter egos. Blaise ultimately ‘could not clarify in memory that transformation of his early affections which had made him feel that Harriet was his sacred love and Emily his profane’.24 In the face of extreme human cost, Murdoch refuses to deny respect for Blaise and Emily’s mutual (profane) sexual attraction: Intense, mutual erotic love, love which involves with the flesh all the most refined sexual being of the spirit, which reveals and perhaps ex nihilo creates spirit as sex, is comparatively rare in this inconvenient world. This love represents itself as such a dizzily, lofty value that even to speak of ‘enjoying’ it seems sacrilege. It is something to be undergone on one’s knees. And where it exists, it cannot but shed a blazing light of justification upon its own scene, a light which can leave the rest of the world dark indeed. (p. 261) In this novel, she refuses to place restrictions on erotic love as a path to good, however morally dubious it may be. Harriet’s death has not marred the mutual bliss of Blaise and Emily’s union. There is a hint of unusual sexual appetites between Blaise and Emily, and Emily’s relief at Harriet’s death is unashamed: ‘The fates had done Emily an amazingly good turn [. . .] How awfully considerate of Mrs. Placid to go and get herself massacred’ (p. 338). One way of viewing Emily is through a Dantean desire to see her scourged and punished. But militating against this impulse is Murdoch’s Platonic faith in the continuum between low and high eros. Murdoch’s next novel, A Word Child (1975), focuses again on her moral psychology and also on some problems of the age. She considers

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Love Machine

how far endemic underprivilege combined with unprecedented opportunity can morally corrupt and generate murderous violence. Murdoch habitually engaged in debates about education and in April 1974 published an article, ‘Doing Down the Able Child: A Socialist Case for Saving our Grammar Schools’ (this was just before the publication of A Word Child in the same month). The article related to the debate about comprehensive education that the Labour Government of the 1960s promoted and implemented. Yet while in her political activism Murdoch was supporting the continuation of the grammar schools, it seems that in her fiction she was subjecting that system itself to some stringent questioning. Now, by the early 1970s the effects of the 1944 Butler Education Act meant that underprivileged youngsters had more chances to participate in higher education than ever before and Hilary Burde, the Oxford-educated first-person narrator of A Word Child (1975), is an example: ‘no child from [Hilary’s] school had ever been farther afield than a northern polytechnic’ (p. 23). Yet although the revolutionary goal of the Butler Act was to close the gap between social classes, higher education itself only served to increase working-class awareness of its difference from those born into more privileged backgrounds. The novel is informed by the decline in religious faith in the twentieth century which would have once provided the benign and loving assurance that might have helped Hilary overcome his inferiority. This decline created a vacuum that Murdoch found worrying and is examined closely in the book. But the riotous social unrest in Britain in the early 1970s, which saw battles between the Trade Unions and the Conservative Government of Edward Heath resulting in industrial strikes, is also covertly present. The book was written rapidly; the first draft was begun in August 1973, the final draft was completed in November of that year and then finished in February 1974 – only seven months in the making. During the early part of 1972, power cuts had meant that Murdoch and her husband shared enforced candle-lit evenings (IMC, p. 124). Such austerity would surely have invited discussions on the root causes of the deep class divisions and power struggles rife within British society at that time. The ‘Irish problem’ was also making headline news: on ‘Bloody Sunday’ in January 1971, British soldiers had shot dead 13 civilians and subsequent bombs in Belfast led to the British Government assuming direct rule in Northern Ireland in

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

108 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

109

February 1972. This move led to murderous IRA attacks on mainland Britain. While The Sacred and Profane Love Machine had confined itself to the psychology of a small group of the ‘chattering classes’, A Word Child, darker, more socially aware and class-conscious, embodies issues of class conflicts and the effects of a damaging upbringing. ‘The fragmentation of spirit is the problem of our age’ says Gunnar Jopling, a high-ranking civil servant and former Oxford don, when discussing Peter Pan at a dinner party. ‘Peter personifies a spirituality which is irrevocably caught in childhood and which cannot surrender its pretensions. Peter is essentially a being from elsewhere, the apotheosis of an immature spirituality’ (p. 227).25 Jopling’s snide remarks are aimed at Hilary, a damaged child from an impoverished northern town who had worked his way into Oxford. Jopling had been Hilary’s tutor there and Hilary entered his life as ‘a cruel ruthless invader’ (p. 228), had an affair with his first wife, Anne, and then recklessly drove the car in which she and her unborn child were killed when she threatened to abandon him and stay with Jopling. Some years later, the Joplings’ son, who had found Anne and Hilary in bed together, committed suicide. The scathing implication of Jopling’s remark is that a child from a deprived background is inevitably ensnared there. Entering a more privileged environment only breeds a demon of self-destruction who takes other lives in its wake. Such a parvenu is neither able to escape the deprivation of his childhood nor relinquish the desire for status and success which an upper-class education engenders. The result is a ‘being from elsewhere’, damaged both by underprivilege and the chance to overcome it, and destined to be an outsider, forever alienated from love, happiness and virtue.26 In an interview with Hugh Herbert in the Guardian in October 1973, just after the book was begun, Murdoch had identified what she perceived as a difficulty in her novels: that of moving beyond the professional classes which she knew best (IMC, p. 127). Written against this destabilizing background of industrial unrest and political violence, A Word Child at least attempts to enlarge the catchment area for her characters and this novel is opened up to a significant meditation on class relations. Hilary’s upbringing sets him apart socially from Murdoch’s other first-person narrators. He was born in the north of England, the child of a woman who was most likely a prostitute, and neither he nor she knows the identity of his father.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Love Machine

His beloved sister, Crystal, is likewise the child of a casual sexual encounter. Orphaned when he was seven, after living briefly with his Aunt Bill in a caravan, Hilary is sent to an orphanage because he is ‘a “bad” boy’ (p. 17). Aunt Bill and Crystal continue to live on National Assistance in the caravan. Out of this personal rejection develops the conviction that he is ‘unlovable’ and a tendency to act out his ‘thoroughly disturbed’, ‘bad’ and violent reputation (‘I liked hitting people [. . .] breaking things’ [p. 18]). Murdoch’s psychology is acute: Hilary tries to set fire to the orphanage because it briefly gives him a brief surge of power (‘violence is a kind of magic, the sense that the world will always yield’ [p. 22]).27 Hilary’s ‘cosmic, furious, permanent sense of [him]self as victimized’ (p. 18) is exacerbated, not eradicated, by his Oxford education. This then unusual transcending of class boundaries resulted partly from the encouragement of Hilary’s French and Latin schoolmaster, Mr Osmand, from whom he learns to understand and love the mechanics of languages. Hilary becomes ‘a word child’ (p. 19) and finds a new identity, a sense of belonging and salvation through this work and his own instinctive love of literature.28 But Oxford does not prove to be the escape route that Mr Osmand intended for Hilary and the novel considers the problems of mixing diverse social and cultural contexts. Hilary is anxious and insecure in these surroundings and does not make friends; he is continually afraid of failure or making mistakes and unrealistically attempts to excel at everything. He artificially distances himself from his background by ridding himself of his northern vowels, severing contact with Mr Osmand and shunning the north. But his Oxford education cannot annihilate the past: he is too embarrassed to speak the languages he learned so effortlessly, too ‘terrified of making some memorable public blunder’ to perform effectively, and remains ‘awkward, separatist, aggressive, touchy’ (p. 113). Achieving a high first and being elected to a fellowship at another Oxford college does nothing to confirm his status to himself. As the events of the novel are set in motion, Hilary is now in his early forties and still paralysed with self-pity, having been forced to leave Oxford after Anne Jopling’s death. He is now a ‘humble’ and ‘obscure’ (p. 6) low-level civil servant and something of an ‘odd bird’29 who ‘prefer[s] the dark’ and compulsively rides the London Underground, particularly the Inner Circle line (p. 38), in order to

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

110 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

111

flee the terror of the outside world, settle into the safety of repetition and ward off what he calls the ‘demons that swarm’ his Bayswater flat (p. 2). He is obsessive (the novel’s chapters are titled as days of the week to indicate the rituals that govern his life) and civil service bureaucracy provides a perfect model for an endless deferral of moral responsibility. Such self-hatred and a lack of confidence generate a vacillation between a lethargic disempowerment and uncontrollable violence. Hilary disengages himself from decision making because he believes he has neither the power nor the moral authority to change his life (‘I was destined to suffer stupidly, my mother suffered stupidly, my father suffered stupidly, my sister suffers stupidly, it’s what we were made for’ [p. 291]). But this impotence manifests itself in explosive bouts of temper over trivialities (such as the hefty telephone bill incurred by his flatmate, the peace-loving hippie, Christopher). Christopher articulates Hilary’s problem simply and truthfully: ‘the trouble with you is that you’re a snob, it’s all that rat race competition, all that you can think of is getting away from your working-class background, you hate yourself so you can’t love anyone else’ (p. 230). The telephone engineer who comes to repair the telephone observes that the flat looks ‘as if you’ve had the IRA in here’ (p. 49), thus linking individual disempowerment and its concomitant violence with national issues of the time. Hilary notes when Christopher’s friends, Jimbo and Mick, arrive that ‘they were at once a fraternity. Here at any rate class no longer existed. The Beatles like Empedocles had thrown all things about’ (p. 50). For Hilary’s generation, however, social mobility was proving more difficult to negotiate. Hilary is disoriented and distraught to find out that Jopling, now married to the glamorous Lady Kitty, is to be Head of his Whitehall department. Jopling understandably still hates Hilary. When they arrive, Lady Kitty tries to effect a reconciliation but, in one of Murdoch’s most bizarre plot twists, asks Hilary to father her child because Jopling is unable to do so. Hilary allows himself to be drawn into another emotional drama, this time with Jopling’s second wife, and his deep-rooted envy of Gunnar will lead to a fantastic duplication of events that will cost her life too: when Gunnar finds them together on the jetty near their Cheyne Walk home and Lady Kitty attempts to prevent the two men from fighting, she falls into the

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Love Machine

freezing Thames and dies from exposure, dragged down, literally and metaphorically, by the weight of her expensive fur coat. The conflict at the heart of the novel is much to do with class tensions between Hilary and Gunnar. On Hilary’s arrival at Oxford, Gunnar makes him his protégé, but the difference between their social status, while it appears not to affect Jopling, proves an insurmountable barrier for Hilary, who is as annoyed with, as much as he is grateful for, Jopling’s patronage: ‘I wanted to be friends with him, and yet at the same time I snubbed him’ (p. 113). Like Peter Pan, Hilary’s crowing pride generates ‘bad form’ (p. 114). He publishes savage criticism of a senior fellow’s error in an article. Jopling points out the error in judgement but Hilary publishes it anyway. Jopling forgives Hilary, but Hilary never forgives himself, and the act stimulates (perhaps unconsciously) the desire for Jopling’s wife that is both an act of jealousy and spite. After Anne’s death, Hilary returns to the north and to Crystal, having lost his moral self-respect, and suffers deeply, but could never ‘clean the resentment out of [his] misery’ (p. 126). When Hilary meets Joplng for the first time in the course of the novel, it is not a desire to ask for forgiveness that engulfs Hilary but ‘a kind of pure hatred [. . .] a desire to punch him hard in the face’ (p. 166). When Hilary realizes that Gunnar’s motive is a selfconfessed ‘exercise of pure egoism’ (p. 267), concerned only with his redemption, not Hilary’s, Hilary feels that he is now banished forever ‘back where [he] belonged, where [his] childhood had condemned him to be, out in the cold without a coat’ (p. 269). At that moment his desire for Lady Kitty is transformed into something more sexualized and sinister. The numerous links to the Peter Pan myth deepen the book’s meditation on sexuality, which is in turn linked to class issues.30 Murdoch had a fascination with Peter Pan, whom Conradi identifies as the ‘sinister boy’ who, as lost and fatherless, is unable to establish normal relationships with women.31 Murdoch indicates that ‘[Hilary’s] endless reflection on his childhood’ may have interfered with his living an ‘ordinary’ life, an ability often championed by Murdoch as a means to spiritual growth (TCHF, p. 72). Hilary is linked to Peter Pan at first through Jopling’s reference to ‘immature spirituality’ and later through both his perpetual fear of ‘bad form’ and his desire to point it out in others. Bad form, of course, is that with which Peter Pan taunts Captain Hook in Barrie’s novel (Murdoch was familiar

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

112 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

113

with both the play and the novel). As Hilary leaves the Impiatts’ home he confesses that he could not reveal that he is departing early to see Crystal, who now lives alone in a nearby shabby terraced house, because they might think it ‘bad form’ (p. 12). There is much talk about gentlemanly behaviour, public schools and how to behave, and much misunderstanding (such as when Freddie Impiatt thinks Hilary in love with his wife) over what constitutes ‘good’ and ‘bad form’. Hilary is sexually aroused by Lady Kitty’s obvious wealth, her luxurious clothes, scent and, in particular, her fur coat. They are the accoutrements of the wealth and status of which he believes himself to be unworthy. By comparison, the ‘the tired heavily made up faces of [bosomy typists in his office] [. . .] smelling of cheap cosmetics and expressing the vacancy of youth without its joy’ repel him and are ‘mirrors of his own mediocrity’ (p. 203). It is in the face of the aristocratic Lady Kitty in which Hilary wants to find his own face mirrored, not in those of the office typists. Murdoch draws the statue of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, one of Hilary’s favourite haunts, into the novel to expand her meditation on links between sexuality and class tensions. Hilary becomes attracted to Lady Kitty near the statue, and its sexualization of innocent childhood (the full-figured and provocatively dressed fairies are all moving towards Peter Pan, mesmerized by his pipe) suggests confused and troubling sexual proclivities engendered in formative years.32 Hilary’s desire to exert power by exploiting his sexual attraction comes out of the emasculation caused by his deprived upbringing. He sees himself as devoid of both ease and physical charm (p. 24), yet his irresistible exploitation of sexual attractiveness over his social superiors is the pivot on which the plot turns. The spark for the sexual attraction between Hilary and Lady Kitty is a class-engendered emasculation. When they first meet in Hyde Park, chaperoned by Lady Kitty’s maid, Biscuit, Hilary is incensed when the women arrive on horseback. He is insulted and humiliated by ‘the stupid grandness of it all. The well-cut breeches, the bloody polished boots. The elegant little leather gloves [. . .] I suppose (I thought of this later) that what I was feeling then was the poor man’s primeval hatred of the man on the horse. [. . .] this rich woman with her horses, and with Biscuit as her servant, filled me with a hostility which rendered me for a moment speechless’ (p. 187). By contrast, both of Gunnar’s wives are elevated at other times into

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Love Machine

religious icons: ‘when I talked to her at Peter Pan my veneration, my adoration was already old’, Hilary thinks of his meeting with Lady Kitty (p. 223). Murdoch points to the equally contradictory and confused sexual proclivities of the women in the novel who are sexually excited by Hilary’s uncivilized cruelty and capacity for violence. His simmering violence seduces these ‘civilized’, well-educated, wellbrought-up women into disastrous relationships (Anne Jopling ‘felt the grains of violence’ and ‘yearned over them’ [p. 122]). Hilary’s ambivalent relationship with his (very senior) colleague Clifford Larr is probably based on a repressed homosexual inclination and most certainly on a masochistic desire to be humiliated: ‘I naturally felt envious and inferior and Clifford knew exactly how to make me feel more so. Clifford was rich. His father had been a successful barrister, later a judge. Clifford had grown up in a wealthy bookish home. He was educated and cultured in a way that I would never be, and probably never could have been even if I had stayed at Oxford’ (p. 77). Clifford humiliates Hilary partly out of jealousy and partly because Hilary’s affection for him is clearly returned but tantalizingly withheld (homosexual relationships would have been taboo in the working-class societies of the 1950s when Hilary was growing up). Yet Hilary is unable to reason the cause for Clifford’s cruelty (though it is quite obvious to readers) because he masochistically instigates and believes Clifford’s insults: ‘You are nothing but a lout who has been taught a few tricks. You are the sort of lower class product who never grows out of his grammar school. Always the little prize boy who was top in the exam. Always envious. Always anxious. You exist by excelling, by knowing just that little more than the others and understanding nothing. [. . .] When there are no more exams and you can’t excel you cease to exist’ (p. 79). Thus, a potentially wholesome and loving relationship is based on venomous carping and cynical manipulation. At the end of the novel, after learning of Clifford’s suicide, Hilary is drawn to St Stephen’s Church near Gloucester Road, where he finally comes to understand his culpability in Clifford’s death (‘I saw where I had behaved badly, the selfishness, the destructiveness, the rapacity’ [p. 381]) and the necessity of sparing Crystal the burden of his grief and releasing her from the emotional blackmail with which he has been imprisoning her for years. In the final chapter, Hilary and his long-suffering girlfriend, Thomasina, are free to begin a new

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

114 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

115

phase of their relationship. Hilary’s attraction to Tommy had always been cerebral rather than sexual. While he likes her cleverness, her ability to argue and, in particular, ‘her grammar school education and her extensive vocabulary and her sharp little mind’ and her ability ‘to coerce with her words not with her tears’ (p. 43), this social equality does not generate the frisson of rivalry he feels in his relationship with Jopling’s wives, and thus his feelings were never strong enough to lead to a commitment. This change in his perception of Tommy at the end of the book may indicate that finally Hilary is governed more by a rational desire to live in the present than an obsessive desire to wreak revenge for the past. Yet when discussing what might happen to Hilary in the future, whether he would ‘find any sort of salvation [. . .] or whether he wouldn’t fall back into some hopeless kind of neurotic obsessional repetition of what had happened’, Murdoch said that she intended the novel’s ending to be unresolved (TCHF, p. 71). Readers are left to think about whether Hilary’s upbringing will fuel yet another re-enactment of the deadly cyclical life patterns of his youth. Yet class and sexual tensions are only some of the aspects of Murdoch’s psychological study in this novel, and it is the kindness of Clifford, Kitty and Anne to Hilary, as much as their attraction for him, that is the driving force behind his love for them (‘She was kind to me, oh, she was so kind’ [p. 224], he says of Kitty). Hilary’s actions are driven by a deep desire for absolution from, as well as a desire to punish, those who have everything life withholds from him. At heart, like other demons of Murdoch’s (such as Carel in The Time of the Angels and Charles in The Sea, The Sea), Hilary is a lonely and frightened man, stuck within a terror of life from which he can envisage no escape. Faces figure tellingly in the novel: Crystal’s, Clifford’s, Jopling’s, Tommy’s, Lady Kitty’s and Hilary’s own. When Hilary first meets Lady Kitty at the Peter Pan Statue, he poignantly gives his insecurities away by referring to himself as just ‘a clerk in [Gunnar’s] office’ and ‘an ordinary unsuccessful man’ (p. 194) and feels uncomfortable under her gaze because ‘I did not want my face to speak to her at all’ (p. 195). Anne’s shining face is linked imagistically with the moon face of Big Ben, another landmark to which Hilary is drawn and which shines down upon him from Parliament Square (p. 274). Big Ben’s moon face is often illuminated through the fog that symbolizes

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Love Machine

Hilary’s inner rage and the power and privilege which incites it. But it is power from which he covets respect, blessing and love. All these shining faces, so lovingly perceived and described, have the power to provide the love that could heal, and Murdoch invites readers to look at Hilary in order to understand his deprivation and desire for equality, identity and love. If the novel has anything to offer by way of a solution to the social unrest that characterized the years in which it was conceived and written, it is this call for attention. In this sense, the moon face of Big Ben also symbolizes Murdoch’s own loving gaze on humanity.33 The novels in this group are all set in London. London’s landmarks, routes and rivers act as powerful and public symbols to direct our responses and interpretation. Big Ben, Peter Pan and the Circle Line in A Word Child, the Post Office Tower in The Black Prince and Putney Bridge, over which Blaise in The Sacred and Profane Love Machine crosses between his two lives, are only some of the most striking features of Murdoch’s panorama of the life of the capital. London can itself be seen as a great machine which, nonetheless, seethes with the individual, the contingent, the accidental. It is a mighty macrocosm for the troubled inhabitants of these novels.34

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

116 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

Retreats and Returns Henry and Cato (1976), The Sea, The Sea (1978) and Nuns and Soldiers (1980)

In June 1976, the year that Henry and Cato was published, Murdoch spoke of her move from the lightheartedness of the earlier novels to a greater calm, which she thought had come with age (IMC, p. 138). The following year she attributed the increased length of these later novels to a greater relaxation in her writing because she was no longer worried about breaking the form by blurring it (IMC, p. 142).1 Although in the 1970s Murdoch was expressing distaste for experimental fiction, the last novels of the decade are richly intertextual, drawing on Shakespeare, Henry James and the visual arts to enrich and complicate her exploration of consciousness. Aware of her debt to James, who similarly extended the boundaries of form, she perhaps saw her experimentation as a continuation of his and foregrounds this connection with tradition rather than drawing attention to her own innovative contribution to its development. In the novels of the late 1970s, a deepening mysticism accompanies the formal experimentation and the ubiquitous debates about the possibility of Good in a Godless world. Deepening meditations on the power of the past and its impact on the present are also evident, while the necessity and difficulty of renunciation brood over the action. Familiar themes recur in Henry and Cato.2 The eponymous characters compose the favourite diptych, though neither is artist or saint. Even to call Henry a failed artist and Cato a failed saint is to put it too strongly: ‘Henry often thought of himself as a failed artist. Why failed, for heaven’s sake, Bella asked him, you haven’t even tried!’3 Bella and her husband Russ are beloved colleagues at Sperriton, Illinois, where Henry, in flight from his family and home in England, 117

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

7

teaches art history (or rather ‘fifty great pictures’) at a mediocre college. He thinks of them as his family now. Cato is Murdoch’s most searching study of a priest who has lost his faith. In the opening pages of the novel he seems like a guilty character from a Graham Greene novel as he furtively drops a revolver from Hungerford Bridge into the Thames. We do not learn until later that he is a priest and is disposing of a weapon owned by Beautiful Joe, a young criminal boy whom he has befriended and loves. While Cato is loitering on the bridge for an opportune moment of solitude, Henry is flying back from America, overjoyed by the news of his hated elder brother’s death. He has inherited Laxlinden Hall, its estate and considerable wealth, though not Sandy’s place in their mother’s affection. Can the story of the rival brothers, previously explored in various ways in several novels, be ended by death? Can family bonds and traumas be renounced or escaped? Both Henry and Cato attempt ‘saintly’ and deeply compromised renunciations. They are acts of revenge and are spiritually overambitious. Henry finally admits that his scheme to sell Laxlinden Hall and give away his money was ‘above my moral level [...] Perhaps someone else could have done it [...] But with me it was just [...] an act of violence’ (pp. 321–2). He has come to see it as ‘an orgy of will’, the expression of the solitary free man Murdoch criticizes in existentialism (p. 306). He is obviously smashing Sandy’s inheritance, taking revenge on his mother and casting out her ageing pathetic penniless troubadour, the genuinely failed poet, Lucius Lamb. He even becomes engaged to his brother’s supposed mistress, Stephanie, who is older, uneducated, deliciously ‘unsuitable’, another way of claiming Sandy’s property and outraging his mother. Cato’s conversion to Roman Catholicism and his ordination outrage his domineering atheist father. John Forbes, a university lecturer, is convinced of his own rightness and is unable to accept that his children have different views and desires. He is bitterly disappointed when his daughter Colette drops out of college and announces that she wants, of all things, to marry and have a family. ‘What had he done to deserve such children?’ (p. 21). Cato also renounces possessions. He lives in a Mission in a condemned building and most of its shabby basic equipment has been stolen by the parishioners he came to help. The other two priests who shared the Mission have moved out to pursue other lives. When the novel opens, Cato has lost his faith and his love for dangerous

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

118 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

119

Beautiful Joe is (apart from his affection for the simple parish priest, the dying Father Milsom, and his brilliant mentor, Father Brendan Craddock) almost his only comfort. Brendan advises him to stop seeing Joe, but Cato is convinced that only he can save the boy. He plans to move to a teaching job in Leeds and, with financial help from Henry, take Joe to live with him and get some academic or vocational education. As well as dreams of being a pop star, Joe has expressed an interest in electrical engineering and in philosophy. He thinks he’s ‘a bit of an existentialist’ (p. 244) and his act of violence is more literal than Henry’s. When Joe sees Cato in ordinary clothes instead of his cassock and hears this proposition, he is angry and revolted. Cato is now ‘just a queer in a cord coat’ (p. 192). Pretending to be part of a gang, Joe kidnaps Cato and holds him in a basement for some days, forcing him to write letters to extort ransom money from the terrified Henry and then to lure the more courageous Colette to his hiding place. While Joe is trying to rape his sister, Cato breaks free and kills him. The revelation that Joe was acting alone is a traumatic coda to these terrible events. John despises his son who, according to his own wartime ethic, had a duty to try to escape, for the letters and for his lack of resistance. Joe had similarly despised Hitler’s victims. But when Henry fears that he will be a marked man for life, blackmailed if he assents and murdered if he refuses, he learns the power of fear and its political implications. ‘How well he understood now how dictators flourished’ (p. 238). At the end of the novel, Cato is in despair: he has killed the boy he longed to save. Joe as well as God is dead and with them have gone love, morality and meaning. By contrast, Henry has to give up his lifelong misery. He keeps the Hall, buys off the relieved Stephanie, marries Colette and accepts, rather wryly, that he ‘doomed to be a happy man’ (p. 327). Three works of art silently preside over Henry’s story. Two are dominated by Greek goddesses. Perhaps we are to remember the dramatic homecomings of Odysseus and Agamemnon to their beleaguered or faithless wives. The families in Greek tragedy can be even more dysfunctional than those of Henry and Cato and their vengeance on parents and children more murderous. In an obvious reminiscence of the Odyssey, Gerda tests and disproves Stephanie’s story of her affair with Sandy: ‘I laid a trap for her [...] it concerned – a scar’ (p. 299). Rhoda the maid, with whom Sandy really did have an affair, is always described as ‘bird-headed’, perhaps a mock-Homeric formula rather

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Retreats and Returns

than an irritating mannerism such as Frances’s ‘tall son’ in The Red and the Green or Felix’s ‘very dark-blue Mercedes’ in An Unofficial Rose. Colette is also graced with a compound epithet: she has ‘sea-brown hair’ (p. 312). A tapestry at Laxlinden Hall illustrates a scene near the opening of the Iliad when Athena seizes Achilles’s hair and restrains him from killing Agamemnon. In The Greeks and the Irrational4 Dodds argues that Homer, ignorant of the complexities of the unconscious, attributed a sudden inexplicable change of heart to divine agency. Henry, at any rate, is prevented from destroying his home and family by Gerda’s manoeuvres, Colette’s determination, Russ and Bella’s defection to California and his doom to be happy. ‘It was certainly dangerous to tangle with goddesses’ (p. 96), Henry reflects in the National Gallery as he gazes at Titian’s painting, The Death of Actaeon,5 in which Diana ‘bounds with graceful ruthless indifference across the foreground’ while ‘further back in an underworld of brooding light’ Actaeon is torn to pieces by her hounds (p. 96). The depiction of divinity indifferent to the human suffering it causes fills Henry with happiness. Another picture comes into Henry’s mind, by Max Beckman, on whom, urged by the head of his department, he purports to be writing a book: ‘Against an empty blue sky, an empty blue horizon, a masked helmsman takes a fisher king, his queen, his fair-haired child, away to sea, while an old divinity clutches the edge of the boat and an immense wise blue fish lies looking upwards. On either side of this great confident calm are scenes of torture’ (p. 96). The painting could be a mise-en-abîme of the novel, the central panel predicting Henry’s final acceptance of a family and a happy future, juxtaposed with the terror of Cato’s capture and the anguish that follows it. Beckman had lived through worse in Nazi Germany.6 However, art has its magical power to transform and console in this novel: ‘even the scenes of torture radiate a mysterious joy’ (p. 97). The problem that the tragic in art is a consolation is often raised by Murdoch in her theoretical work, for example in her chapter on the comic and the tragic in Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals.7 Towards the end of the novel, Henry visits the ravaged despairing Cato, who now believes that morality is an illusion, that there are no barriers, and whose final blessing is ‘may you never see what I see now, never know what I know now, never be where I am now!’ (p. 295). Henry flees to the National Gallery, as to a church, and again is calmed by gazing at the Titian. But now he reflects how different ‘violence in

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

120 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

121

art [is] from the horror of the real thing’ (p. 296). He wonders if Titian and Beckman knew as they painted that life ‘was nothing but a slaughterhouse [...] Maybe they knew, thought Henry, but I certainly don’t and I don’t want to’ and prays in Cato’s words for himself (p. 296). The tapestry is back in its place and, for Henry, the averting of violence is paramount. He chooses to turn his eyes from divine indifference and the fact that the world frames individual happiness with torment. The powerful goddesses have their lesser human counterparts in Gerda and Colette. Lucius says to Colette, ‘You look like Athena on our tapestry’ (p. 118). Henry wishes that a goddess would grab him by the hair and tell him what to do (p. 54) and Colette announces firmly to him that they are to marry. Gerda wisely refrains from telling Henry what to do and defuses some of the drama of his project by apparently accepting it calmly. But her own successful project is to work on and pay off Stephanie, to whom she is far more sympathetic and understanding than Henry is, and to free her son for the perfectly suitable Colette. Although Gerda has been an inadequate mother to Henry, she and Colette are very traditional women, rooted in family and domesticity. Henry is given to offensively sexist remarks, many of them tired clichés: ‘Women will make conversations so personal’ (p. 323). When Colette tells him that her father thinks she is not grateful enough for the ‘liberation of women’ and that she ‘should have an occupation’, he retorts, ‘Women aren’t liberated yet, thank God’, and says that being female is an occupation in itself (p. 106). When Stephanie complains, ‘You don’t regard me as an equal’, he agrees and says, ‘Very few men regard women as their equals’ (p. 204). She tries to persuade him not to turn his ageing mother out of her home. He counters by aligning himself with the misogynist tradition of the centuries: ‘Ever since the world began, probably since Eden, men have been led by women into having material possessions [...] it’s their nature, women have, men are’ (p. 203). He plans to marry Stephanie but to disregard all her wishes. Gerda and Colette, however, gain what they want and, ironically, do what is best for Henry by confirming his prejudices. Readers will be glad of Dame Patricia Raven, the only career woman in the novel, who altruistically sleeps with the widowed John but finally announces that she has found a new partner, a young female writer, and suggests that he marry Gerda. The novel is divided into two sections. The first and longer section has the title ‘Rites of Passage’, apt to so much growing up,

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Retreats and Returns

leaving and returning to home, conversion and apostacy, marriage and bereavement. The second section is entitled ‘The Great Teacher’ and the teacher is death. After Lucius collapses with the stroke which will kill him, he manages to write a haiku: ‘So many dawns I was blind to/Now the illumination of night/comes to me too late, O great teacher.’ Death is the discovery that one is nothing, but there is no illumination for there is no one to learn from this teacher. In their last conversation, Father Brendan, who is giving up his life and possessions in England to move to India, tries in vain to help Cato to see his despair as a stage in his Christian experience, as part of the destruction of images vital to religious development. He expresses Murdoch’s conviction that death, not suffering, is the teacher: ‘Death is the great destroyer of all images and all stories, and human beings will do anything rather than envisage it. Their last resource is to rely on suffering, to try to cheat death by suffering instead. And suffering we know breeds images, it breeds the most beautiful images of all’ (p. 336). A final irony confirms that the teacher is the destroyer. Brendan tells Cato of Lucius’s death and mentions that as a boy he was impressed by his poem called ‘The Great Teacher’. So it was written long before Lucius’s death, not an illumination, but only another image. The Sea, The Sea was published in 1978 and won the Booker Prize that year.8 It is Murdoch’s only Booker Prize-winning novel, although her books were nominated many times. She would have been pleased by the success of this particular novel. In September 1976, after the publication of Henry and Cato, she had been critical of her own character drawing. The Sea, The Sea, begun a month later in October 1976, is perhaps her most sustained and focused attempt at the representation of the inner life of a single character, and the sea of the title becomes a central metaphor for human consciousness itself. The book is the sixth of Murdoch’s six first-person narratives.9 It participates in her philosophical quarrel with Hume and Kant who, she argued, had left philosophy with ‘too shallow and flimsy an idea of personality’ (EM, p. 287). In this novel she confronts the thorny questions about the complexity of human consciousness in terms she was later to articulate in Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals: How does the alleged stream [of consciousness] relate to time? How do ‘general’ and ‘particular’ relate therein? Should we and can we distinguish mental contents which have some degree (what degree?)

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

122 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

123

of clarity, form and body, for instance, by consisting of sentences which could be uttered aloud? What is the value, use, status, of contents which fail this sort of test? What do we do with items that have personal ‘colour’ but no public classification, are there such items? (Is there a private language?) How immediate is immediate awareness? Are there mental entities (images, icons, lights, dark clouds, verbal admonitions etc. etc.) which are always in our minds? What about ‘unconscious mind’, is there such a thing? (p. 173) The book is a central contribution to Murdoch’s attempt to extend the boundaries of language so that it can evoke quality of consciousness more accurately. In ‘Thinking and Language’, she suggests that ‘thoughts may be described as an experience into which words enter variously or not at all [...] both the actual occurrence of words in thought, and our private conceptual fixing of our own states of mind, is experienced in an imaging, semi-sensible mode’ (EM, pp. 39–40). She argues that these ‘hazy and unclarified outer edges of consciousness’ are ‘more easily suggested by novelists and poets than analytically described by philosophers’, and felt writers must use ‘suitable metaphors [...] to make these features visible’ (MGM, p. 215). Her first-person narrator is Charles Arrowby, a famous retired writer, actor and director (and womanizer), who has given up a life of self-centred egoism to live quietly by the sea and seek out a spiritual identity: ‘the final change of magic into spirit’.10 The theatre is woven into the fabric of the novel in Charles’s very Murdochian affiliations with Shakespeare.11 The book is in some ways a reworking of The Tempest, a fact indicated clearly to the reader when Charles boasts of his prowess at playing Prospero. He is one of Murdoch’s ‘enchanter’ characters with the power to manipulate and destroy many who trespass into his emotional domain, but his magic also extends to a clever but covert manipulation of his own mind. The power of the unconscious mind to unwittingly determine conscious action is what the novel explores. Charles, who has nursed his longtime lover, Clement Makin, throughout her lingering death from cancer, has, by chance, found his long-lost childhood sweetheart, Mary (‘Hartley’) Fitch, living nearby. He endows the uncomplicated love he once felt for her with the power to save him. Much of the humour of the book derives from his deluded perspective on the puppy love that he invests with huge

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Retreats and Returns

spiritual significance. The fun comes out of Charles’s remembrances of what he believes was a chaste but ‘radiant passion’: ‘Her body was passive to my embraces, but her spirit glowed to me with cold fire [...] She never hugged me, but sometimes rigidly, she held my arms, leaving great bruises. Her secret violet eyes did not close when I moved to kiss her’ (p. 80). The power of the mind to transform the past and the concrete effects of such magical thinking pervade the book.12 Charles’s Buddhist cousin, James Arrowby, explains to him the concept of Bardo, the belief that the souls of the dead, while waiting to be reborn, wander in a sort of limbo, not unlike the Homeric Hades: ‘It can be unpleasant’, explains James, ‘you meet all kinds of demons there’ (p. 236). Bardo serves as a metaphor for the inaccessible grey area of consciousness between darkness and enlightenment – the borderlines of conscious awareness where Charles’s voracious sexual power drive and his buried grief over Clement reside. Murdoch suggested that ‘the development of consciousness in human beings is inseparably connected with the use of metaphor. Metaphors are not merely peripheral decorations or even useful models; they are fundamental forms of our awareness of our condition’ (EM, p. 363). The metaphor or image that Murdoch constructs to render Charles’s inner life is the recurring image of a sea demon’s mouth. The sea demon first appears when, not long into his new reclusive life, Charles looks out to sea and glimpses a gigantic seamonster rising from the deep. He ‘could [...] see [...] a kind of crested snake’s head, green-eyed, the mouth opening to see teeth and a pink interior’ (p. 19). The power-hungry aspect of his character for which the demon stands as a metaphor intensifies when Charles rediscovers Hartley, now a plump, moustachioed, old woman. Suppressing his grief over Clement, Charles transforms Hartley into the great love of his life and ‘never for a second doubted that her emotion was as strong as [his] own’ (p. 115). He comically assumes that Hartley has longed for the famous man she let slip away: ‘she must regret it so much, the wrong choice’ (p. 120). The schema exists and is applied to Hartley: ‘You’ve built a cage of needs and installed her in an empty space in the middle’ (p. 442), suggests James, who understands that any such obsession has a lethal power: ‘the worshipper endows the worshipped object with real power, real power, not imaginary power, that is the sense of the ontological proof [...] but this power is dreadful stuff. Our lusts and our attachments compose our God’ (p. 445).

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

124 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

125

The image recurs throughout to indicate Charles’s voracious ego that seeks to emotionally devour and disempower every woman with whom he becomes involved. Again Murdoch borrows from the imagery and psychological acuity of a painting to aid her attempt at rendering consciousness. When she situates Charles alongside Titian’s Perseus and Andromeda at the Wallace Collection in London,13 it becomes clear that she borrows the image of the sea demon’s mouth from Titian’s painting in order to indicate Charles’s complex psychology. This painting illustrates the moment when Perseus swoops down from the sky to attack a sea demon which threatens Andromeda, who is chained to a rock. The open mouth of Titian’s sea monster is clearly echoed in Murdoch’s descriptions of Charles’s sea demon and Titian’s revelation of the psychology of Perseus helps us to ‘read’ the character of Charles. On a surface level, the painting could be interpreted as a vehicle for an exhilarating ‘macho’ response in a male spectator. The figure of Andromeda is evocatively painted; her posed body invites admiration. She looks pleadingly toward her rescuer for protection, while Perseus, muscular and fearless, risks his life to save the persecuted maiden. Perseus and Andromeda have a fairytale ending, but the painting arrests the myth at a point that has a less certain outcome. Perseus, suspended in mid-air, is rather boyish and vulnerable, almost effete – a poseur like Charles – and is, at this moment, insecure in victory. The network of images that links Charles’s demon to the painting point to Charles’s insecurities: his repressed feelings of jealousy, shame and a hidden fear of women. For example, when he looks at his former mistress, Rosina, whose love has turned into persecution, he has a vision of her face vanishing and becoming a hole through which he sees ‘the snake head and teeth and pink opening mouth of my sea monster’ (p. 105). Looking at Hartley, he ‘caught a glimpse of her open mouth and glistening frothy teeth’ (p. 232). Each allusion suggests that his compulsive need to devour women results from a fear of being devoured himself. Even Charles finally realizes that he has ‘awakened a sleeping demon, set going some deadly machine’ (p. 310), and one of the truths the image of the sea demon suggests is that inner invisible emotional forces have palpable, sometimes tragic consequences. In this novel, the energy that comes out of love and conceit saves a life and occasions a death. James saves Charles from drowning by a superhuman

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Retreats and Returns

feat of strength and Hartley’s son, Titus, drowns because Charles, out of masculine pride, fails to warn him of the dangers of the current that has dragged him back into the sea many times. Hartley turns out to be not very bright, never to have been very fond of Charles in the first place and in any case emotionally bound to her bullish husband, Ben, with whom she is probably still in love. Charles’s dream of ‘saving’ Hartley from Ben ends in an absurd kidnapping plot before he is persuaded by James to release her. Charles’s love for Hartley is proven to be merely one of the myths that human beings construct to save themselves from facing reality, in this case the horror of Clement’s death and the pain of her loss. He does finally come to acknowledge that she, not Hartley, was the great love of his life. Death is a great teacher in this novel too. When Charles’s realization comes, the moment is one of Murdoch’s most moving and poignant meditations on death and the lessons that its proximity bring with it: Clement was a long time dying [...] I lay on the bed beside her and stroked her face, which had become, just very lately, so much more wrinkled with pain and fear. My fingers can still remember those soft wrinkles and the tears that quietly filled them. She said she wanted to die in a storm of noise and for days we had the hifi turned up playing Wagner and we drank whiskey and together we waited [...] Our fear divided us, her fear, my fear, of the event: two different sharp fears which we had to overcome by a constant force of mutual attention. [...] In the end she died when I was asleep [...] That time of attentive mourning for her death was quite unlike the black blank horror of the thing itself. We had mourned together, trying to soothe each other’s pain. But that shared pain was so much less than the torment of her vanishing, the terrible lived time of her eternal absence. How different each death is, and yet it leads us into the self-same country, that country which we inhabit so rarely, where we see the worthlessness of what we have long pursued and will so soon return to pursuing. (p. 485) The extent to which Charles’s deluded consciousness is partially clarified by the end of the book is the novel’s artistic and philosophical centre, as Murdoch describes his Platonic journey from illusion to only a partial vision of reality. Murdoch’s representation of his

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

126 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

127

quality of consciousness is her most sustained attempt at illustrating eros, the constant tension between the Freudian ‘id’ and the Platonic anamnesis, or the pull between the benighted vision of our personal fantasies or listening to an ‘unconscious knowledge’ which draws us towards seeing the world as it is.14 These inner tensions are echoed in the incoming and outgoing tide. The form of the novel itself participates in the presentation of consciousness, as it vacillates between realist descriptions of the world where Charles can partially see what lies outside his obsessions and surrealist passages, imagery and symbols, such as the sea demon’s mouth, that indicate the extent of the grip of the fantasy on his mind. Murdoch brings in a range of metaphors, subtexts, dreams, symbols and synaesthesia so that Charles’s experiences are not merely observed but are re-experienced by readers. By creating such empathy with characters, she believes that a strong residual moral force within the novels works on readers as they experience momentarily the separateness of a consciousness that is uniquely different from their own. This moment of recognition, when readers ‘infinitely extend [their] capacity to imagine the being of others’ (EM, p. 216) and look on that character with loving tolerance and generosity of spirit, brings with it the tragic freedom that defines good art. This conflict of dissimilar beings, which can only be produced if Murdoch’s representation of the complexity of consciousness of her characters is successful, defines the novel form as a moral force. James is to a degree responsible for Charles’s partial enlightenment and the character is a vehicle for Murdoch to continue to explore Buddhism as a source of Goodness and to reinforce her belief in the power of art.15 She said in an interview that there is something of her own Christian Buddhist sympathies in the character of James,16 who is a Bodishattva, one well advanced on the eightfold path and who has, unlike Charles, learned to relinquish what the ego seeks to grasp and understands the real nature and power of art: We are such inward, secret creatures, the inwardness is the most amazing thing about us, even more amazing than our reason. But we cannot just walk around and look into the cavern and look around. Most of what we think we know about our mind is pseudo-knowledge. We are all such shocking poseurs, so good at inflating the importance of what we think we value. The heroes

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Retreats and Returns

of Troy fought for a phantom Helen, according to Stesichorus. Vain wars for phantom gods [...] People lie so, even we old men do. Though in a way if there is art enough it doesn’t matter, since there is another kind of truth in the art. (p. 175) James is the moral centre of the novel and his speeches to Charles are wise. However, a mind grown powerful through self-control can use power as magic: he understands white magic is also black magic, and his enlightened mind has become so powerful that he can perform supernatural feats of strength. When James saves Charles, who has been pushed into the deadly Minn’s Cauldron by a vengeful suitor of a former lover, Charles understands that ‘my cousin had rescued me by the exercise of those powers which he so casually had spoken of as “tricks” ’ (p. 469). James tells Charles that when he meditates, he becomes invisible. He seems to know things without being told and to be able to read thoughts. But James does not always use his power appropriately and identifies real goodness as the ‘giving up power and acting on the world negatively’ (p. 445). In her interview with Bigsby in 1979, Murdoch said that she thought James was too much of a fantasist and therefore a demonic figure.17 Renunciation is a theme in the novel too and James’s absolute achievement is the surrender of magic itself. Like Charles, he realizes that his power is corrupt and that it must be relinquished. After renouncing his involvement with Charles, whom he loves, it seems that he can induce a state of meditation so deep that it leads to the elimination of self, or Nirvana.18 Murdoch’s narrative techniques in this novel hit precisely the right note with at least one reader, a philosopher himself. In The Tablet, A.J. Ayer, the chairman of the Booker judging panel in 1978, praised the novel for its imagery, character drawing and its descriptive power (IMC, p. 147). After Murdoch received the Prize, there followed a whirlwind of interviews in the national press, on television and radio. Murdoch was transformed from a literary writer into a media star and she relished it. Her presence in the national media was ubiquitous, so much so that Norah Smallwood was to write to her in April 1979, worried that she was exhausting herself (IMC, p. 149). Henry James’s The Wings of the Dove was on the list of influences that Murdoch provided for the British Council in 1976 and Nuns and Soldiers is, in part, a reworking of James’s novel and of Hamlet. Murdoch rewrites these tragic works as a comedy. Gertrude expects

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

128 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

129

to be as good as dead herself when her intellectual, virtuous, rich, older husband Guy dies at the beginning of the novel. But, unlike Hamlet’s Player King, Guy urges her on his deathbed to remarry and be happy. In her grief this seems impossible, but she soon falls in love with an impoverished, younger, unsuccessful and mediocre painter and he with her. Tim has had a long relationship with Daisy, another unsuccessful artist. In Nuns and Soldiers, as in The Wings of the Dove, the penniless couple float the idea that he should save the situation by marrying a rich woman. But it is only a joke, although its discovery nearly destroys the subsequent marriage, which was undertaken for love and not with that motive and does finally survive. The last words of James’s novel, ‘We shall never be again as we were!’,19 re-echo through Murdoch’s novel, but her characters are graced with a capacity for forgiveness and renewal reminiscent of Shakespeare’s last plays. Tim even undergoes a renewing near-death by drowning. As in The Winter’s Tale, the cycle of the seasons and the contrast of court and city with country form the background to death, rebirth and reunion. Guy dies in midwinter London on Christmas Day (Millie in The Wings of the Dove dies just before Christmas). Gertrude and Tim fall in love in the spring in her house in Provence. Although Gertrude resolves to wait out a decent period of mourning, she and Tim ‘wed in July with mirth in funeral and dirge in marriage’.20 After the revelation of the fantasy ‘plot’, their separation and plans for divorce, they are reunited in golden autumnal Provence, the descriptions of which come out of the Bayleys’ idyllic holidays in the home of Stephen Spender and his wife, Natasha. The novel also includes a near-drowning experience like the one experienced by Murdoch on one of those holidays.21 The next winter, when the novel ends, will bring a happy Christmas for this couple and acceptance of loss for the two other main characters. The title Nuns and Soldiers refers to two of Gertrude’s best friends. Neither is a nun or a soldier. Neither is or has what they want. Peter, brought up in England, is of Polish descent and is known as the Count, though he is not a count, and feels displaced and degenerate. Unlike the refugees Murdoch worked with after the War, he is not literally displaced. He was born in London shortly before the War, tried to be an English boy, grieved his patriotic father and finally embraced his Polishness, suffering from nightmares about the fate of Warsaw, sharing his father’s survivor’s guilt, though not his wholeheartedness.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Retreats and Returns

‘He would never die for Poland, as his father would have done if he could, gladly and without a second’s hesitation. But he could avoid any baseness which might demean that memory, and could cultivate a narrow moral stiffness with which to resist the world. Such was his honour. He knew that his father had, all his life, seen himself as a soldier. The Count too saw himself as a soldier, but a very ordinary soldier with a soldier’s dullness and circumscribed lot and extremely small chance of glory’ (p. 18). His Polishness is perhaps analogous to Murdoch’s Irishness and he, among others in this novel, compares the countries.22 Disappointed in his love for Gertrude, he thinks, ‘I’ll go to Belfast. Ireland is a bit like Poland after all, a miserable mixedup country betrayed by history and never able to recover from the consequences [...] And when I am there perhaps some merciful terrorist bomb may kill me’ (p. 458). Anne, who falls in love with the Count, is also a metaphorically displaced person. She has just left a contemplative order because she no longer believes in a personal God. Yet, like Murdoch herself, she has given up God rather than Christ. The strangest episode in the novel is Anne’s dream or vision of Jesus. It is presented as the latter (‘It was at this point that her dream changed into a veridical vision’ [p. 294]) and touching Christ’s sleeve causes a burn on her hand which is strangely slow to heal. The vision is indebted to those of Julian of Norwich, a fourteenth-century anchoress, echoed in other novels. As in the Showings to Julian, Christ asks ‘Art thou well paid that ever suffered I passion for thee? If I could have suffered more, I would have suffered more’ and commends Anne’s quotation from Julian, ‘Love is my meaning’ as ‘witty [...] the wonderful answer’ (p. 298). But in other ways her vision contrasts pointedly with Julian’s. Julian had prayed ‘to have more knowledge of the bodily pains of our Saviour’ and the crucified Christ appears to her, his face covered with blood. Anne’s Jesus wears modern dress, trousers, shirt and plimsolls, and is beardless. He firmly states some of Murdoch’s beliefs, with a Buddhist emphasis on death rather than a Christian emphasis on suffering. His hands and wrists are unscarred and he dismisses the pain of the crucifixion: ‘The point? No, though it has proved so interesting to you all’ (p. 296). Like Murdoch, he disapproves of the ‘interesting’. He also concurs with Murdoch that ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ are usually unproblematic terms. When Anne asks, as his followers have done since the Gospels, ‘Sir, what shall I do to be

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

130 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

131

saved?’, he replies, ‘You must do it all yourself, you know […] I am not a magician. I never was. You know what to do. Do right, refrain from wrong’ (p. 297). In her last novels, Murdoch emphasizes how people prefer magic to responsibility. Her Jesus gently corrects nearly two millennia of Christian thought in refusing to accept a superstitious dependence on him. He even gives her an outward and visible sign of the difference of her vision. Julian’s Christ ‘shewed [her] a little thing, the quantity of an hazel-nut, in the palm of [her] hand’ and was told, ‘It is all that is made’. Despite her loss of faith, Anne brings traditional Christian expectations and desires to her experience. When Jesus asks her, ‘What am I holding in my hand?’, she replies ‘with confidence, “A hazel nut, Sir” ’ (p. 297), but is given a stone and cannot tell, on waking, if it is only one of those she brought back from her holiday on the Cumbrian coast with Gertrude. Tim has his own vision. When Gertrude, persuaded that he married her for her money, ‘finishes’ with him and retreats to Provence, Tim returns to Daisy and spends his days walking round London in a strange state of emptiness which is like a spiritual experience, ‘not as it were God’, but a loss of self, ‘a vision of death’. He ‘sat, and did not exactly think but let things happen in his mind’ and becomes ‘amazed at breathing’ (p. 393), unknowingly following Buddhist instruction in meditation. On the day he leaves Daisy, his knees give way in Hyde Park, he lies down and is overcome with joy. In the interval between this enlightenment and his journey to France and reconciliation with Gertrude, he acts with unusual decision. He tidies his studio, finds a part-time teaching post and sells some paintings. Tim’s career as a painter has consisted of flirting with one ism after another, producing pastiches of modern painters (traditional artists being too difficult to imitate) and doing ‘pretty-pretty representations of flowers and animals, of which he felt [...] mildly ashamed’ (p. 86). The cats sold best. He also drew people, people in pubs or on the streets, whom he thought of as ‘spectators at a crucifixion’ (p. 86), suggesting the absence of God but the presence of the Christian or artistic tradition. Now his work takes a different direction, perhaps inspired by his beatific experience lying under the trees. He makes collages of autumn leaves, which prove popular, and, reunited with Gertrude and back in London, begins to turn into a commercial artist, planning to design matchboxes and to sell some of his cat paintings

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Retreats and Returns

to be used on mugs. Just as Murdoch’s characters should know their moral level, Tim accepts his aesthetic level and his second-best career seems realistic and promising. He looks set to become quite successful, perhaps even self-supporting. Gertrude is one of Murdoch’s ‘hostesses’,23 presiding over a ‘court’ of family and friends, drawing people towards her, radiating charm and kindness and contentment with herself, except when she loses Guy and when she thinks she must finish with Tim. She and Tim are survivors. Anne and Peter are the losers, perhaps ‘losers’ by temperament, full of scruples, drawn (like James’s Strether and Nanda) to renunciation. Anne has to put the case against Tim to Gertrude because the marriage would end Peter’s hopes and might release him to love her. She cannot act out of self-interest. Peter has to withdraw rather than compete with a rival and finally accepts Gertrude’s friendly love rather than moving away from London. Gertrude keeps Peter anyway. She explains to Anne, ‘ “When one is secure in marriage one is free to love people and be loved by them. I’m much less buttoned up about that than I used to be, much more free, in a way. Tim has helped me to be emotionally more free”. “And you thought why shouldn’t you have Peter too”. “Yes” ’ (p. 472). They exemplify Christ’s most unchristian (but realistic) remark: ‘To him that hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, shall be taken away, even that which he hath’ (Matthew 25: 29, on p. 506). Yet, at the last of Gertrude’s parties in the novel, Peter is radiant with his closeness to Gertrude and there is general jubilation at the news of the election of the Polish pope. Anne has lost both Peter and Gertrude and leaves to do social work in America as a ‘camp follower’ (p. 475) of the Poor Clares. This is a simpler story than many of Murdoch’s later novels and is stronger because it centrally involves fewer characters, who do not change their affections and recombine. It was clearly time for Tim and Daisy to part, which she is tough enough to recognize. It is obviously good for Gertrude to find happiness with a second husband, even though Tim seems an unlikely choice to many of her friends. There are many friends, some members of Guy’s family, some honorary relations, called by Guy ‘les cousins et les tantes’ as if he and Gertrude were inhabiting a nineteenth-century novel (by contrast, Tim and Daisy are twentieth-century waifs). The friends,

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

132 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

133

numerous and difficult to remember and distinguish, as is often the case with Murdoch’s minor characters, turn out very late in the novel to have their own loves and ideas and power. One friend has actually manipulated Gertrude’s first rejection of Tim and their eventual reunion. One was secretly in love with Anne but kept silent because he perceived her love for Peter. There were passions and renunciations on the periphery and some were needless renunciations. Yet the novel ends on a serene note, even for Anne. On the eve of her departure for America, with that stone in her handbag, she looks up at the falling snow: ‘It reminded her of something which she had perhaps seen in a picture or a dream. It looked like the heavens spread out in glory, totally unrolled before the face of God, countless, limitless, eternally beautiful, the universe in majesty proclaiming the presence and majesty of its Creator’ (p. 512). As in art and in vision, it looks like rather than is an acknowledgment of the divine, but its beauty has its own authority and efficacy. Anne, like Christian in The Pilgrim’s Progress, feels ‘lightened of her burdens’ (p. 512). After the ambiguities of accident in An Accidental Man, The Sacred and Profane Love Machine and A Word Child, the novels discussed in this chapter suggest that people cannot, however they will attempt to do otherwise, go against the grain of their own lives and natures. At the end of Henry and Cato, Henry returns to Laxlinden determined to sever his ties with home and family and finds himself settled there with a wife and a child on the way. Despite Cato’s ordeal and loss of faith, the crucifix is uncomfortably in his pocket in the last sentence of the book. Towards the end of The Sea, The Sea, Charles tries to return to isolation on the coast and to his innocent adolescent love for Hartley, but at the novel’s close he has sold the house by the sea and is back in London. Here he receives an offer to direct a ‘neoballet’ and ‘a very tempting invitation to Japan’ (p. 501) and admits that ‘[H]uman arrangements are nothing but loose ends’ (p. 477). His closing question is: ‘In the demon-ridden pilgrimage of human life, what next I wonder? (p. 502). In Nuns and Soldiers, despite her protestations at the time of Guy’s death, Gertrude will remarry and, despite her parting with Tim, he will return to her in Provence. She and Tim are framed for happiness, Anne and the Polish ‘Count’, Peter, for renunciation. Having earlier returned to the ‘world’, she returns now, though unbelieving, to another version of the religious life. On the

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Retreats and Returns

eve of her departure to America, Anne sees the dog Barkiss, who has been missing for a year, return to The Prince of Denmark and receive a rapturous welcome. All the central characters in these three novels also have a homing tendency, though ‘home’ may have many different meanings for each of them. The next novel will explore how a final return home resonates through an entire community.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

134 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

The Late Novels The Philosopher’s Pupil (1983), The Good Apprentice (1985), The Book and the Brotherhood (1987), The Message to the Planet (1989), The Green Knight (1993) and Jackson’s Dilemma (1995)

The last 15 years of Murdoch’s writing life brought their share of triumphs and disappointments. Philosophically she appeared to struggle: her audience shrank during her 1982 Gifford Lectures and in 1992 her philosophical tome, Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals, was published but was out of tune with much contemporary thinking. She explained her philosophy as a disagreement with structuralists and science, both of which sought, in her view, to undermine moral responsibility. She talked of modern technological culture as depraved and expressed distaste for Derrida, worried by the way his theories of language threatened what she saw as objective truth. She also disliked the move in literary criticism towards high theory and technical jargon, which she thought set up a divide between those who could decode the terminology and those who were unfamiliar with it. By 1993, when the proofs of her book on Heidegger arrived for correction, she had decided that it was not good enough and that it should be destroyed. These doubts about her philosophy were echoed in her estimation of her novels: still she saw herself in the second league of writers. By the end of the 1980s she had called her experiments with poetry to a halt and asked Chatto to return the poems that she had sent them in the 1960s. However, her crisis of confidence was not shared by her public: in 1994 she was voted the greatest living novelist writing in English in the Sunday Times. She had in fact become something of a national icon of saintliness. Several of the books from these years were nominated for the Booker Prize, although they did not win. Her 135

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

8

high profile – and her interest in the theatre – was kept alive by her adaptation of The Black Prince for the stage in 1989, with the help of her protégée and friend, Josephine Hart. These years brought reassessments and resentments: by 1990 she was more critical of Badminton School: it had encouraged her generation to retain a dreamlike, unrealistic view of the world which had helped it to believe in the Soviet Union. Her atheism mellowed into an almost sentimental attachment to Christ who, she said, still had a special place in her heart as well as in her rationalizing about goodness and faith. She said that she could not give up Christ, who travelled with her, and felt that religion was pervasive, that it was like breathing and that it had not gone out of her life. Questioned on the issue again in 1989, she said that it was John Bayley’s influence that had turned her away from God.1 Spiritually she had experienced something of an epiphany when confronted by Titian’s The Flaying of Marsyas, which she had seen at ‘The Genius of Venice’ Exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1984 and which she later described to Eric Robson in an interview for Border Television. She had already used the painting as a philosophical emblem for The Black Prince, but now its presence seemed to confirm for her the possibility of ‘the entry of the spiritual into the human situation and the closeness of the gods’.2 In 1986 she admitted to a belief in flying saucers (IMC, p. 176) and she came to live increasingly in her own mind. For the last 15 years of her life she was conducting an epistolary romance with the American writer Roly Cochrane, whom she met only once very briefly in Amsterdam. But the presence of an adoring male with whom she could relive the intensities of her earlier affairs was crucial to her self-identity and to the psychological realism of her novels. In her writing, her commitment to the humanist tradition of the past did not waver and she never lost her faith in art as a major force for good in society. She thought that perhaps some people read her novels because they insisted on the reality of virtue, which had come to be perceived as old-fashioned. Although she still acknowledged her indebtedness to Henry James, it was now Dostoevsky to whom she said she felt most close – because he made her think about meekness. But she always loved Dickens and Kipling, the great storytellers. Shakespeare, it seems, was also never far from her creative imagination. The Tempest was as predominantly in her mind when she wrote The Philosopher’s Pupil in 1989 as it was when she wrote The Sea, The Sea in 1978.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

136 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

137

The Philosopher’s Pupil begins with ‘Prelude’, continues with ‘The events in our town’ (much the longest section) and closes with ‘What happened next’. ‘Prelude’ consists of two parts, ‘An Accident’ and ‘Our Town’. The accident (if it was an accident) occurs when, in a bitter and obviously typical row, George McCaffrey lands his wife Stella and their car in the canal. He manages to extricate Stella, who survives but disappears for much of the novel. ‘Our Town’ opens with the ‘discreet and self-effacing’ narrator introducing himself as ‘N’.3 The town where all the events take place is N’s Town or Ennistone, ‘situated upon an attractive river, which I shall call “the Enn”’ (p. 24). N ‘would prefer, for obvious reasons, not to use its real name’ (p. 23). This reticence recalls the narrators of Victorian novels, who use such formulae as ‘in 18 – in the county town of – shire’, a device which suggests that they have to be discreet about their sensational ‘real’ stories. Like many Victorian novelists, N is also prepared to allow himself the ‘luxury of moralizing’ (p. 23). This bow to the conventions of realist fiction, which Murdoch mostly observed in all her novels except The Black Prince, has, however, already been compromised, since N was not present at events in the first part of ‘Prelude’, and it is sabotaged by N himself in the closing sentences of the novel: ‘somebody may say: but how on earth do you know all these things about all these people? Well, where does one person end and another person begin? It is my role in life to listen to stories. I also had the assistance of a certain lady’ (p. 558). N calls himself ‘a shadow’ but his town is very substantial. He describes its location, history, architecture, sociology and inhabitants in loving detail. Within commuting distance of London but not a dormitory town, it sounds prosperous, cultured and rather conservative. It has a puritan tradition and some of its most respected citizens are Quakers. There is, however, a source of exuberance. Ennistone is a spa. It has a hot spring, felt to cause ‘a kind of unholy restlessness which attacks the town at intervals like an epidemic’ (p. 26). Its waters are thought to have medicinal and even aphrodisiac effects. There were Roman baths and perhaps a cult of Venus at Ennistone. Now there is a Civic Institute with swimming baths, which almost everybody frequents, a teashop, a massage parlour, medical consulting rooms and bed-sitting-rooms with private baths to rent. N’s story is largely about an epidemic of one of the town’s periodic holidays from morality. During it, the scalding spring in its

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Late Novels

stone basin, as in previous outbursts, suddenly rises to a much greater height. Flying saucers have been sighted. A production of an eighteenth-century masque thought controversial in the past, The Triumph of Aphrodite, is planned. And John Robert Rozanov, the philosopher of the title, returns to his native town. John Robert, now in his seventies, has had an unusual and distinguished academic career, mainly in America. The relationship between Rozanov and George introduces a theme which will dominate Murdoch’s late novels. The saint and the artist are replaced by the guru and his disciples. The guru-figure is a very dubious mentor. Rozanov, like Vallar in The Message to the Planet, seems to be an ex-genius, close to despair about whether his thought has led anywhere and whether he can write his definitive book. When George asks him ‘Are you writing your great book, I mean the final one?’, he says, ‘No’ (p. 143). After his death, the critic Steve Glatz produces a memoir ‘in which the philosopher has been metamorphosed into some kind of saint!’ (p. 557). John Robert, egotistic, morose and domineering, seems in life anything but saintly. Most of his relationships are disastrous. He resented his daughter after his wife’s death, neglected his orphaned granddaughter, Hattie, and has now fallen in love with her. Awful though George is, John Robert, his previous teacher, should not repulse George’s devotion and demands so brutally. Neither the philosopher nor his pupil does much credit to philosophy. George is a reprobate. He takes an orgasmic pleasure in destruction. Before he pushes the car into the river, he has lost his job at the museum by smashing its precious collection of Roman glass and blames his dismissal on ‘spite’ (p. 14). He also blames Rozanov, who sees his delusions of diabolism as merely conceited: ‘“You destroyed my belief in good and evil. You were Mephistopheles to my Faust”. “You flatter yourself”’ (p. 146). When he ‘murders’ John Robert, who has already taken a lethal potion, he thinks, ‘I’ll drown the book too’, echoing Prospero, who himself echoes Faustus. It is not George’s or John Robert’s first allusion to The Tempest – George reminds his tutor: ‘Caliban must be saved too. You said that in a lecture’ (p. 146). There are other allusions to The Tempest. As in Shakespeare’s last plays, there is hope that the younger generation may be happier than their elders. Tom, George’s younger half-brother, has a happy personality. Everybody likes him. He is taken aback when John Robert tells him

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

138 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

139

that he is to marry Hattie before he has even met her but, as in Much Ado About Nothing and A Fairly Honourable Defeat, suggestion works its magic. George’s brother, Tom, like George, gets away with things, an indulgence understandably resented by their brother, Brian. Rozanov may have given up on George but the ladies of Ennistone have not. He is unaccountably attractive and almost all the women nurse the desire to save him. The novel indeed seems ruefully indulgent to the scapegoats and ambivalent about reformation. Alex, George and Brian’s mother and Tom’s stepmother, is possessive, controlling and manipulative. Both Alex and her favourite son end the novel as reformed but diminished characters. George in a Damascene moment is temporarily blinded by a beam from a flying saucer and recovers to be ‘gentle, polite [...] attentive to his wife’ (pp. 547–8). But ‘none of his old acquaintances feels quite comfortable with him’ (p. 547). Alex never fully gets over a fall. She is easier to like but ‘a shadow of her old self, all that bossy curiosity, that bright restless power, has quite gone’ (p. 554). Perhaps egotism and aggression have some value and not only for the egotistic aggressor. The novel includes some valedictions to goodness. Two of Murdoch’s ‘saints’ die. They are the people Rozanov respects most in Ennistone, the virtuous Quaker William Eastcote and Hugo Belfounder. ‘He kept up with William Eastcote and an eccentric old watchmaker with whom he had philosophical conversations’ (p. 82). Readers of Under the Net may remember that Hugo left London to become a watchmaker. ‘Belfounder died several years ago’, Eastcote tells Rozanov, who asks, ‘What about all those valuable clocks?’ Eastcote says, ‘He left them to that writer. I forget his name’ (p. 99). So Hugo, as usual and despite himself, made money again. And Jake went on writing but was not notably successful. Yorick Smythies, on whom Hugo was based, had died in 1980. The major character in The Philosopher’s Pupil is Ennistone itself. It is Murdoch’s fullest portrait of an imaginary town and it is a magnificent panorama. This novel contains more characters than any other and its social range recalls Middlemarch. As well as the central McCaffrey family it is inhabited by businessmen, shopkeepers, solicitors, journalists, priests, prostitutes, teachers, gypsies, a psychiatrist (who Murdoch once hinted might be N) and many others. All age groups are represented, from the aquatic infants (whom George would like to drown)

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Late Novels

to the old men close to death. Like a Canterbury pilgrimage, the Institute is a meeting place for these very different people, as almost everybody swims there almost every day. We are aware of a past as well as a present town. The Romans enjoyed the spa. A prehistoric goddess was perhaps worshipped there and the Ennistone Ring of Megaliths is the site of George’s ambiguously redemptive blinding. ‘What Happened Afterwards’ serves, like the Finale of Middlemarch, to give news of the main characters, but does not claim finality. George Eliot’s conclusion opens, ‘Every limit is a beginning as well as an ending’.4 N admits, ‘The end of any tale is arbitrarily determined’ (p. 557). It is a fiction and it is wonderfully real. In an interview in 1984, when Murdoch was writing the final draft of The Good Apprentice, she describes a ‘miracle’. When she was in Delphi, she claims, she willed a huge winged beetle, which was trapped in a restaurant, to fly over and rest on her chest so she could rescue it. In May of the same year she recorded a conversation with the spiritual thinker, Jiddu Krishnamurti, where they discussed the nature of man and how one should live one’s life. Later that year, in November, she and John Bayley visited Germany with the British Council, and a visit to Auschwitz was included in their itinerary. The existence of spiritual power and the nature of goodness are the two dominant themes of The Good Apprentice, the book she was in the process of writing at that time. A poignant and startling image she saw in Auschwitz, a young girl’s plaits of hair, forms the book’s central image of evil, around which its philosophical investigation into what generates powerful negative forces of energy, and how to neutralize them, is constructed. In an earlier interview with William Slaymaker, in 1983,5 Murdoch said that part of a good life is to become more free through selfknowledge and that the fundamental battle in her novels is between magic and freedom or magic and goodness (IMC, p. 163). The power of ‘magic’, that which draws us towards revenge, solipsism, consolation and obsession, is at the heart of The Good Apprentice. The novel explores the nature of magic and how those who become drawn to its magnetism are corrupted. But as Murdoch’s ‘miracle’ with the beetle had proven, strong psychological emanations can also be used to the good, and the novel deals with the ambiguous powers of magic and how sometimes they must necessarily, but dangerously, be used in the pursuit of goodness.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

140 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

141

Edward Baltram suffers horribly, having accidentally caused the death of his beloved friend, Mark Wilsden. After administering a hallucinogenic drug to Mark without his knowledge, Edward leaves him alone. On his return he finds that Mark, thinking in his drugged state that like Peter Pan he could fly, has jumped to his death from a window. Edward is arrested in the place of his crime. The masochistic, mechanical forces of the psyche take control of his mind and ‘his weird, exalted stare [and] his uncanny smile’ reveal a demon which ‘had nothing to do with the “real” Edward’.6 He chants, ‘I’m a machine. I say the same things to myself a thousand times a day. I see the same things. I enact the same things. Nothing can help me, nothing’ (p. 78). The book is another meditation on suffering and its power for redemption or destruction. There is always a fine line in Murdoch’s novels between suffering that leads to moral growth and suffering that leads to Ate, which she defines as the sadomasochistic impulse to pass one’s pain on to others.7 Edward’s uncle, the psychiatrist Thomas McCaskerville, watches his nephew intently. Edward’s exalted stare reminds him of ‘the entranced face of Marsyas as Apollo kneels to lovingly tear off his skin [which] prefigures the death and resurrection of the soul’ (p. 78). Thomas is aware that Edward’s suffering has the potential to turn him into a god or a demon. Murdoch has said that ‘the ideas of guilt and punishment can be the most subtle tool for the ingenious self [...] suffering [...] can masquerade as purification. It is rarely this, for unless it is very intense indeed, it is far too interesting’ (p. 69). The book begins with the parable of the Prodigal Son from Luke 15: 11–32: ‘I will arise and go to my father and say unto him, father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee and am no more worthy to be called thy son’ (p. 1), and these words begin the first stage of Edward’s journey to a partial release from his crippling guilt. To be granted absolution from his father, the reclusive but notorious dissolute painter Jesse Baltram, Edward travels to his strange country house, Seegard, as if he were travelling ‘to a holy shrine and to a holy man’ (p. 119). At first the house seems holy, a William Morris sanctuary of traditional crafts and order, tended by Jesse’s faux preRaphaelite wife and daughters. They are putting on an act to conceal the horror within. Murdoch takes Edward on a journey to the underworld where he will ‘enact a drama’ (p. 150) that will either help to heal him or turn him into the same kind of demon as his father. The

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Late Novels

juxtaposition of the character of Jesse, the metaphorical implications of Seegard and the symbolism within Jesse’s paintings form a composite metaphor for the workings of the mechanical and destructive Freudian aspect of the psyche. This complex imagery defines evil as the unregulated operation of base desires unmediated by any influences from the outside world. Jesse is presented as a vampire figure. Mother May, his wife, says, ‘he knows how to rest from life so his life can go on and on’ (p. 185); ‘he will not come back in our lifetime’ (p. 479). There is also something supernatural about his ‘extraordinary power of bringing about coincidences and of drawing people to him by will’ (p. 403). ‘Madness surrounds genius and an electrical psychological band surrounds great men’ (p. 403), says Mother May. What is unnerving about Jesse is his awareness of his own evil and his inability to combat it (a character trait in many of Murdoch’s egocentric middle-aged men). When Edward asks Jesse to look out of the window of his tower towards the sea, Jesse says, ‘I wouldn’t see [the sea] – I’d see something different. Your words are better’ (p. 194). Jesse’s paintings portray the raw energy forces of ‘low eros’. They are a surreal mixture of intense realism and depraved fantasy: unstructured indulgences of egoism, and erotic violent fantasies of the subjugation and degradation of women. They also demonstrate an unhealthy interest in deformity, rape and sadomasochism.8 This art is the external manifestation of an ‘incarnation of evil’ by a man who has ‘opened the door and seen within’ (p. 238). His effect on others does not necessarily involve any deliberate evil intent but ‘if you are aware of nothing but your own desires, you don’t have to intend to kill, you just kill’ (p. 238), says Mother May. Jesse drowns in the river as if in his own negative energy, and Edward finds his dead body under the water. The image of Jesse’s body provides a macabre contrast with another, more positive death at the centre of the novel: the attempted death of the ego made by the moral pilgrim, Stuart Cuno, the good apprentice himself. At the centre of the novel is a ‘collision of forces’ (p. 403) between Jesse and Stuart that is the confrontation between good and evil, or between reality and magic. Jessie and Stuart meet at Seegard and Jesse sees only ‘a dead man’ (p. 292). The ‘artist’ perceives the ‘saint’s’ unselfing as destruction, his or her formlessness as decreation. Randall feels a similar revulsion at Ann in An Unofficial Rose and Morgan at Talllis in A Fairly Honourable Defeat. But the novel suggests

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

142 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

143

that it is this death of the ego that the moral pilgrim must seek to achieve, while at the same time he must learn to identify and understand evil by having the courage to confront it. Stuart’s character tests out the efficacy of the humble good man in dealing with suffering and evil. He reflects many of Murdoch’s own concerns about how morality can be preserved in an age without God: ‘I’m afraid that we could lose our language, and so lose our souls, our sense of truth and ordinary reality, our sense of direction, our knowledge of right and wrong’ (p. 43), says Stuart, who attempts to formulate a ‘religion without God, without supernatural dogma’ (p. 43) and to live a life of spiritual ideals and discipline that formulates a new way of living and preserving the love of goodness: ‘Being objective is being truthful, making right judgements is a moral activity, all thinking is a function of morality, it’s all done by humans, it’s touched by values right into its centre [...] We are always involved in distinguishing good and evil’ (p. 43). Yet the novel not only offers this position as an ideal but also deconstructs it. Stuart’s father, Harry, is quick to point out his son’s shortcomings: ‘Stuart is too self-obsessed. He scarcely knows Edward exists’ (p. 43). And the sound practical advice that Stuart good-naturedly attempts to give Edward (‘The burning has to go on, but find something else, too, find something good, somewhere, anywhere, keep it close to you, draw it into the fire’ [p. 45]), though practically useful and well meaning, is naive and inadequate. In addition, Stuart’s passion for goodness brings him perilously close to the fanaticism of Jesse: ‘For I on honey dew have fed and drunk the milk of paradise’ (p. 144), he says, quoting the possessed and enchanting speaker of Coleridge’s ‘Kubla Khan’. He comes to realize that he has as much capacity to do evil in the world as he has to do good. Stuart does have his successes. After he has visited Mark’s mother, who has been persecuting Edward with hate mail, ‘Your brother’s visit did some good, Tell him’ (p. 504), says Brownie, Mark’s sister, to Edward. But Stuart’s philosophy, kindly and sincere as it is, has only limited impact. As Harry observes, Stuart is trapped inside a purely theoretical notion of himself as good or holy; he is not ‘unselfish and humble’, but ‘a power man, a sort of moral Hitler’ (p. 38). He warns Stuart that he has ‘chosen the higher hedonism. You’ll be the false good man’ (p. 40). The novel deconstructs the idea of successfully setting oneself up as a kind of sage whom others see as their saviour. Stuart’s aunt,

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Late Novels

Midge McCaskerville, looking for romance and a knight in shining armour, becomes attracted to the magical aura that Stuart generates, begins to dream about him and thinks she is in love with him. Stuart’s desire for spiritual perfection also leads to a decision ‘just not to enter the machine’ (p. 137) or participate in trivial occupations or serious relationships: ‘Stuart sees the machine of life that hardens the ego – sex, drink, ambition, pride, cupidity, soft-living. He sees it as one big unitary trap and his simple plan is just not to enter it at all’ (p. 208). But this denial leaves him naive and unable to fully empathize. As a result he has little idea how to cure. Stuart’s epiphany at the centre of the novel as he watches a tiny mouse living deep underground among the tube rails, accepting that ‘it lived there’ (p. 447), triggers his own understanding that he has to brave and participate in the entirety of human experience and confront the capacity for evil within himself before he can become a good man. Murdoch said that ‘it is important [in identifying goodness] to measure and compare things and know just how good they are. A deep understanding of any field of human activity [...] involves an increasing revelation of degrees of excellence and often a revelation of there being in fact little that is very good and nothing that is perfect’ (EM, p. 350). Support for Edward comes from many other sources and Murdoch constructs an alternative army of secular soldiers who help Edward in ways that are quite markedly different from the ideals of the ‘Good Man’ of her philosophy, whom Stuart represents and tests out. Edward’s stepfather, Harry, offers the existential view that by sheer force of will Edward can recover: ‘we must live in our own concrete, realised truth and that’s got to include what we deeply desire, what fulfils us and what gives us joy. That’s the good life’ (p. 91). Although Harry’s role as a Romantic hero renders his advice suspect, it also has something positive to offer Edward in generating self-reliance. By contrast, only the psychiatrist, Thomas McCaskerville, understands the importance of Edward not having his suffering taken away from him: ‘We practise dying through a continual destruction of our self-images, inspired not by the self-hatred which seems to be within, but by the truth that seems to be without; such suffering is normal, it goes on all the time, it must go on’ (p. 82). Thomas understands that Edward must suffer to survive. Terrible suffering that violently and suddenly cracks the ego can have a similar effect to Stuart’s calculated

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

144 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

145

attempt to ‘unself’. Thomas tells Edward, ‘You are undergoing by accident and by your own fault a spiritual journey which many would consciously purchase at a great price, but cannot buy. Your picture of yourself, your self-illusion, is in the process of being broken. This places you in an unusual position, very close to the truth, and that proximity is part of your pain’ (p. 71). He understands too that Edward’s suffering, like Stuart’s spirituality, endows power: ‘You, in your thought, in your deepest heart, must check the misuse of your powers, must redirect that strange energy which, although it is so ambiguous, is god-given, given to you by the dark gods, I’m not telling you not to feel remorse and guilt, only to feel it truthfully. Truthful remorse leads to fruitful death of the self, not to its survival as a successful liar’ (p. 72). Edward is in fact healed through a myriad of influences, some of which come from inside himself. He has his own epiphany when he meets Jesse in the woods and suddenly confronts his own possible future, thus realizing the danger of his condition. But perhaps the greatest healing comes from one of the most peripheral characters who acts simply on instinct and the fundamental human impulse to love and forgive that, for Murdoch, defines the human soul as fundamentally as does Jesse’s depravity. Mark’s sister, Brownie, writes to Edward in a letter full of loving forgiveness, ‘Life is full of terrible things and one must look into the future and think about what happiness one can create for oneself and others. There is so much good that we can all do, and we must have the energy to do it’ (p. 506). It is this generosity of spirit that perhaps has the greatest impact on Edward. However, Murdoch is careful to include the role of art itself in his healing and another epiphanic moment comes when he is reading Proust’s À la Recherche, which makes him realize ‘he could arise; he could get up; he could get out, for there was elsewhere, this was proof of it, this something else; and this unexpected emotion which had made him a moment ago merely faint, was he now realised, pure joy’ (p. 279). The psychiatrist Thomas is himself a kind of artist in the medium of ‘scientific’ mythology, though he knows that ‘the myth that heals is an individual work of art’ (pp. 76–7). When Thomas says ‘I’m a calculator, a manipulator [...] I’m a careless gardener. I plan something and go away’ (p. 430), he refers to Murdoch’s role as an artist as much as to his own role as a psychiatrist. He is wary of playing such

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Late Novels

a role in Edward’s life: ‘I am trying to make benignant allies out of the most dangerous things in the world’ (pp. 149–50). The narrator observes that Thomas ‘experienced in himself the shadow of the old conflict between holiness and magic, so alike, so utterly different’ (p. 83). A feature of Murdoch’s late novels is self-reflection and she lays bare her own reservations about the dangers of art’s (and her own) ‘magical’ role. Seegard is not only a metaphor for the underworld and the dark compulsive aspects of the human psyche but also for the magical aspect of art itself. Art must be transformed by the creative imagination to generate the positive energy that can heal and it should not indulge the fantasy world that consoles and damages. Murdoch had revealed in The Black Prince her awareness that the fantasies and negative energies of the writer could infiltrate art and do more harm than good. She makes many demands on her readers, who must distinguish truth from falsehood; if the artist fails, it is up to the reader to identify those failings. Only after Edward has immersed himself in Seegard and Jesse is dead can he see the world with discriminatory vision and so begin to heal: ‘He looked at the countryside and looked back to see the cathedral-like form of Seegard, still upon the horizon; a phantasm, a dream, a veil, something superficially laid over the truth [...] all this is just magic [...] clouds of pretty colour, a delusion, a wrong path’ (p. 129). Seegard is an analogue for Murdoch’s own magical use of aesthetics and form which can so easily titillate the desire for consolation and encourage art as Freudian forepleasure and escapism. Like Thomas, she understands that she too plays a precarious game, dangerous by means of its links to the unconscious mind of its creator and its readers. Thomas’s attempts to ‘make allies out of the most dangerous things in the world’ are intended to transform base energy into spiritual energy, to turn ‘magic into holiness’. By making base desire and spirituality continuous or by using one as a mediating agency for another, ‘the soul responds, it gives back its healing images, there is no end to its power to create new being’ (p. 359). The novel ends on an agreeably less exalted note as Stuart, Edward and Harry drink to ‘the good things in the world’, even if they ‘might all mean different ones’ (p. 522). Two other late novels, The Book and the Brotherhood and The Message to the Planet, were published in 1987 and 1989, near the end of a decade, a century and a millennium. The epigraph to Under the Net ‘’Tis

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

146 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

147

well an Old Age is out,/And time to begin a New’ expresses more optimism than these fin de siècle works. They are inhabited by characters longing in vain for answers, masters, new systems to replace discredited ideologies, a book and a message. In The Book and the Brotherhood the teaching is to be political; in The Message to the Planet it is to be philosophical or metaphysical. In The Book and the Brotherhood a group of friends who met as students finance the brilliant and ruthless David Crimond for many years to write a great book on political philosophy. As time passes they doubt whether he is really writing the book and, if he is, whether they should support it. Like Murdoch and many of her generation, they have moved right towards the political centre while Crimond still favours some revolutionary post-Marxist politics and perhaps terrorism. He does finish the book, which confronts all previous political philosophy and moves on from it, and it is powerful and horrifying. Although Murdoch died about two years earlier, the attack on the Twin Towers is a relevant and recent example of how theories and theologies can be literally explosive. How would one feel if one had helped enable a book which caused that? When Jean complains that ‘You’re certainly not very sound on the liberation of women. Maybe after all Islam will rule the world’, Crimond replies, ‘It is a possibility I have considered’.9 Crimond’s personal behaviour can be seen as terrorist and he has no scruples about betraying his benefactors. The novel opens at a summer ball in their Oxford college (not named but clearly based on Magdalen) at which he unexpectedly appears. The first line is ‘David Crimond is here in a kilt!’. Crimond is both a teetotal puritanical Scot and a grimly Dionysiac enchanter, mesmerizing everyone with his fanaticism, energy and power. He dances like Shiva, the Indian god of destruction. The summer ball, a romantic nostalgic occasion in ravishing surroundings, proves to be destructive. Even without Crimond it would have its melancholy aspect with its memories of dead and absent friends, unrealized ambitions and mutability. A visit to his old tutor, the Platonist Levquist, reminds Gerard of absolute values which they have compromised, the promise of their youth which they have not fulfilled. He reads to the old man the passage in the Iliad where the horses of Achilles weep over human misery and mortality. During the ball, partners are mislaid and Gerard’s sister telephones with the news of his father’s death. Jean, who previously left her husband Duncan for Crimond, is mesmerized by her ex-lover again.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Late Novels

Crimond, who has already accidentally almost blinded Duncan in a fight, now pushes him into the river. The party ends in the usual sickness and detritus of the morning after. The Commemoration ball is, among other things, a commemoration and celebration of personal relationships. The Brotherhood have been friends for many years, an elite group of intelligent, sensitive, educated, professional people in the ‘Bloomsbury’ tradition of fiction. Rose’s dead brother Sinclair, greatly mourned and recalled, occupies a similar position to Percival in Virginia Woolf’s The Waves. Sinclair and Gerard had been in love and Rose has loved Gerard for many years. In the course of the novel, Gerard and Jenkin, one of Murdoch’s ‘saints’, fall in love. Several of the women offer themselves to Crimond. Most but not all of the characters are very well off. On the edge of the action and of her elders’ attention is the heartrending young waif Tamar, the illegitimate child of an illegitimate mother who wants her daughter to replicate her own suffering, give up her course at Oxford and (when the Brotherhood would happily sponsor Tamar as well as Crimond) get a boring job. The novel, the literary form most devoted to individuals and their relationships, has often been linked with the rise of capitalism and the bourgeoisie. Crimond, like many Marxists, thinks its values contemptible and doomed: ‘It’s the final orgy, the last stand of the so-called incarnate individual, who has withered into a little knot of egoism, even the concept stinks. It’s the end of a civilisation which gloats over personal adventures’ (pp. 174–5). Even Gerard, the sympathetic but opposing voice to Crimond, says in a mood of pessimism, ‘Novels are over, they’re finished’ (p. 120), but the group usually defends its liberal principles. Rose sees that Crimond ‘wants to destroy our democracy and have one-party government’ and Gulliver replies, ‘Democracy means you accept disagreement and imperfection and bloody-minded individualism’ (p. 225). Speaking in her own person in Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals, Murdoch also defends these principles and celebrates their epoch-making victory two years after The Book and the Brotherhood appeared. The chapter on ‘Morals and Politics’ opens with a statement of faith in ‘the individual, the person who is in innumerable ways special, unique, different from his neighbour. This is the concept for which, in 1989, the people of Eastern Europe fought their tyrants’ (p. 349).

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

148 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

149

‘Crimond’, says Gulliver, ‘hates the idea of the individual’ (p. 225). It is easy to say what Crimond hates but difficult to determine what he advocates. The novel gives us the thoughts of Gerard, Rose, Jean, Duncan, Jenkin, Gulliver, Lily, Tamar and her mother, but never admits us to Crimond’s consciousness. He is usually absent. His presence is the opening shock of the novel. The absence of his book is the problem. When completed, it continues to be powerful but absent. Gerard, impressed, terrified and inspired by it, tells Rose ‘the book is wonderful, it’s wonderful’ (p. 556), but is scarcely able to describe it. ‘The collapse of civilization [...] is inevitable’ (p. 563) seems to be its verdict and Gerard, appalled by Crimond’s vision of the future, concedes: ‘The foundations are shifting. We’re about to see the largest, deepest, fastest change, the most shattering revolution, in the history of civilisation’ (p. 561). Gerard describes him as a ‘black determinist’ (p. 563), but a plan carefully devised by Crimond results in the accidental death of Jenkin. After much suffering, the novel ends with some ambiguous positives: a major book, reconciliations, a marriage, the rescue of Tamar, a holiday in Venice and a house in France. But what does the larger future hold? Perhaps the end of a civilization, perhaps the end of the planet. Himself near to death, Levquist asks Gerard during the ball, ‘What do you make of it all, our poor planet? Will it survive? I doubt it’ (pp. 24–5). When the old age is out, will there be a new one? The planet, probably doomed by ecological disaster if not by nuclear war, is in peril. The title of Murdoch’s next novel, The Message to the Planet, suggests a project that is larger, more ambitious and more vital even than Crimond’s book, which contained and moved on from all previous political thought. In this novel, ‘the book’, apparently some sort of philosophical, atheist, metaphysical work that is to confront all previous philosophy and move on from it, seems not to exist except in vague incoherent conversations between the ex-mathematical genius and ex-painter Marcus Vallar and his eager, possessive academic disciple, Ludens. In addition, unlike Crimond, Marcus does not appear driven and productive but puzzled and helpless. Perhaps he is really mentally ill. Ludens is one of a brotherhood of old friends who bear strong resemblances to old friends from earlier novels. Jack is a successful painter, while Gildas is an ex-priest. At the beginning of the novel, the alcoholic Irish poet, Patrick, seems to be dying, cared for by the saintly

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Late Novels

Franca, and believes that only the long-absent Marcus can remove a fatal curse he laid upon him in the past. Ludens hunts Marcus down to a country retreat and persuades him to visit Patrick, who is amazingly restored by his touch. Franca is married to Jack, a monster of selfish unreconstructed masculinity, who believes women are ‘an alien tribe’ ‘and men make them exist’.10 Like Blaise in The Sacred and Profane Love Machine, Jack thinks he can simultaneously have two wives who will be as happy with the arrangement as he is. Later in the novel, a strong-minded American lady with conservative Quaker principles talks Franca out of her masquerade of unselfish complaisance with Jack, who is acting wrongly and for whom she really feels hatred. Nonetheless, the act has disarmed the mistress. She abandons Jack to Franca, who in turn abandons her plan to do good works in America and returns to him. Love (or subservience to sexual desire) rather than justice has won again, another kind of resurrection. The ‘miracle’ encourages the belief that Marcus is a great teacher. His person and his alleged healing powers rather than his ideas become the message. As Gildas remarks, ‘Christ was revered for his miracles, not his wisdom’ (p. 247). Marcus attracts, as well as the old friends, a large number of young seekers, then reporters and mere spectators, and he turns temporarily into a cult until he himself, in another renunciation of power, disowns his role and dismisses his followers. There are Shakespearian allusions, especially to The Tempest and King Lear. The novel begins with an apparent resurrection. Ludens falls in love with Marcus’s daughter, Irina, and compares himself to Ferdinand, serving until he may win Miranda. Like Prospero, Marcus abjures his magic. As he does so, he begins, like Lear, to unbutton his shirt. But the allusions are questionable or ironic. Perhaps Patrick would have recovered without Marcus. Did Marcus have any magic? Like Lear, Marcus has a daughter in attendance, but Irina is an irritable resentful Cordelia who manoeuvres him into a mental hospital. Ludens thinks Cordelia herself ‘rather a tiresome girl’ (p. 292). Does Ludens’s name suggest that, for all his devoted obsessive service to Marcus, he is really a fool? Is this the promised end? Or image of that horror? Is the story meaningful or a series of accidents? After Marcus’s death, Ludens, as literary executor, is approached by publishers who want his book or books about him. Marcus, however, has left instructions, which Ludens has honoured, that his papers are to be destroyed after his death. These two novels seem millennialist,

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

150 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

151

particularly in the movement from the political to the metaphysical and from the personal ‘brotherhood’ to the global ‘planet’. Perhaps the apocalyptic nature of the twentieth century and its ending inspires fundamentalism, cults and the collective desire for mentors. Perhaps these novels, written towards the close of the century and the close of Murdoch’s career, are not millenialist but anti-millenialist and their message is that there is no message.11 A Fairly Honourable Defeat recalls Much Ado About Nothing and Othello. Nuns and Soldiers rewrites the story of The Wings of the Dove. The Green Knight is more detailed and specific than either of these in reworking the plot and themes of an earlier work, the anonymous fourteenth-century poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Murdoch knew less about medieval than classical literature, but her first and fourth novels, Under the Net and The Bell, are linked by medieval/ modern cross-reference: the eponymous medieval bell was made by Hugo the Bellyetere, adoptive ancestor and namesake of Hugh Belfounder, whose German father found the name on a tombstone in a Cotswold churchyard. Catherine reads to the Imber community from The Revelations of Divine Love, an account by the fourteenthcentury mystic Julian of Norwich of her visions. Murdoch may first have encountered Christ’s reassurance to Julian, ‘All things shall be well and all manner of things shall be well’ in T.S Eliot’s Four Quartets and refers to it several times in her fiction. During Anne’s vision in Nuns and Soldiers, Christ says to her, as he did to Julian, ‘Art thou well paid that ever suffered I passion for thee? If I could have suffered more, I would have suffered more’ (p. 299). Julian in The Black Prince is named after Julian of Norwich and Morgan in A Fairly Honourable Defeat after King Arthur’s dangerous sister. Murdoch revealed in an interview that Morgan represented the human soul, torn between Tallis/Christ and Julius/Satan, a symbolic structure like that of the medieval morality plays. Robert Scholes sees a similar structure in The Unicorn: Marian ‘has wandered into a morality play in which freedom and pleasure contend with such antagonistic virtues as submission and endurance’.12 In The Green Knight Clement finds that ‘his mystery play’ has ‘turned into something awful’ (p. 289). The Unicorn alludes to medieval symbolism: the unicorn as an emblem of Christ. Hannah is a lady spellbound in a castle and other characters cast themselves, like Arthurian knights, as her rescuers. This motif recurs, both

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Late Novels

more and less fantastically, in The Sea, The Sea: Charles imagines Hartley a prisoner in unromantic Nibletts, captures her and holds her prisoner himself. Romantic Seegard in The Good Apprentice, with its pre-Raphaelite ladies, weaving and wine-making, is pseudomedieval and named perhaps after Sir Lancelot’s Joyous Garde. When Jesse’s wife says ‘he will not come back in our lifetime’ (p. 479), she suggests that he might return later, like Arthur, the once and future king. Angels, bells, nuns, enchanters, arrows and severed heads, all of which make frequent appearances in medieval literature, also figure in Murdoch’s titles, even if not with specific medieval reference. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight contains an enchanter, a severed head and Morgan le Fay. In The Nice and the Good there is a short conversation about why Shakespeare did not use the Arthurian stories,13 and Murdoch gives the same answer in Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals. ‘He knew that that stuff was not for him, its sexy magical romantic world incompatible with the high art to which his instincts belonged’ (MGM, p. 141). That ‘sexy romantic enchanted world’ actually sounds rather like some of Murdoch’s novels and Shakespeare contributes some sexy, romantic enchantment to them. The Green Knight has a very Shakespearian close, with multiple couplings and renewal by drowning. Murdoch respected the apophatic theology of late-medieval mystics. Some of her characters are devoted to them. In The Green Knight Father Damien advises Bellamy ‘Do not sit all day reading Eckhart!’ (p. 95) and Eckhart is frequently mentioned in Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals. Murdoch could think of Eckhart as in some ways a contemporary, ‘a thinker for today’ (MGM, p. 354), who provided the title of one of Don Cupitt’s books. The via negativa of the mystics, the renouncing of concepts and images, and their kinship to Buddhist meditation are in harmony with her ideals of religionless spirituality, demythologized Christianity and the surrender of the ego. ‘The selfish and egotistical ego is unreal, the true religious life has no stories. It is above mythology. In the end we give up everything, including God, as we are told by Christian mystics such as Eckhart and St John of the Cross [...] for a true religious ideal should we not turn to the de-individualized individual of Buddhism or mystical Christianity, the “empty” soul of Eckhart, the “decreated” person of Simone Weil?’ (MGM, pp. 91, 352).

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

152 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

153

A central Christian image of human life that was frequently used in medieval literature is that of the pilgrimage. In The Canterbury Tales the journey to the shrine of St Thomas is an earthly version of the pilgrimage through life to heaven. In the Knight’s Tale this world is only ‘a thurghfare ful of wo/And we ben pilgrymes passynge to and fro’.14 A French poem by Guillaume de Deguileville, which was influential on Middle English literature, was entitled Pèlerinage de la Vie Humaine. Murdoch also frequently describes moral progress in life and in fiction as a pilgrimage. In Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals she suggests that life should be ‘our pilgrimage (in the direction of reality, good)’ (p. 474) and that ‘Good novels concern the fight between good and evil and the pilgrimage from appearance to reality’ (p. 97), the major themes of medieval literature. Another favourite medieval narrative structure, a secular counterpart to the pilgrimage, is the quest. This is one thread in the brilliant pattern of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. On New Year’s Day, the festivities at Camelot are interrupted by a huge green knight, who rides into the hall, carrying a holly branch in one hand and an axe in the other, symbols of peace and of war, and proposes a Christmas game. He challenges a representative of the court to strike him and receive a return blow a year later. Gawain cuts off his head, the green knight promptly replaces it, tells Gawain to keep his appointment at the Green Chapel and gallops off without revealing his name or giving directions. Although Gawain assumes this is a death sentence and has no idea how to find the chapel, he sets off on All Souls’ Day, the festival of the dead. He rides north-west, asking in vain about the Green Chapel, contending with bitter weather and various monsters. Even worse, he worries as the season of Christ’s birth approaches that he will not be able to observe it properly, but on Christmas Eve, as if in answer to a prayer, a magnificent castle appears. Bertilak, the lord of the castle, welcomes him, tells him to stay for the festivities and promises him a guide to the Green Chapel on New Year’s Day. Bertilak also proposes a Christmas game, that for three days he should go hunting and Gawain should relax in the castle and that they should exchange their winnings each evening. During the three days, Bertilak wins a deer, a boar and a fox, while another kind of hunt goes on in the castle as Bertilak’s beautiful wife tries to seduce their guest. Gawain manages, as courteously as possible, to maintain his chastity, but compromises slightly on the third day. He accepts

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Late Novels

a green girdle which, according to the lady, will save his life and he does not hand it over to her husband in the evening in exchange for the devious fox. The next day at the Green Chapel, which turns out to be a grassy mound, the Green Knight aims his axe three times at Gawain’s head, letting him off with a scratch to punish his small slip at the castle and ‘absolves’ him. The test was of chastity as well as of courage and, if Gawain had failed that, he would have lost his life. The Green Knight is, of course, Bertilak and proves a genial and clement agent of justice. He rates Gawain’s performance highly, calls him the best of knights and tells him to keep the green girdle. But Gawain is furious with himself and returns to Camelot with the girdle as a badge of shame. The joyful court, however, adopts it as a badge of honour. Murdoch’s ‘green knight’ is Peter Mir, whose name means ‘world’ and ‘peace’. He usually wears something green, carries a green umbrella and belongs to the Green Party. His favourite pub is ‘The Castle’ and its interior looks like a chapel. Like Bertilak, he is an ambiguous figure, large, sinister and benign. When the Green Knight appears in Arthur’s hall, elegant and gigantic, he seems to represent both civilization and savagery and to invade the court from the wild green world of nature. A knife is concealed in Peter’s green umbrella. He dons a bull-mask for a party and recalls the Minotaur, a hybrid man-beast who demanded a tribute of human flesh. Like the Minotaur, Peter demands a tribute and, like Gawain’s Green Knight, he offers a challenge. While out for a walk he has seen Lucas, a bitter, intolerant academic, attempt to kill his adoptive brother Clement, a handsome, charming, good-natured actor, of whom he has always been jealous. Peter intervenes between the strangers, receives the blow meant for Clement and is thought to be dead. However, he has been revived, though disturbed and with some memory loss and, when the novel opens, is hovering around Lucas, Clement and some of their friends. He has come to demand justice, his return blow, at the scene of the crime. The symmetry of the medieval poem, with its recurring natural and liturgical seasons, fuses with the Freudian compulsion to repeat a traumatic event, the return blow which both Christianity and Buddhism forbid. But, as in the medieval poem, the ‘green knight’ proves clement, like Lucas’s aptly-named intended victim. In (literally) a flash, Peter is cured of his partial amnesia, remembers that he believes in God and lets Lucas off with a scratch. His return

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

154 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

155

blow is only a token. The second and third sections of the novel are entitled ‘Justice’ and ‘Mercy’. Perhaps ‘justice’ modulates from exacting revenge into seeing things justly or truthfully. As well as these middle-aged characters, there is a quartet of young people. The portentously-named girls Alethea, Sophia and Moira (‘Truth’, ‘Wisdom’ and ‘Fate’), known as Aleph, Sefton and Moy, are the daughters of the widowed Louise, one of Murdoch’s good selfless mothers. Aleph is very beautiful. She and Sefton are very intelligent and win places at Oxford. Moy is plump, unintellectual, devoted to stones and animals, fey, telekinetic, artistic but not yet accepted by an art school. (People who dislike Murdoch’s novels will dislike these girls.) Harvey, son of a raffish schoolfriend of Louise, is an honorary member of the household, a kind of small domestic Camelot. In the first scene in the house, Moy says to her sisters, ‘I want us to stay together forever’.15 Aleph’s reply, ‘As old maids?’, is crude but pertinent. They are growing up. Sex, lovers, husbands and leaving home are imminent and soon cause plenty of complications. A theme of the novel is metamorphosis and such myths are recalled in Peter’s Minotaur garb and Moy’s struggle with a swan. The Green Knight presents the ordinary development of adolescent to adult, the transitions of Peter’s ‘death’, the stages of recovery and real death, the spiritual transformations of justice to mercy and Lucas’s forgiveness of Clement for his childhood suffering. The metamorphoses of the body are inevitable, those of the spirit more elusive. Bellamy, a Roman Catholic convert, is a would-be religious. He wishes to enter a monastic order and has given up his job, his flat and even his dog, who is now unhappy, though adored, with Moy. Bellamy compulsively writes long letters to Father Damien, who tries to discourage his excesses and finally ends the correspondence with the news that he has lost his faith, left the order and cannot advise anyone. Bellamy is ready to transfer his service and dependence to Peter, who deserts him by dying. At the end of the novel, all the single characters are paired off, except Moy, the youngest, and Bellamy’s dog is rapturous at being returned to him. After Moy and Bellamy narrowly escape drowning, Bellamy is not transformed but feels that ‘something’s happened’. He plans to find a job and help Moy get into an art school, telling himself, ‘don’t be miserable thinking you can’t be perfect, isn’t the Bhagavad Gita about that, living above one’s moral level’ (p. 471).

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Late Novels

The hero of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight ends the poem very miserable at his failure to be perfect, but Bertilak and Camelot assess him differently. Bertilak says that he is one of the most faultless of men: he ‘lakked a lyttel’ (2366)16 in accepting the girdle, but his confession and penance have purified him as if he had never sinned in his life. The court reads the girdle as a sign of honour, not of guilt. To them Gawain’s quest has ended in success, to him in total failure. In ‘On “God” and “Good”’ Murdoch asks ‘What of the command “Be ye therefore perfect?” Would it not be more sensible to say “Be ye therefore slightly improved?” Some psychologists warn us that if our standards are too high we shall become neurotic’ (EM, p. 350). She defends the idea of perfection but in her fiction often explores its dangers. The medieval poem accepts both the command to be perfect and the fact that even the best human beings cannot live up to it. With its two courts, two blows, two Christmas games and three hunts enclosing three seduction attempts followed by three exchanges of winnings, the poem is beautifully patterned. Structurally it is almost, but not quite, symmetrical. Its form suggests circularity and linearity. Gawain’s quest brings him back to Camelot and the continuance of this life rather than the bliss of heaven. The time scheme is a year and a day rather than a year. Like Pearl, another great poem thought to be by the Gawain-poet, it has 101 stanzas and almost, but not quite, ends with its first line. The capacity to balance an ideal absolute with a merciful realism has its stylistic and generic consequences for medieval literature. It does not insist on a classical separation of styles. The comic and tragic, the celestial and grotesque can coexist. As Erich Auerbach observes, ‘the courtly romance does not know an “elevated style”, that is, a distinction between levels of expression’.17 The novel as a genre shares this hospitality to a range of moods and styles and has largely abandoned the traditional binary division into the comic fiction, ending in engagement or marriage, and the tragic, ending in death. Even such a sad novel as The Red and the Green and such a dark novel as The Time of the Angels are full of comedy. Murdoch regarded the novel as a comic form. ‘Novels are, however sad or catastrophic, essentially comic’, she says in Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (MGM, p. 96), and her admiration of tragedy is cautious and double-edged. As early as Under the Net she suggests that it consoles us with ‘contrived finalities’ when Jake foresees ‘the pain that comes after the

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

156 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

157

drama, when the bodies have been carried from the stage and the trumpets are silent and an empty day dawns which will dawn again and again’.18 In ‘Salvation by Words’ she asserts: ‘All good tragedy is anti-tragedy. King Lear wants to enact the false tragic, the solemn, the complete. Shakespeare forces him to enact the true tragic, the absurd, the incomplete’ (EM, p. 240). It is a tribute to the medieval poem that ‘No one would call [...] Sir Gawain and the Green Knight tragic’ (MGM, p. 141). Late in the novel, Clement compares its story with that of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, finding that ‘it isn’t really like the poem, yet it is too’ (p. 431). There are blows, magicians, temptations and justice in both, but no exact correspondences. He tries to think what Peter meant. He was first perceived as a stalker, voyeur or blackmailer, then as ‘a sort of instrument of justice, a kind of errant ambiguous moral force, like some unofficial wandering angel’ (p. 456), as a teacher and healer, like Marcus Vallar in the preceding novel, revered by disciples. Like Marcus, he does perhaps have some power of healing: Harvey’s injured foot feels better after Peter handles it. Like Christ, Peter has in some sense died in place of another and has in some sense come back from the dead. He has cured Lucas of his hatred of Clement. Yet he proves to be not a psychoanalyst, as he claimed, but a patient and his wealth comes, with comic incongruity, from an inherited meat business (hence the knife in the umbrella). ‘We may indeed diminish Peter and make him into a mere nightmare or a retired butcher – but really he is indeed something alien and terrifying. After all, the Green Knight came out from some other form of being, weird and un-Christian, not like Arthur’s knights. But he was noble and he knew what justice was’ (p. 456). Like the Green Knight, he has ‘gone, receding into his mystery’ (p. 432). Both Peter and the Green Knight prove unexpectedly beneficent but remain indefinable. Medieval philosophers, like modern philosophers, were interested in the theory of signs. Despite its Christian commitment, the medieval poem raises questions of signification. Signs, emblems and tokens are crucial in Sir Gawain. What does the Green Knight signify? He enters the poem clashing with contradictory symbolism and departs from it ‘whyderwarde-soever he wolde’ (2477), mysterious to the last. Gawain leaves Camelot with the sign of the pentangle, the star of Solomon, symbolizing fivefold perfection, but returns wearing the pliable green girdle with its various

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Late Novels

interpretations. He sees this as a sign of failure, but recent critics have questioned the absolute claims made by the pentangle and have valorized the adaptable polysemous nature of the girdle. One finds in Sir Gawain exactly the problem that Murdoch confronts repeatedly in her philosophical work: the poem, ‘composed in a world where the armour of Platonic idealism had begun to show chinks [...] moves from a theory of inherent value, evinced chiefly in the pentangle, to a theory of ascribed value, evinced chiefly in the green girdle’.19 The characters in The Green Knight are intent on ascribing value to Peter, but his signification remains a mystery. The significance of Jackson in Jackson’s Dilemma, Murdoch’s last novel before she succumbed to Alzheimer’s disease, was a mystery to the author herself. John Bayley remembers: being surprised at her telling me [...] that she was in trouble over her current novel [...] Jackson’s Dilemma. Often before [...] she would complain that she was stuck, she couldn’t get on with the current novel, and in any case it was no good at all [...] But this time it was quite different. ‘It’s this man Jackson’, she said to me one day with a sort of worried detachment. ‘I can’t make out who he is, or what he’s doing’. I was interested, because she hardly ever spoke of the people in the novel she was writing [...] she looked serious, even solemn, and puzzled. ‘I don’t think he’s been born yet’, she said.20 In a letter to The Times five years after Murdoch’s death, George Lawson, Director of Bertram Rota Ltd, wrote: For 40 years we, as dealers in authors’ archives, handled Iris Murdoch’s manuscripts. She usually made three complete versions of each novel, and she always wrote in ink, in longhand, in lined foolscap notebooks. Each version incorporating fresh corrections and emendations, comprised four volumes. The last set of notebooks became the published text. Thus my task of identifying the various stages of composition was very straightforward: that is, until the manuscript of Jackson’s Dilemma arrived. I was quite unable to reconcile the three versions with the printed text and I understand that Iris Murdoch herself at one point wondered whether Jackson had yet been born. Clearly something had changed.21

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

158 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

159

In an undated letter to Jane Turner of Chatto, Peter Conradi wrote that he ‘felt a bit disturbed’ by the novel in manuscript: ‘Many readers experience bewilderment at first with a new IM and are then amazed and compelled, both intellectually and emotionally. A sometimes intensely artificial premise gives way to a sense of lived truth. Here the first stage hasn’t yet given way to the second [...] My sense on finishing this one is that its publication in its present state might not help her reputation’ – or that of her publishers. However, as he recalled after Murdoch’s death, ‘The novel was respectfully received and its confusions overlooked’ (SA, p. 201).22 Jackson’s Dilemma is more unsatisfying in lacking ‘a sense of lived truth’ than in being confused. The story, though full of Murdochian reversals and recognitions, is clear enough. The splendid wedding of Edward, melancholy owner of ‘half Tudor half Georgian’ Hatting Hall, and beautiful Marian is cancelled at the last moment by a note from the bride.23 Edward, Marian’s sister Rosalind and all their guests are distraught, especially his neighbour Benet, who has regarded the three young people as his children and perhaps promoted the marriage too eagerly. After intense suffering, anxiety and speculation, Edward, Marian and Rosalind are all successfully matched to unexpected partners in a quite Shakespearian close of random and satisfying harmony. Rosalind’s name reminds us of the couplings and conversions at the end of As You Like It. The comic conclusion even includes the return of a lost child and the revelation of a secret fortune. Many familiar Murdoch types and happenings are here. Benet, mourning for his uncle Tim and longing for a surrogate family, is slowly writing or not writing a book on Heidegger.24 Edward nurses the grief and guilt of his beloved younger brother’s accidental death. Marian and Rosalind are another pair of devoted siblings. Tuan, son of a refugee Jewish father and a Scottish Presbyterian mother, is haunted by the Holocaust. Nicknamed the ‘Theology Student’, he has lectured on the history of religion, frequents as many places of worship and religious bookshops as possible and has started and stopped writing a book on mysticism. Mildred once thought of becoming a nun, does not object to being called ‘some sort of Christian’ (p. 16), does good works, plans to go to Calcutta and work with Mother Teresa but, on falling in love with an Anglican priest in the East End, decides that the West needs mystical teaching more and considers being ordained herself. None of these characters are

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Late Novels

developed enough for one to care much about them. Edward is sad. Benet is lonely. Marian is more beautiful but less intelligent then Rosalind. Rosalind is less beautiful but more intelligent than Marian and wants to be a painter. Tuan is a spiritual seeker. Mildred is almost a parody of a spiritual seeker. It is easy to forget most of the characters after – or even during – the novel. Its intermittent power comes from the haunting terror of situations also familiar from Murdoch’s earlier work but as gripping and unbearable as ever: the drowning of Edward’s brother and the child left on the railway station as her family escapes from Nazi Germany. The only memorable character in the novel is the mysterious Jackson. He is ‘a dark angel’, a ‘ringed bird’ (p. 122), ‘an avatar with a broken wing’ (p. 175), likened to Ariel, Caliban, Kim and Plato (a collection of Murdoch’s favourite characters). He works for Benet and for anyone else who needs him. No one else does any work except for a bit of charity and a bit of meaning to write books. Jackson’s first words in the novel are ‘Hello, Sir, are you all right?’ (p. 48) and his first words ever to Benet, who is having trouble with the key to his London house, are ‘Can I help you?’. To Benet’s unease, Jackson keeps materializing with offers of help. He ‘can do many kinds of things’ (p. 84). Even on holiday in Venice, Benet cannot escape from the presence of a stranger, apparition or person he has seen before. A man in black, possibly a monk, dark-eyed and smiling, walks beside him. Perhaps he recalls the mysterious hallucinatory figure (Christ on the road to Emmaus?) in The Waste Land: ‘There is always another one walking beside you/Gliding wrapped in a brown mantle, hooded.’25 Benet falls into a church, wondering if he has fainted or if the companion was a mirage and is assailed by all the religious imagery around him: Moses in the bulrushes, Tobias and the Angel, the dead Christ. After he reviews this experience back in London, the doorbell rings and Jackson says, ‘I’d like to be helpful, if you’d need any help’ (p. 84). Benet asks Jackson various questions to which he receives unsatisfactory answers: Jackson is Jackson tout court, he has no other name, he comes ‘from the south’, he lives ‘in many places’ (p. 84). Later, when asked how old he is, ‘he wondered which of his ages he should most tactfully offer [...] He thought of a number’ (p. 148). Benet rebuffs Jackson, but his saintly Uncle Tim takes to him and, after caring for Tim in his last illness and grieving with Benet at his death, Jackson moves in. One of the happy reunions

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

160 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

161

at the end of the novel is between Benet and Jackson. Jackson stays with Benet as a friend. They discuss Benet’s past but never Jackson’s, and Jackson ‘cannot guarantee that [he] will stay here or anywhere permanently’ (p. 245). Jackson is a quiet and discreet enabler. He can turn stiff keys, deal with the electricity, build, decorate, clean, tidy and nurse. His skills extend beyond practical problems. He ‘had in his time performed the duties of a priest’ (p. 134), a piece of information never expanded on or clarified. Does it mean that Jackson is one of Murdoch’s ex-priests, that he had performed some role in the church, that he had played a similar part in a secular way or even that he had been some sort of impostor? He brings Marian back to the man she is really in love with, thus freeing Edward to marry the woman he is really in love with. For most of the novel he is exhausted by his work for others and he never tells anyone about his contributions to the joyful finale. Jackson’s dilemma is, most narrowly, whether to restore Marian to Cantor or to Edward. He seems for most of the novel to have no care for himself. However, he is finally vexed by his own dilemma, ‘remembering his past and thinking about his future – was his future, some entirely new and different future totally unknown to him, about to begin? Had he a future?’ (p. 134). We know nothing about Jackson’s past or future. He is fraught with unexplained significance, a kaleidoscope of the images and allusions by which others attempt to explain him. Some readers have found this confusing and a disturbing sign of incipient confusion in the author. But the mystery of Jackson is the most powerful and only new element in the novel and he is the most memorable character. He has his antecedents in Murdoch’s work, for example, the stalker figure at the opening of The Sacred and Profane Love Machine and The Green Knight. But Luca and Peter are explained later in the novels. Jackson is not. Conradi sees him as ‘an unofficial wandering angel’ (SA, p. 359), like Peter. He is certainly one of the loose ends Murdoch preferred in her fictions, a salutary indeterminacy after the completed patterns of the united lovers. The suggestible Mildred, perhaps rather drunk, thinks that ‘he belongs with people who go on and on living, perhaps it is Tibet or somewhere else, how old is he, a hundred years, a thousand years, they come like guardian angels, they are guardian angels’ (p. 232). A.S. Byatt sees him as a kind of demythologized Christ. There are other Christ figures, imperfect and inadequate, in earlier novels:

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

The Late Novels

Hannah Crean-Smith (an anagram of ‘Christ-name’) in The Unicorn (a symbol of Christ), who is imprisoned and wilfully disabled by being so mythologized; Tallis, who was specifically a type of Christ in Murdoch’s original theological scheme for A Fairly Honourable Defeat; Nigel in Bruno’s Dream, who also tends a dying old man, is distasteful in his voyeurism but, ‘the nonsense priest of the nonsense god’ (p. 209), suffers for the sins of the sick city (p. 78), can levitate, ‘smiles the tender, forgiving, infinitely sad smile of almighty God’ (p. 79) and is willing to live and die for others.26 The treatment of Jackson is even more allusive. He knows some oriental languages (p. 249). He is rumoured (erroneously) to have been discovered in a cardboard box or basket by the Thames, like an adult latter-day Moses (pp. 63–5). Mildred counters the suggestion that ‘perhaps he is the Fisher King in disguise’ with ‘perhaps he is a more exalted king in disguise.’ He is ‘suffering for something terrible’ thinks Mildred, who has faith, unlike Murdoch, in ‘redemptive suffering’ (p. 64) and believes (erroneously) that he has scars on his back and stigmata. He is a suffering servant. His dilemma at the end of the novel expresses perhaps the failure of God, perhaps the author’s farewell to her failing art: ‘he had come to the wrong turning [...] My powers have left me, will they return? [...] At the end of what is necessary, I have come to a place where there is no road’ (p. 249).

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

162 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

Afterlife

Iris Murdoch spent her last days at Vale House in Oxford and died there on 8 February 1999 with her husband at her side. Such was her stature in British letters that the BBC evening news gave her death precedence over that of King Hussein of Jordan. In the final years of her life she was revered – almost sanctified – by an adoring public, although in academic circles her work had fallen out of favour. Now, ten years later, this situation has been reversed: her work is understandably less significant to the public but within Murdoch scholarship a renaissance is underway: she is now at the forefront in certain areas of current literary theory and her work is hailed as a paradigm for complex, morally engaged fiction to which interdisciplinary attention should be paid. As is usual after the death of famous writers, Murdoch’s contribution to twentieth-century literature was appraised by critics and peers alike. Malcolm Bradbury attributed the revival of the English novel after it languished in the doldrums in the early 1950s partly to the publication of Under the Net in 1954,1 but it was the novels of the late 1960s and early 1970s that were lauded by others (these would have been, between 1966 and 1974, The Time of the Angels, The Nice and the Good, Bruno’s Dream, A Fairly Honourable Defeat, An Accidental Man, The Black Prince and The Sacred and Profane Love Machine – seven novels in eight years). This group of novels in particular seemed to refute the argument, which was current at that time, that the English novel was parochial and unambitious. Peter Conradi identified Murdoch as ‘the heir not to George Eliot, as she had imagined, but to Dostoevsky, with his fantastic realism, his heretically compressed time schemes, 163

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

9

his obsessions with sado-masochism, and with incipient moral anarchy’. Murdoch’s best novels, Conradi suggested, combined Dostoevskian depravity with Shakespearian romance and love comedy [...] and he claimed that ‘she wrote Gothic twenty years before Angela Carter and romance years before David Lodge; she pioneered writing about homosexuality as merely one part of human life. [...] she kept debate about human difference alive’.2 He even suggested then that her vision of the world as sacred looks forward to ecology and the green movement. Murdoch’s fellow writers expressed the conviction that her place in the English canon was secure – she would last. A.S. Byatt identified her as ‘the most important novelist writing in [her] time’ and A.N. Wilson acclaimed the way she ‘spoke to a generation [...] trying to discover its moral sense after the war’;3 he thought there were about six books that would be read in 50 years’ time. Sebastian Faulks was certain that ‘the perspective of time [would] place her magically bewitching, but intellectually austere, novels at the top of British fiction of the second half of the twentieth century’4 and John Updike admired how ‘the questions with which she so persistently grapples in her fiction are the ones upon which the interest of all fiction depends’.5 Lorna Sage suggested that Murdoch’s work would survive ‘precisely because it spans such an extraordinary range, which includes high seriousness’.6 This ability to speak to human beings from all kinds of backgrounds, which enabled Murdoch’s novels to bridge the gulf between audiences for bestsellers and literary novels, was identified as one of the main reasons for her success. She was hailed as one of the very few highly popular literary writers of her time. One critic recalled generations of readers who had eagerly awaited each new novel during the heyday of her writing, suggesting that in the 1970s she came to be perceived as a seer ‘as spellbinding as the enchanter prophets in her novels’.7 By comparison with such tributes, her negatives – her excessive use of adjectives, her fantastical plots, her overelaborate patterning and her endless reworking of a set of familiar circumstances – seemed trifling. Most interesting in this reception was how Murdoch’s voice was being heard in other contemporary writing. Philip Hensher suggested that her idiosyncrasies inspired other writers: ‘by pursuing her desire to be unmistakeably only herself she made it possible for

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

164 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

165

generations of novelists after her to be more themselves.’8 Sebastian Faulks thought her talent ‘inspiring, though also daunting’ and suggested that the thrilling spirit of fantasy which began to come into the English novel in the early 1960s was sparked by Murdoch’s determined individuality: ‘Although few novelists imitated her directly’, he suggested, ‘there are hardly any ambitious writers left unmarked by the encounter with her. A.S. Byatt, Doris Lessing, John Fowles, Angela Carter seem to be liberated by the possibilities she revealed, made free to grow bigger than their teacher.’9 Lorna Sage too pointed to Murdoch’s influence on writers such as A.N. Wilson, Candia McWilliam, Alan Hollinghurst and Marina Warner.10 Harold Bloom has suggested that one of the things that makes a writer canonical is ongoing influence. So the question of how far Murdoch’s influence is still felt in contemporary British fiction needs briefly to be addressed. Murdoch’s work can be seen as a crucial and pivotal link in the evolutionary chain of the English novel that stretches back (in particular via her debt to Henry James, which is discussed in this volume) to the nineteenth century and forward to the twenty-first century. Echoes of her preoccupations and her formal concerns can be identified in the work of a number of mainstream contemporary British writers. Zadie Smith, like Murdoch, models her artistic practice on nineteenth-century realism, thinks that novels are a way of undertaking moral philosophy and uses the visual arts as a moral paradigm in similar ways to Murdoch.11 Ian McEwan, once identified as the enfant terrible of British fiction, now maintains that ‘imagining yourself into the minds of other people is a [...] fundamental human act of empathy, which lies at the base of all our moral understanding’, using an ethical vocabulary that directly echoes that of Murdoch.12 Monica Ali, Alan Hollingshurst, Carol Shields and John Banville are, amongst others, writers who have acknowledged a debt to Murdoch or in whose work critics have identified an influence. Some writers consciously find Murdoch’s work inspirational; others are instinctively driving the novel in similar directions. Either way, her huge ambitiousness for the novel is being taken forward. She kindled nineteenth-century realism with innovative experimentation with form that includes (as well as the magical realism, new Gothic and eco theory identified by Conradi) surrealism; theories of modern art, including the colour theories of Kokoschka and Matisse; endlessly rich intertextuality; a redefining of rigidly-defined gender categories;

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Afterlife

an interest in outsiders and misfits, and a brave confronting of even darker aspects of the psyche than sadomasochism: incest and hints of paedophilia are also in the novels. Frances White has written on Murdoch’s novels in relation to Holocaust Theory, Trauma Theory and Diaspora – all currently topical approaches to the analysis of contemporary literature which produce innovative new readings when applied to Murdoch’s work.13 Therefore, it is not difficult to see why her work holds interest for, or has resonances with, a significant body of contemporary mainstream British writing. Of course, Murdoch’s unique feature in terms of post-War British writing was that she combined a career as a philosopher with writing fiction. Malcolm Bradbury identified this intellectual rigour as that which would single her out more than any other writer for posterity. He contributes valuably to the debate about the relationship between the fiction and the philosophy that has vexed Murdoch scholarship throughout her life and after it: She did not, like Sartre, write novels that hung on an axis of a philosophical anxiety – or like Thomas Mann, works of high metaphysical solemnity. A humour and humanity marked her fictional writing and made it a rich and varied discourse. She filled it with strong emotions, powerful passions, very human experiences, [...] She saw [the novel] quite as much as she saw philosophy, as a mode of knowledge on its own account, and she took full advantage of the universe of imagination that it opened [...] Murdoch was a university teacher, like many writers of her generation. One consequence was that fiction, criticism, philosophy and general ideas existed in excited public visibility; she was part of an important stage in our culture which may now be over. Writing in 1999, Bradbury points to how the synthesis of literature, criticism and moral philosophy had fallen out of fashion. There had been a change in the way that critics approached literary texts with which Murdoch’s philosophy of writing and reading was peculiarly out of joint. Her insistence on the indissoluble link between art and morality and her conviction that philosophers and theorists of language should not abandon the discussion and analysis of moral issues meant her work had become unfashionable during the years

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

166 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

167

of high theory in the 1980s and 1990s, when the idea of literature having an ethical dimension was dismissed as old-fashioned. Murdoch disliked the imposition of general theories on literary texts because she saw them as replacing affective responses to literature; she wanted to preserve the everyday referential qualities of language, she disliked postmodern playing with multiplicities of meaning and she insisted on the novel’s responsibility to tell the truth about the world, even if it could not be known. Such views were dismissed when universities adopted a much more rigorously theoretical approach to literary texts and her then-outmoded convictions caused both her and her novels to be viewed with suspicion.14 Now, however, Murdoch is seen as not out of tune but ahead of her time. She could see the damage that could be done to the reading of literature well ahead of other writers and critics. Her brave refusal to subscribe to fashionable intellectual positions predicts and reinforces recent developments and reversals in literary criticism as a return to truthfulness and moral responsibility.15 Murdoch’s novels, literary theory, moral philosophy and theological beliefs are now frequently cited in what has come to be called ‘ethical turn’ criticism, which has extended the focus of literary criticism over the past ten years. The early 1990s witnessed this intellectual ‘ethical turn’ across disciplines, which was a direct response to the scepticism associated with poststructuralist or postmodernist theory. As the ‘ethical turn’ gained pace, literary criticism began to re-accommodate Murdoch’s moral philosophy and critical theory. Thinking about the novel as a moral form is no longer anathema as it is in postmodern theory and this fresh scholarly interest in Murdoch has generated a number of international events in the past year and many high-quality recent publications on her work.16 Now, with interdisciplinarity as the driving force behind literary theory, theological issues – in relation to philosophical and literary issues – are also being widely discussed in relation to current academic and popular theological debate. Out of the ‘ethical turn’ in philosophy and literature, a ‘turn to theology’ has evolved and Murdoch’s theological position is becoming increasingly recognized as radical and innovative. Murdoch’s ‘neo-theology’ – her views on how spirituality can be sustained and religious rites can be practised in an age without God – offers detailed and practical solutions to the spiritual and moral vacuum many identify in contemporary society.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Afterlife

A number of thinkers are coming to understand that the wellbeing of the world is inextricably tied up with faith and spirituality in ways that demand to be understood. Murdoch, wisely, always understood this. Her 26 novels offer a practical guide to living a rich spiritual existence without resource to conventional modes of worship and have something to offer to contemporary theological debate.17 Yet Murdoch’s moral seriousness and concern for the spiritual welfare of her readers has been in collision with the surprising, perhaps even shocking, revelations about her personal life that have come into the public domain. Critics such as Nick Turner have argued that this media hullaballoo has dented Murdoch’s reputation as a writer.18 Although it has nothing directly to do with her professional life, each new portrait has problematized, if not compromised, the ideal of a determined attempt to live a good life that Murdoch set up as an ethical imperative in her philosophy and novels. However, it should be said that in both she acknowledged the impossibility of any kind of moral perfection and it is the attempt to reach it, not their success in doing so, for which her characters achieve grace. However, this fact has not assuaged a sense of disappointment, even though one understands that her participation in the darker realms of human experience qualified her better to write about it. Indeed, a paradox of all art might be that a writer must know evil in order to portray good convincingly. Ultimately, Murdoch understood her bad characters as well as her good ones and the brilliance of her art lies in its wealth of human experience and her refusal to judge. She knew perhaps all too well that she was more morally frail and culpable than most. Two posthumous portraits have superimposed themselves over the image of the almost beatific ‘Saint Iris’, whose dignified and austere presence had generated such reverence in her life. The first that was to dominate her old age was of the ‘Alzheimer’s Poster-Girl’, while the second, which was to reconfigure her past, was of the femme fatale. The first public indication that Murdoch’s long literary and philosophical career might be over had come in September 1996, when the couple revealed that Murdoch was suffering what, at that stage, her husband termed as ‘a slight block’. Movingly, Murdoch admitted that she was ‘in a very, very bad, quiet place’.19 By the time the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s was made,20 Murdoch had become profoundly amnesic and had a significant language problem. John Bayley decided to reveal Murdoch’s condition publicly because Alzheimer’s

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

168 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

169

research was underfunded, but his actions suddenly marginalized Murdoch’s 50-year career as a moral philosopher and writer, and a furious moral debate raged in her name. There were accusations of an uncomfortable ambivalence between devotion and malice on Bayley’s part when Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch was published five months before Murdoch’s death.21 The descriptions of Murdoch’s fascination with the Teletubbies, the details of her physical and moral deterioration, as well as of their sex life, caused real offence and distress. Bayley argued that his book was an illustration of how she was not diminished by her disease, but the moral issue here was that Murdoch was not well enough to give her consent to publication. Many who knew her believed that she would have been devastated by the content of the book. The critical attention given to Bayley’s memoir vacillated between a fairytale romanticizing of the ‘love story of the century’ and a demonizing of its author.22 Many were genuinely bemused as to why Bayley had been so heavily praised for such a perceived betrayal of a woman he claimed to have loved. Carol Sarler in the Observer accused Bayley of being insulting ‘to the point of common assault’ and saw the book as an act of revenge on a woman who out-achieved him throughout their life together. Most pertinently, however, she wrote in terms that Murdoch herself might have argued, noting that ‘each of us, stripped to our bare intimacies is stripped of those things that make us different from others, reduced from what we have that is special, to that which is commonplace’.23 The flames of notoriety were fanned once more by Peter Conradi’s authorized biography, Iris Murdoch: A Life, published in 2001, because of its honest but necessary account of Murdoch’s emotional and sexual promiscuity. It was clear that she had the potential to be as harmful to others as the worst of her fictional characters. Much quoted by critics was Donald McKinnon’s contention that ‘there was real evil there’.24 Peter Conradi’s scholarly and highly acclaimed work comprised meticulous detail and serious scholarship and refrained from prurient speculation. It provided not only a rational reassessment of Murdoch’s life and marriage in all its complexity (though strategically chosen extracts were sensationalized by the Daily Mail),25 but also a serious refocusing on the brilliance of her literary achievements.26 The biography significantly enriched Murdoch scholarship, although it did not change or challenge it other than to suggest that

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Afterlife

Murdoch herself and those with whom she shared her life were more present in her novels than was previously thought to be the case.27 The level of media attention given to the life of an elderly member of the intelligentsia was peculiar in itself, generating an interest usually reserved for pop stars and sports personalities. What was unnerving about such revelations was that they implied the awful truth which Murdoch had feared in her life: that morality might turn out to be meaningless. The media brouhaha raised difficult questions: if such a highly intelligent, morally aware philosopher could fail so spectacularly to practise the kind of unselfing that she herself offered as means to virtue, what hope was there for the rest of humanity? Where does morality lie when the very best-intentioned fail? And what use is art to morality after all? Richard Eyre’s film Iris (2002), starring Kate Winslet and Judi Dench as the young and old Iris respectively, ensured that the private life once again eclipsed the intellectual achievements. A.N. Wilson contrasted the film with her novels and came to the conclusion that it said almost nothing about her as a writer or as a philosopher. John Bayley remarked that Kate Winslet looked nice swimming without her clothes on but ‘it wasn’t about Iris and me’.28 Nonetheless, the memoir, the biography and the film intensified popular interest in awareness of Murdoch’s work. Membership of the Iris Murdoch Society rose, as did general interest in her novels. However, the most pernicious harm to Murdoch’s reputation was yet to be done – by A.N. Wilson’s vitriolic Iris Murdoch: As I Knew Her.29 After her death, Wilson said that he was ‘blind with weeping’ and suggested she had ‘no enemies’.30 But it was he himself who turned out to be her most malicious detractor. There is little of consequence in his memoir for serious Murdoch scholarship but it does illustrate the hold the salacious details of her life now had over the public imagination (serialization of extracts from his book appeared in the Daily Mail under the heading, ‘A Hellish Kind of Love: Gay affairs, sexual secrets and why Iris Murdoch called her husband “princess” ’ ).31 This was a low point in Murdoch’s reputation that ignored her great qualities both as a writer and as a human being. Since the inauguration of the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies at Kingston University in 2004 when it acquired Murdoch’s heavilyannotated working library from her Oxford home,32 a great deal of significant new material that sheds light on Murdoch’s life and work

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

170 Iris Murdoch: A Literary Life

171

has been acquired, so that the university now holds a world-class resource for Murdoch scholars.33 This new research material is gradually filtering into Murdoch scholarship,34 transforming what we know about her life and her work. Many of the letters she wrote to her friends indicate that in practice she was unable to implement the separation between life and art to which she frequently subscribed in theory.35 A forthcoming memoir by David Morgan, the former student at the Royal College of Art in the 1960s who became a lifelong friend, may fuel yet more controversy and speculation about her unconventional life, and provide yet another unfamiliar picture of a woman who was so different from the one we thought we knew.36 The challenge for Murdoch scholarship now is to assimilate this information so that it can contribute towards the synthesizing of life and art in a way that will not only help scholars to distinguish what identifies Murdoch’s art as uniquely her own, but will also help to illuminate the nature of the creative process itself. It should not be forgotten that one of the distinctive features of Murdoch’s career was that as well as being a philosopher and novelist she was also, for a significant portion of her working life, a teacher – a Fellow at St Anne’s at Oxford from 1948 to 1963, then a tutor in philosophy to students at the Royal College of Art in London from 1963 to 1968. Murdoch’s novels are themselves now taught widely on contemporary literature courses not only because she provides such a crucial link in the chain of the English novel, but also because her work is an example of the kind of literary/philosophical novel that takes morality seriously. She said that a moral philosophy must be inhabited and it would be the extent of her influence, not merely on contemporary literature, but on the day-to-day lives of her readers and students that she herself would perceive as her greatest achievement.37 Her work will continue to be read and re-read, discussed and dramatized, phoenix-hearted, like the title of her teenage poem.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Afterlife

Preface 1. This observation is made by Valerie Purton in IMC, p. 171. Murdoch’s letters to Suguna Ramanathan are in the Murdoch Archives at Kingston University. 2. Murdoch, Sartre: Romantic Rationalist (London: Chatto, 1953), p. 138. 3. Murdoch, interview with Rose, TCHF, pp. 17–18. 4. Murdoch, Under the Net (London: Chatto & Windus, [1954] 1982), p. 286. 5. Murdoch, Jackson’s Dilemma (London: Chatto & Windus, 1995), p. 249.

Chapter 1 Early Life 1. See Yozo Moroya and Paul Hullah (eds) Poems by Iris Murdoch (Okayama: University Education Press, 1997). This is a limited edition of 500 copies. Another very short book of poetry by Murdoch is A Year of Birds, with wood engravings by Reynolds Stone (London: Chatto, 1984). Other poems have appeared in various anthologies. 2. Murdoch’s very early essays are published in Yozo Moroya and Paul Hullah (eds) Occasional Essays by Iris Murdoch (Okayama: University Education Press, 1997). This is a limited edition of 500 copies. 3. Purton records that ‘meeting her on a mailboat to Dublin, Richard Hammond (son of Annie Hammond, witness to IM’s parents’ wedding) asks IM what she wishes to do in her life. She replies she wants to write’ (IMC, p. 7). 4. Poems by Iris Murdoch, p. 54. 5. Yeats, ‘Lapis Lazuli’, in W.B. Yeats, The Poems (London: Macmillan, 1983), p. 294. 6. See Cheryl Bove and Anne Rowe, Sacred Space, Beloved City: Iris Murdoch’s London (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008). 7. Murdoch, ‘Miss Beatrice May Baker’, in Poems by Iris Murdoch, p. 90. 8 Priscilla Martin notes: ‘I read English at Somerville about twenty years later, found Miss Lascelles impossible to please and wish I too had changed to Classics.’ 9. A 22-line poem appeared there in May 1939 and in June she published a satirical polemic ‘The Irish: Are they Human?’ See Occasional Essays by Iris Murdoch, p. 12. 10. Mary Midgley interestingly recalls that (like the First World War) the situation did offer some opportunities to women, at least in wartime Oxford. There were only five women’s colleges and, until decades later when most colleges became mixed, women were heavily outnumbered by men. Proportionately there were more women in the system during 172

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Notes

11. 12. 13.

14.

15.

16.

17.

18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 23.

24. 25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30.

173

the War and men dominated the university less. Midgley also thinks that philosophy students benefited during the War years because, with the exodus of younger dons into the services, logical positivism dominated the faculty less (Mary Midgely, in conversation with Priscilla Martin). Murdoch, The Red and the Green (London: Chatto & Windus, 1965), pp. 284–5. Poems by Iris Murdoch, p. 70. For a more detailed discussion of Murdoch’s civil servant characters, see Sacred Space, Beloved City: Iris Murdoch’s London, Chapter 3, ‘Wooden Horses racing at a fair: Whitehall’, pp. 107–28. It is unclear exactly how many novels were written before Under the Net. Even Murdoch’s biographer is unclear: ‘Sometimes she gave the figure of four, on one occasion six. A number were destroyed by her around 1986’ (IMAL, p. 170). One was turned down by T.S. Eliot, as we mention, and one was unfortunately called The Lady of the Bosky Gates. The second article in July 1943 was a review of The Rebirth of Christianity by Stanley Cook and the third in September 1944 was a review of Worship and the Common Life by Eric Hayman. See Part Four of Anne Rowe and Avril Horner (eds) Iris Murdoch and Morality (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), which contains four essays on Murdoch’s theology: ‘The Dream that Does not Cease to Haunt Us: Iris Murdoch’s Holiness’ by Anne Rowe; ‘A Story About a Man: The Demythologized Christ in the Work of Iris Murdoch and Patrick White’ by Pamela Osborn; ‘ “Do Not Seek God Outside Your Own Soul”: Buddhism in The Green Knight’ by Tammy Grimshaw and ‘The Moral Fate of Fictive Persons: On Iris Murdoch’s Humanism’ by William Schweiker. For a full analysis of the links between the work of Murdoch and Simone Weil, see Gabrielle Griffin, The Influence of the Writings of Simone Weil on the Fiction of Iris Murdoch (San Francisco: Mellen Research University Press, 1993). Letter to Norah Smallwood, 1 October 1953, Chatto Archive, University of Reading. Letter to Norah Smallwood, 16 October 1961, Chatto Archive. See the Scotsman, 30 January 1983. This tension is also discussed in the introduction to IMAR, pp. 1–12. Murdoch, interview with Blow, Spectator, 25 September 1976, pp. 24–5. Plato, The Statesman (London: William Heinemann, 1952), 269b–274E. Murdoch alludes to Wordsworth’s The Prelude (1850), Book X, lines 693–4, J.C. Maxwell (ed.) (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1971), where the poet famously describes his initial joy at the French Revolution. Like Wordsworth, Murdoch became more conservative. See Murdoch, ‘Against Dryness’ in EM, pp. 287–96. Philippa Foot, in conversation with Priscilla Martin. These essays are both published in EM. See pp. 43–58 and 130–45 respectively. Undated letter from 1972 to Nora Smallwood, Chatto Archive. John Bayley, in conversation with Priscilla Martin. Letter to Ian Parsons, 16 November 1953, Chatto Archive. Letter to Murdoch, 28 November 1953, Chatto Archive.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Notes

31. 32. 33. 34.

Notes

Murdoch, A Severed Head (1961; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963), p. 13. Lord David Cecil, document in Chatto Archive. Times Literary Supplement, 9 September 1954, p. 437. Kingsley Amis, Spectator, 11 June 1954, p. 722.

Chapter 2 After the War 1. New Criticism is the technique of examining the detail of a literary work in order to define its meaning without regard to author and context. 2. Robert Conquest, New Lines (London: Macmillan, 1956), p. xv. 3. Murdoch, interview with Jeffrey Meyers, TCHF, p. 226. 4. Murdoch met the French writer in Paris in 1946. They corresponded between 1946 and 1975 and Murdoch translated Pierrot into English. In one of her letters to Queneau, Murdoch wrote ‘anything I will ever write will owe so much so much to you’. See letters from Iris Murdoch to Raymond Queneau, acquired by the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies, in the Murdoch Archives at Kingston University. In a letter to David Hicks, she says that she saw the French as ‘the real Master-Race’ (IMC, p. 36). 5. Murdoch, letter to Queneau, Murdoch Archives at Kingston University. 6. Murdoch, Sartre: Romantic Rationalist (London: Chatto & Windus, 1987), p. 9, hereafter SRR. 7. Murdoch’s notes from this lecture have been acquired by the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies and are in the Murdoch archives at Kingston University. 8. See EM, pp. 287–98. 9. Quoted in SRR, p. 41. 10. Murdoch’s essays ‘The Novelist as Metaphysician’ and ‘The Existentialist Hero’ were published in the Listener in March 1950. 11. Murdoch, Under the Net (1954; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1960), p. 80. 12. Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1955). 13. See SRR, p. 97. 14. Plato, The Republic vii.514A–521B, trans. F.M. Cornford (Oxford University Press, 1941). 15. Ibid: ‘A modern Plato would compare his Cave to an underground cinema, where the audience watch the play of shadows thrown by the film passing before the light at their backs’ (p. 223). 16. ‘An excessive self-forgetfulness will break down [the] the objective contours [of the work of art] and blend it with fantasy and dream [...] (It is characteristic of the art of the cinema to encourage, by its very form, this art of self-forgetting)’ (SRR, p. 97). 17. Murdoch herself did not bother much about make-up after her marriage. 18. Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Arden Shakespeare (London: Routledge, 1991), Act 1, Scene 1, line 234. 19. Neary adapts a line in Faustus’s speech on the phantasm of Helen of Troy. Dr Faustus, Tucker Brooke (ed.) (Oxford University Press, 1910), line 1334, p. 189.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

174

175

20. Samuel Beckett, Murphy (London: Faber, 1988), p. 5. 21. Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat (1970; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972), p. 233. 22. Murdoch, ‘The Existentialist Hero’, broadcast on 6 March 1950. BBC Script T679. In EM, pp. 108–16. 23. Mary Warnock, A Memoir (London: Duckworth, 2000), p. 43. 24. See Murdoch, ‘The Idea of Perfection’ in EM, pp. 299–336. 25. Elias Canetti (1905–94) was born in Bulgaria and moved to Manchester when he was six years old. He wrote Die Blendung in 1935, which was translated as Auto-da-Fé and published in 1946. Crowds and Power appeared in 1962 and Canetti was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1981. He is present in other enchanter characters in later novels, for example, Julius King in A Fairly Honourable Defeat and Charles Arrowby in The Sea, The Sea. 26. Simone Weil, The Need for Roots, trans. A.F. Wells (London: Routledge, 1978). See Frances White, ‘“The World is just a Transit Camp”: Diaspora in the Fiction of Iris Murdoch’, Iris Murdoch Review, 2 (Kingston University Press, 2010), pp. 5–12. 27. Murdoch, The Flight from the Enchanter (1956; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962), p. 8. 28. When Rosa reminds Camilla Wingfield of her name she says, ‘Ah, yes your mother was an absolute bolshy’ (p. 110). Rosa Luxemburg (1871–1919) was a Polish-Jewish-German Marxist theorist, socialist philosopher and revolutionary for the Social Democracy of the Kingdom of Poland and Lithuania, the German SPD, the Independent Social Democratic Party and the Communist Party of Germany. After her death, she achieved symbolic status amongst social democrats and Marxists. 29. Cheryl Bove and Anne Rowe suggest a feminist aspect to The Flight from the Enchanter in Chapter 5, “‘Wooden horses racing at a fair”: Civil Servants and Whitehall’ in Sacred Space, Beloved City: Iris Murdoch’s London (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholar’s Publishing, 2008), pp. 107–28. The first feminist studies were Deborah Johnson’s Iris Murdoch (Brighton: Harvester, 1987), which evaluated Murdoch’s fiction in the light of then-current feminist critical theory, and Christine M. Sizemore’s A Female Vision of the City: London in the Novels of Five British Women (Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1989). Other feminist studies include Tammy Grimshaw’s Sexuality, Gender and Power in Iris Murdoch’s Fiction (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 2005) and essays by Tammy Grimshaw and Marije Altorf can be found in IMAR, pp. 163–74 and 175–87 respectively. Sabina Lovibond’s Iris Murdoch, Gender and Philosophy (2010) takes gender into consideration in Murdoch’s philosophy as well as in her novels.

Chapter 3 Triangles and Polygons 1. See Paul Binding, ‘Forgotten and Unknown? The Sandcastle Revisited’, Iris Murdoch Review, 1 (Kingston University Press, 2008): 23–7. 2. Purton notes that this incident took place in November 1955 (IMC, p. 72).

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Notes

Notes

3. Murdoch’s formal experimentation in this novel is explored in more detail in Anne Rowe, VAIM, pp. 27–56. 4. Iris Murdoch, ‘I should hate to be alive and not writing a novel’, Women’s Journal (Supplement, October 1975), pp. 64–5. 5. ‘The Figure in the Carpet’ is a short story by Henry James. It is an elaborate skit on the failure of commentators to understand his literary technique – that the meaning of his narratives comes out of ‘the latent beauty which is the very soul and the core of his work’. Henry James, introduction to ‘The Figure in the Carpet’, in The Figure in the Carpet and Other Stories (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), p. 25. 6. A.S. Byatt, Degrees of Freedom: The Novels of Iris Murdoch (1965; London: Vintage, 1994), p. 78. 7. One reviewer of The Sandcastle could only attempt to express Murdoch’s style by suggesting it was the equivalent of giving a sonnet 28 lines of uneven feet (‘E. W. F.’, ‘New Form for the Novel’, Christian Science Monitor, April 1956). 8. Murdoch, interview by Magee, EM, pp. 3–30. 9. Murdoch, interview by Rose, TCHF, pp. 16–29. 10. There was one notable exception. Ronald Bryden, reviewing The Sandcastle for the Listener in 1957, compares Murdoch’s narrative technique to contemporary painting: Murdoch’s vision, he claims, ‘simply, is the vision of modern art [. . .] She imports, at last, into fiction the techniques and sensibility of the great French moderns, bridging a gap in taste which has kept the novel, in this country at least, a generation or more behind the visual arts. She writes as everyone since the Post-Impressionists has painted, to create form: joyously pulling reality about to yield the most brilliant surprising patterns of colour and relation’ (Ronald Bryden, ‘New Novels’, Listener, 16 May 1957), p. 8. 11. Letter to Norah Smallwood, 24 May 1956, Chatto Archive, University of Reading. 12. Letter to Norah Smallwood, 1 March 1957, Chatto Archive. 13. Murdoch interview with Simon Blow, Spectator, 25 September 1976, pp. 24–5. 14. See Anne Rowe, ‘“The Dream that Does Not Cease to Haunt Us”: Iris Murdoch’s Holiness’, in Anne Rowe and Avril Horner (eds) Iris Murdoch and Morality (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 141–55. 15. Paul Tillich uses this description of God in Systematic Theology (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1951–63) and it became popular among demythologizing theologians. Murdoch refers to Tillich several times in MGM. 16. Murdoch, The Bell (1958; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962), p. 221. 17. There are in fact five ‘sermons’ in total which invite comparison: one by Michael, James, Catherine, Nick and the Abbess. 18. Murdoch, The Flight from the Enchanter (1956; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1985), p. 278. 19. See Murdoch, ‘The Moral Decision about Homosexuality’, Man and Society, vii (Summer 1964): 172–3. 20. Murdoch, Under the Net (1954; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1960), p. 228.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

176

177

21. Richard Todd, Iris Murdoch: The Shakespearean Interest (London: Vision Press, 1979), p. 76. 22. John Bowen, letter to Peter Calvocoressi, 17 November 1958, Chatto Archive. 23. Murdoch, The Bell (1958; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962), p. 316. 24. Murdoch, The Sea, The Sea (1978; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1980), p. 502. 25. John Bayley, The Characters of Love (London: Constable, 1960), p. 4. 26. The Times, 8 May 1963. 27. New York Times, 20 April 1961. 28. Letter to Norah Smallwood, 3 December 1960, Chatto Archive. 29. Murdoch, A Severed Head (1961; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963), p. 205. 30. Twilight of the Gods is the last of four operas that make up the Ring of Nibelung by Richard Wagner. 31. Murdoch, An Unofficial Rose (1962; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988), p. 32. 32. There is a fuller account of the relationship between Murdoch and James by Priscilla Martin in ‘Houses of Fiction: Iris Murdoch and Henry James’ in IMAR, pp. 124–35. 21 For a much more detailed discussion of Murdoch’s use of the painting, see Chapter 3, ‘A Complete and Powerful Picture of the Soul’ in IMVA, pp. 57–84. 33. A more extensive discussion of Murdoch’s aesthetics in this novel can be found in IMVA, pp. 75–84. 34. Murdoch, interview by Haffenden, Novelists in Interview (London: Methuen & Co., 1986), p. 199. 35. Murdoch quotes this passage in MGM, pp. 170–1. 36. Degrees of Freedom, p. 143. 37. See in particular Murdoch, ‘Art is the Imitation of Nature’, EM, pp. 243–59.

Chapter 4 Ireland 1. Murdoch, interview with Chevalier, TCHF, p. 94. ‘Being Polish is of course no joke, but Polish intellectuals tend to possess a detachment and a kind of sardonic equilibrium unpretended to by, say, their Irish equivalent’ (John Bayley, Selected Essays ([Cambridge University Press, 1984], p. 191). 2. 3 June 1939. 3. A.N. Wilson, Iris Murdoch: As I Knew Her (London: Hutchinson, 2003), p. 123, hereafter IMKH. 4. When Murdoch and John Bayley were invited to the University of Caen in 1981 for a conference on Irish History, Bayley was amused that Murdoch was considered an Irish writer (IMC, p. 159). 5. Murdoch, Under the Net (1954; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969), p. 21. 6. Murdoch, A Severed Head (1961; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1963), p. 14. 7. Murdoch, Message to the Planet (1989; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990), p. 5. 8. Murdoch, Henry and Cato (1976; London: Vintage, 2007), p. 39.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Notes

Notes

9. (London: The Reprint Society, 1955). 10. ‘Something Special’ was also published by Vintage in 2001 with illustrations by Michael McCurdy. The writer Elizabeth Jane Howard is quoted on the cover, praising the story as a ‘delight for Murdoch enthusiasts’, perhaps implying its rather limited appeal to general readers. 11. See Avril Horner, ‘Refinements of Evil: Iris Murdoch and the Gothic’, in Anne Rowe and Avril Horner (eds) Iris Murdoch and Morality (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 70–86. Other critics who have analysed Murdoch’s gothic plots are Zoreh T. Sullivan, ‘The Contracting Universe of Iris Murdoch’s Gothic Novels’, Modern Fiction Studies 23 (Winter, 1977–8), pp. 557–69; Dorothy A. Winsor, ‘Solipsistic Sexuality in Murdoch’s Gothic Novels’, in Harold Bloom (ed.) Iris Murdoch (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986), pp. 121–30; and Peter Conradi analyses the Gothic effects of the ‘closed’ novels in SA. 12. See also Bran Nicol, ‘The Curse of The Bell: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Narrative’ in IMR, pp. 100–11. 13. Murdoch, interview by Jean-Louis Chevalier. TCHF, p. 86. 14. A number of novels have been identified as Gothic or as embodying Gothic elements, for example, The Flight from the Enchanter (1956), The Bell (1958), The Unicorn (1963), The Time of the Angels (1966), The Italian Girl (1964) and The Sea, The Sea (1978). 15. Anne Rowe suggests that the imagery is linked to Pre-Raphaelite painting. See VAIM, Chapter 2, ‘Painting, Literature and Form’, pp. 27–46. 16. Murdoch, The Unicorn (1963; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966), p. 15. 17. Murdoch, interview by Chevalier, TCHF, p. 94. 18. Murdoch, The Red and the Green (London: Chatto & Windus, 1965), p. 134. 19. Before its publication, the author and critic Martin Goff told Ian Parsons at Chatto that a dramatis personae or family tree was needed, but unfortunately this suggestion was not acted on (letter from Goff to Parsons, 1 August 1965, Chatto Archive, University of Reading). A family tree to The Nice and the Good would be useful indeed. The plot is so complex that even Peter Conradi, one of Murdoch’s best and most attentive readers, has been forced into error: ‘Family resemblances are beautifully observed. Paula’s son Pierce’s awkward simplicity and passion recall his mother’s studious virtue’ (SA, p. 182). Pierce’s mother is Mary, whom Conradi describes as the mother of Paula’s twins. 20. Murdoch, Nuns and Soldiers (1980; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1983). 21. Hilda Spear, Modern Novelists: Iris Murdoch, second edition (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), p. 51. 22. The line is from Yeats’s ‘Under Ben Bulben’, W.B. Yeats: The Poems (London: Macmillan, 1983), p. 325. 23. Murdoch, An Unofficial Rose (1962; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988). 24. This is virtually the only episode in Murdoch’s fiction about which she sounded attentive to the criticisms of editors: ‘Viking people write to say they do not like the scene in the kitchen [. . .] They are quite right, of course, and it worried me a lot [. . .] I was sorry to have to introduce

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

178

25. 26. 27. 28. 29. 30.

31.

179

incest again but I couldn’t think of any other sanction strong enough to influence Andrew’ (undated letter to Norah Smallwood, Chatto Archive). Murdoch seems to have felt for once that this was one ‘unearned’ sexual permutation too many. Norah, however, advised against rewriting precisely because of its irrelevance: ‘whether or not true, [it] is not significant in the course of events or the construction of character’ (letter from Norah Smallwood to Murdoch, 28 January 1965, Chatto Archive). In a letter to Chatto, 19 March 1965, Chatto Archive. Elizabeth Dipple, Iris Murdoch: Work for the Spirit (London: Methuen, 1982), p. 151. Donna Gerstenberger, Iris Murdoch (Lewisburg: Bucknell University Press, 1975), p. 68. W.B. Yeats, ‘Easter 1916’. George Eliot, Middlemarch (1871–2; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), p. 890. In June 1983 Murdoch argued with her old friend Mary Midgley about Ireland, defending the actions of Ian Paisley and the cause of the Ulster Protestants with whom she strongly identified (IMC, p. 163). In a letter to Roly Cochrane in 1986, she called herself 100% Irish. The letters from Iris Murdoch to Roly Cochrane have been acquired by the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies and are in the Murdoch Archives at Kingston University. Murdoch, The Philosopher’s Pupil (1983; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), p. 126.

Chapter 5 New Directions, Constant Themes 1. Priscilla Martin saw the play and was disappointed. She thinks she was, ‘perhaps trivially, affronted by the electric “log fire” in the LynchGibbons’ drawing room and never imagined that the couple “switched on the logs in the grate”’. The play seemed to her to work mostly at the upper levels of the fiction, to represent only the comic surface and offer little but a glib psychological rationale for the action. 2. Guardian, 8 April 1963. 3. Letter to Peggy Ramsey, Chatto Archive, University of Reading. 4. On 8 September 1963 (IMAL, p. 459). 5. The Times, 13 September 1964. 6. The publishers Samuel French brought out the play of The Italian Girl, adapted by James Saunders, in 1967. 7. Murdoch, Joanna, Joanna (London: Colophon Press, 1994). 8. John Robinson, Honest to God (London: SCM Press, 1963). 9. For a more detailed discussion of this influence, see Priscilla Martin, ‘Houses of Fiction: Iris Murdoch and Henry James’ in IMAR, pp. 124–35. 10. Murdoch, interview by Rose. TCHF, p. 22–3. 11. See Murdoch’s interview with Ronald Bryden and A.S. Byatt, ‘Talking to Iris Murdoch’, Listener (4 April 1968), pp. 433–4.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Notes

Notes

12. After Murdoch left St Anne’s the painter Marie Louise Motesiczky painted her portrait for the college. The portrait now hangs in the Principal’s dining room. In a letter to Elias Canetti, Motesiczky wrote that Murdoch ‘really had a very good face if one understands that she is a man and not a woman’ (see Ines Schlenker, ‘Painting the Author: The Portrait of Iris Murdoch by Marie-Louise Motesiczky’, Iris Murdoch News Letter 15 [Winter 2001]: 1–4). Murdoch thought the portrait ‘wonderful, terrible, so sad and frightening, me with the demons. How did she know?’ (IMAL, p. 374). 13. See With Love and Rage: A Friendship with Iris Murdoch by David Morgan (Kingston: Kingston University Press, 2010). 14. See Cheryl Bove and Anne Rowe, Sacred Space, Beloved City: Iris Murdoch’s London (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008). 15. Murdoch, The Bell (1958; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1962), p. 81. 16. Murdoch, A Word Child (1975; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987), p. 22. 17. David Hockney, quoted in Christopher Frayling, Royal College of Art: One Hundred Years of Art and Design (London: Collins and Brown, 1987), p. 162. 18. Frank Auerbach, quoted in Frayling, p. 160. 19. In the Murdoch Archives at Kingston University. 20. Carolyn Dinan was a student at the RCA from 1964 to 1968. She was taught by Murdoch and particularly remembers her extreme kindness when Carolyn took a year out from her studies because of illness (Carolyn Dinan, in conversation with Anne Rowe, 2 February 2009). 21. These are examples only. For a full discussion of Murdoch’s use of paintings, see Anne Rowe, VAIM. 22. Peter Conradi, in conversation with Priscilla Martin. 23. Murdoch, The Nice and the Good (1968; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969), p. 73. 24. See Part III, ‘Morality Without God: Iris Murdoch’s Secular Theology’, in Anne Rowe and Avril Horner (eds) Iris Murdoch and Morality (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010) which contains four essays on Murdoch’s theology by Anne Rowe, Pamela Osborn, Tammy Grimshaw and William Schweiker. 25. Murdoch, The Time of the Angels (Harmondsworth: Penguin, [1966] 1968), p. 72. 26. Peter Conradi and Anne Rowe suggest affinities between the character of Leo and David Morgan, Murdoch’s student at the RCA. See Anne Rowe’s introduction to David Morgan, With Love and Rage: A Friendship with Iris Murdoch (Kingston: Kingston University Press, 2010). 27. Pamela Osborn, however, sees Anthea Barlow quite differently, as one of Murdoch’s secular Christ figures. See ‘A Story About a Man: The Demythologized Christ in the Work of Iris Murdoch and Patrick White’ in Anne Rowe and Avril Horner (eds) Iris Murdoch and Morality (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 156–67. 28. Murdoch, The Nice and the Good, pp. 143–4. 29. Ibid.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

180

181

30. Mark Luprecht investigates the mystical aspect of the character of Nigel Boase in ‘Death and Goodness: Bruno’s Dream and “The Sovereignty of Good”’ in Iris Murdoch and Morality, pp. 113–23. 31. Murdoch, Bruno’s Dream (1969; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), p. 122.

Chapter 6 The Love Machine 1. Joanna, Joanna was never performed but was published by Colophon Press in 1994. 2. The novel is dedicated to Janet and Reynolds Stone, with whom Murdoch and John Bayley stayed for weekends in Dorset during the 1960s and 1970s. Valerie Purton suggests that there may have been ‘a subliminal imaginative transformation of the Stones into the Fosters’. See ‘Iris Murdoch and the Art of Dedication’, Iris Murdoch Review, 1 (2008): 33. 3. TCHF, p. 73. In an interview in 1986, Murdoch acknowledges her fondness for this allegory but says that the book can also be read as a straightforward story (IMC, p. 177). In May 1969 Murdoch noted in her journal that she had noticed for the first time that her novels centre on the conflict between two men (IMC, p. 115). 4. Paul Newman and Joanna Woodward bought the film rights to A Fairly Honourable Defeat in 1971, but Murdoch did not like Peter Ustinov’s script and the project did not come to fruition (IMC, p. 121). 5. Murdoch, A Fairly Honourable Defeat (1970; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986), p. 26. 6. Murdoch’s interest in music also pervades the novels. See Darlene Mettler, Sound and Sense: Musical Imagery Allusion and Imagery in the Novels of Iris Murdoch (New York: Peter Lang, 1991). Murdoch’s book of Poems, A Year of Birds, was set to music by Sir Malcolm Williamson and performed at the BBC Proms at the Albert Hall on 19 August 1995. Murdoch also wrote the words to ‘The Round Horizon’, a Cantata with music by Christopher Beckman for the 125th anniversary of the Badminton School. 7. Byron, The Vision of Judgement, stanzas XXXIII, XXXV. 8. Murdoch, ‘The Fire and the Sun’, EM, p. 461. 9. See TCHF, pp. 17–18. 10. Cecil Woolf and John Baggeley, Authors Take Sides on Vietnam (London: Owen, 1967), p. 40. In her interview with W.K. Rose, when asked if she would write a propaganda play she said that she would like to write one about Vietnam but would be careful to distinguish ‘propaganda plays’ from art – they are an alternative method of making people pay attention. She went on to say that she thought social commitment in so far as it interferes with art is very often a mistake (TCHF, pp. 17–18). 11. Murdoch, The One Alone (London: Colophon Press with Old Town Books, 1994). The BBC radio play was broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 13 February 1987. 12. Priscilla Martin saw this production. She remembers how Julian’s horrified speech about the row with her parents – ‘He shouted [. . .] and she

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Notes

13.

14.

15.

16.

17. 18.

19. 20.

21.

22.

Notes

shouted [. . .] and then I screamed and oh Bradley, I didn’t know ordinary educated middle-class English people could behave the way that we behaved last night’ – drew the longest laugh of the evening from the middle-class audience (see The Black Prince [1973; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1995], p. 294). Murdoch could have heard Edgar Wind’s lectures at Oxford in the 1950s and was likely to be familiar with the book based on them, which discusses this neo-Platonic interpretation. See Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance (London: Faber & Faber, 1968). This discussion is extracted from Anne Rowe’s much fuller analysis of Murdoch’s links with Wind’s theories about this myth and the painting in VAIM, pp. 140–1 and 143. Max Lejour in The Unicorn describes the concept of Ate, which is, in ancient Greek, the personification of moral blindness in which good and bad cannot be distinguished or a goddess who causes rash blind actions. ‘Recall the idea of Ate which was so real to the Greeks’, says Max. ‘Ate is the name of the almost automatic transfer of suffering from one being to another. Power is a form of Ate. The victims of power, and any power has its victims, are themselves infected. They then have to pass it on, to use power on others’ (The Unicorn [1963; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986], p. 98). ‘High Theory’ is the term given to the tendency of literary critics of the 1980s and 1990s to produce highly-theorized readings of literary texts that marginalized or discredited readings which merely explored texts without rigorous attention to a variety of criteria involved in their production. See Valentine Cunningham, Reading After Theory (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002) and Terry Eagleton’s After Theory (London: Penguin, 2003). See Anne Rowe, ‘Policemen in a Search Team; Iris Murdoch’s The Black Prince and Ian McEwan’s Atonement’ in IMR, pp. 148–59, for a much more detailed discussion of this aspect of the novel in relation to Murdoch’s legacy to contemporary British fiction, in particular the work of Ian McEwan. Murdoch, interview with Bigsby, TCHF, pp. 103–4. Two critical positions have evolved: Conradi argues that the postscripts support Bradley’s position, while Bran Nicol suggests that the text makes readers suspicious of the very idea of truth itself. See Peter Conradi, SA, pp. 233–65 and Bran Nicol, Iris Murdoch: The Retrospective Fiction (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), pp. 95–107. Murdoch, in conversation with Richard Todd, TCHF, p. 186. See Chapter 3, ‘Shadows that Puzzle the Mind: The Post Office Tower in The Black Prince’, in Cheryl Bove and Anne Rowe, Sacred Space: Beloved City: Iris Murdoch’s London (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008), pp. 59–80. The Sacred and Profane Love Machine was published in March 1974 and won the Whitbread Literary Award for fiction in April. C.P Snow presented the prize with the caveat that this may not be her finest novel but that the award was to acknowledge Murdoch’s achievement as a major British writer (IMC, p. 131). See ‘The Existentialist Hero’ and ‘Existentialists and Mystics’ in EM, pp. 108–15 and 221–34 respectively.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

182

183

23. Edgar Wind, Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance (London: Faber, 1968), p. 149. 24. Ibid., p. 342. 25. Murdoch, A Word Child (1975; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1987). 26. Priscilla Martin, herself a beneficiary of the 1944 Education Act, does not think that many Oxford graduates from working-class backgrounds found the transition as difficult as Hilary. 27. Peter Conradi and Anne Rowe have suggested links between Hilary Burde and David Morgan, a student of Murdoch’s at the Royal College of Art in the 1960s: see the introduction to David Morgan, With Love and Rage: A Friendship with Iris Murdoch (Kingston University Press, 2010). 28. See John Dunford and Paul Sharp, The Education System in England and Wales (London: Longman, 1990), pp. 17–24. 29. A term used about Murdoch’s civil servant father. See Peter Conradi, IMAL, p. 52. The book provides one of Murdoch’s most savage critiques of the civil service. See Chapter 5, ‘“Wooden Horses Racing at a Fair”: Murdoch’s Civil Servants and Whitehall’, in Sacred Space, Beloved City: Iris Murdoch’s London, pp. 107–28. 30. For a more detailed discussion of the links between A Word Child and Peter Pan, see Chapter 4, ‘Dark Glee: Apparitions of Peter Pan’, in Sacred Space, Beloved City: Iris Murdoch’s London, pp. 81–106. 31. See Peter Conradi, ‘Oedipus, Peter Pan and Negative Capability: On Writing Iris Murdoch’s Life’, IMAR, pp. 189–203. 32. Jacqueline Rose’s The Case of Peter Pan or the Impossibility of Children’s Fiction (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984) provides a provocative insight into the troubling sexuality of Barrie’s ‘innocent boy’. 33. Two of the novels of this period each bear a tragically prophetic strain. In The Sacred and Profane Love Machine Murdoch had described the gunning down of Harriet Gavender in a terrorist attack at an airport; in August 1973 an Arab terrorist attack at Athens airport killed four. In October 1971 Murdoch was interviewed by A.S. Byatt about An Accidental Man and was asked in particular how she constructed the novel. She said that she began with a central event – in this case the running over of the child – and then let the action wind around that. Less than a year later she was to break arrangements to be with Byatt after her young son was run over and killed by a car. 34. For a detailed study of Murdoch’s various uses for the City, see Sacred Space: Beloved City: Iris Murdoch’s London.

Chapter 7 Retreats and Returns 1. See Murdoch, interview by Biles, TCHF, pp. 56–69. 2. In her list of works that have influenced her, given to the British Council in 1976, Murdoch includes The Iliad, The Symposium, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Mansfield Park, Wuthering Heights, Our Mutual Friend,

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Notes

3. 4. 5. 6.

7. 8.

9.

10. 11.

12.

13. 14.

15.

Notes

The Golden Bowl, Fear and Trembling, L’Attente de Dieu and The Brothers Karamazov. Proust is included with a question mark (IMC, p. 138). Murdoch, Henry and Cato (1976; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1977), p. 5. Murdoch quotes and alludes to this book in EM, pp. 396 and 422, and in MGM, pp. 128 and 397. Titian’s The Death of Actaeon is in the National Gallery in London. For more detailed discussions of the role of all the paintings discussed in this chapter, see Anne Rowe, VAIM. Interestingly, John Bayley links Beckman and Canetti: ‘“Truly to confront the age” – great art does not often do that so self-consciously. Stendhal does it with lightness and élan; the painter Beckmann did it after the First World War with mythic violence and horror. Beckmann’s painting is probably the closest parallel in art to Canetti’s novel. Canetti does not mention him, but when writing his novel he surrounded himself with reproductions of Grünewald, who also inspired Beckmann.’ John Bayley, Selected Essays (Cambridge University Press, 1984), p. 180. Murdoch, MGM, pp. 90–146. Murdoch’s leather-bound Booker Prize presentation copy of The Sea, The Sea has been acquired by the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies and is in the Murdoch Archives at Kingston University. Murdoch’s refusal to create a first-person female narrator is the subject of much critical debate and even criticism by feminist critics. However, Murdoch said in 1976 when she was writing The Sea, The Sea that she felt her own characters are in fact androgynous. She does not believe in a male and female mind (see Murdoch, interview with Sheila Hale, in Harpers and Queen, February 1976). Murdoch, The Sea, The Sea (1978; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1980), p. 39. A number of critics consider Murdoch’s links to Shakespeare, including Conradi in SA, who discusses Shakespeare’s influence on Murdoch and his presence in The Black Prince and The Sea, The Sea. Hilda Spear in Iris Murdoch also alludes to the presence of Shakespeare’s plays in some of Murdoch’s plots. See also Richard Todd, Iris Murdoch: The Shakespearian Interest (London: Vision Press, 1979). For an analysis of Murdoch’s dealings with the past in her fiction, see Bran Nicol, Iris Murdoch: The Retrospective Fiction, second edition (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). The painting is still exhibited at the Wallace Collection in Manchester Square in London. See EM, pp. 406–7. Murdoch uses the tern in EM frequently to refer to ‘recollection’. Much pleasure in art, she suggests, ‘is a pleasure of recognition of what we vaguely knew was there but never saw before. [. . .] Good art is [. . .] anamnesis, “memory” of what we did not know we knew’ (EM, p. 12). For Plato it was the recollection of the knowledge the soul had before birth. In SA, Conradi discusses aspects of Murdoch’s interest in Buddhism in Under the Net, The Nice and the Good, The Sea, The Sea, Henry and Cato and

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

184

16. 17.

18.

19. 20. 21.

22.

23.

185

The Green Knight. See also Tammy Grimshaw, ‘“Do not seek God outside your own soul”: Buddhism in The Green Knight’, in Anne Rowe and Avril Horner (eds) Iris Murdoch and Morality (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). Murdoch, interview in the Daily Telegraph, 26 November 1978. Murdoch, interview with Bigsby (TCHF, pp. 97–119). In this interview, Murdoch says that we are to accept the paranormal happenings in the novel; she believes that such events probably occur, especially in Tibet. For a detailed discussion of the character of James Arrowby as one of Murdoch’s good men, see Suguna Ramanathan, Figures of Good (London: Macmillan, 1990), pp. 67–96. Henry James, The Wings of the Dove (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965), p. 457. Murdoch, Nuns and Soldiers (1980; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1981), p. 284. After her visit to the Spenders’ holiday home in 1977, Murdoch felt she could now write about her own near-drowning. Nuns and Soldiers is dedicated to Natasha and Stephen Spender, whose presence in the novel has been suggested by Valerie Purton (see ‘Iris Murdoch and the Art of Dedication’ in the Iris Murdoch Review, 1 [2008]: 28–36). Maria Smolenska Greenwood looks at Murdoch’s representation of the Count in ‘Dilemmas of Difference: The Polish Figure and the Moral World in Iris Murdoch’s Nuns and Soldiers’ in the forthcoming Iris Murdoch Review, 2 (Kingston University Press, 2010), pp. 13–18. See Peter J. Conradi, ‘The Metaphysical Hostess’, ELH, xlviii (Summer 1981), pp. 472–83.

Chapter 8 The Late Novels 1. See Murdoch, interview with Jo Brans, TCHF, pp. 155–66. 2. Titian’s The Flaying of Marsyas is the backdrop for Tom Phillips’s portrait of Iris Murdoch, which is in the National Portrait Gallery in London. 3. Murdoch, The Philosopher’s Pupil (1983; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984), p. 23. 4. George Eliot, Middlemarch (1871–2; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994), p. 832. 5. Murdoch, interview with Slaymaker, TCHF, pp. 139–47. 6. Murdoch, The Good Apprentice (1985; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1986), p. 78. 7. See earlier discussion of Ate in Chapter 6. 8. For a full discussion of Jesse’s paintings, see Anne Rowe, VAIM, p. 52. 9. Murdoch, The Book and the Brotherhood (1987; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1988), p. 275. 10. Murdoch, The Message to the Planet (1989; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1990), p. 21. 11. See Priscilla Martin, ‘Mentors and Moralists’, in Anne Rowe and Avril Horner (eds) Iris Murdoch and Morality (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010).

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Notes

Notes

12. Robert Scholes, The Fabulators (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 126. 13. Murdoch, The Nice and the Good (1968; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1969), p. 93. 14. Chaucer, ‘The Canterbury Tales’, in F.N Robinson (ed.) The Canterbury Chaucer (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1987), 1A2847–8. 15. Murdoch, The Green Knight (1993; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1994), p. 19. 16. ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, in Malcolm Andrew and Ronald Waldren (eds) The Poems of the Pearl Manuscript (London: Edward Arnold, 1978). 17. Eric Auerbach, Mimesis (Princeton University Press, 1968), p. 133. 18. Murdoch, Under the Net (1954; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1960), p. 222. 19. R.A. Shoaf, The Poem as Green Girdle: Commercium in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (Gainesville, University of Florida Monogaphs: Humanities 55, 1984), pp. 29–30. 20. John Bayley, Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch (London: Duckworth, 1999), p. 148. 21. George Lawson, letter to The Times, 9 December 2004. 22. See Anne Rowe, ‘Critical Reception of Jackson’s Dilemma’, Iris Murdoch News Letter, 9 (1995): 8–9. 23. Murdoch, Jackson’s Dilemma (1995; Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1996). 24. Murdoch’s last philosophical work is an uncompleted book on Heidegger, Heidegeger: The Pursuit of Being. The manuscript has been acquired by the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies and is in the Murdoch archives at Kingston University. 25. T.S Eliot, ‘The Waste Land’, in The Complete Poetry and Plays of T.S. Eliot (London: Faber, 1969), V, lines 363–4. 26. See Mark Luprecht, ‘Death and Goodness in Bruno’s Dream and “The Sovereignty of Good Over Other Concepts”’, in Iris Murdoch and Morality.

Chapter 9 Afterlife 1. Malcolm Bradbury, ‘A Distinctive, Magical, Inventive Imagination’, Guardian, 9 February 1999, p. 3. All subsequent comments by Bradbury are taken from this short essay. 2. Peter Conradi, ‘A Witness to Good and Evil’, Guardian, 9 February 1999, p. 18. 3. A.S Byatt and A.N. Wilson, quoted in the Guardian, 9 February 1999, p. 3. 4. Sebastian Faulks, Daily Telegraph, 9 February 1999, p. 10. 5. John Updike, Guardian, 9 February 1999, p. 3. 6. Lorna Sage, ‘In Praise of Mess’, Times Literary Supplement, 19 February 1999, p. 12. 7. Jackie Wullschlager, Financial Times, 10 February 1999. 8. Philip Hensher, ‘The Passionate and the Good’, Spectator, 15 September 2001, p. 35.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

186

187

9. Sebastian Faulks, Daily Telegraph, 9 February 1999, p. 10. 10. Lorna Sage, TLS, 19 February 1999, p. 12. 11. See Zadie Smith, ‘Love Actually’, Guardian Review, 1 November 2003, pp. 4–6. See also Anne Rowe, ‘Rembrandt in Iris Murdoch’s Under the Net and Zadie Smith’s On Beauty’, in Simone Roberts and Alison ScottBauman (eds) Iris Murdoch and Moral Imaginations (North Carolina: Macfarland Press, 2010). 12. Ian McEwan, http://ebc.chez.tiscali.fr/ebc81.html, accessed 6 January 2006. See also Anne Rowe, ‘Policemen in a Search Team: Iris Murdoch’s The Black Prince and Ian McEwan’s Atonement’, in IMAR, pp. 148–60. 13. See Frances White ‘ “The world is just a transit camp”: Diaspora in the Fiction of Iris Murdoch’, Iris Murdoch Review, 2 (Kingston University Press, 2010). White includes chapters on Holocaust Theory and Trauma Theory in her forthcoming PhD thesis, ‘Remorse in the Work of Iris Murdoch’ (Kingston University). 14. For a fuller discussion of this issue, see the introduction, ‘Art, Morals and the Discovery of Reality’, in Anne Rowe and Avril Horner (eds) Iris Murdoch and Morality (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 1–16. 15. It should be said at this point that there is a body of excellent Murdoch criticism that has sidestepped her own objections to theory and recent postmodern approaches to her work suggest that she was attempting to uphold divisions that she could not sustain in practice. The quite deliberate ambiguity and complexity of her novels lend them effortlessly to conflicting interpretations which have unconditionally enriched and expanded readings of her work. Indeed, somewhat paradoxically, the readings that contest her views have been in part why her work has been revitalized. Now critics like Bran Nicol (in his essay ‘Murdoch’s Mannered Realism: Metafiction, Morality and the Post-War Novel’, in Anne Rowe and Avril Horner (eds) Iris Murdoch and Morality [Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010] are extending theorized readings to include a moral dimension. 16. Events include four conferences on Murdoch at Kingston University; in Ankara, Turkey; at the University of Barcelona; and the University of Porto in Portugal. Recent publications include the proceedings of the second international conference on Murdoch in IMAR and Iris Murdoch and Morality; Afaf Jamil Khogeer’s The Integration of Self: Women in the Fiction of Iris Murdoch and Margaret Drabble (New York and Oxford: University Press of America, 2006); Megan Lafferty’s Iris Murdoch’s Ethics (New York: Continuum, 2007). Other publications have been mentioned in passing. This impressive level of research and publications indicates the richness of current Murdoch scholarship worldwide. One of the most significant recent publications on Murdoch is Valerie Purton’s Iris Murdoch: A Chronology, published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2008, which provides an excellent counterpart to Peter Conradi’s authorized biography. 17. For a fuller discussion of Murdoch’s neo-theology, see Anne Rowe, ‘“The Dream that Does Not Cease to Haunt Us”: Iris Murdoch’s Holiness’, in Iris Murdoch and Morality, pp. 1421–55.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Notes

Notes

18. See Nick Turner, ‘Saint Iris? Murdoch’s Place in the Modern Canon’, in IMAR, pp. 115–23. 19. The Joanna Coles interview, ‘Duet in Perfect Harmony’, Guardian, 21 September 1996, p. 3. All the newspaper articles and essays cited in this chapter are stored in the Murdoch archives at Kingston University. 20. By Professor John Hodges at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge. 21. Bayley produced three ‘memoirs’: Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch (Elegy for Iris in the USA) (London: Duckworth, 1998), Iris and the Friends (London: Duckworth, 1999) and Widower’s House (London: Duckworth, 2001). 22. Bel Mooney, ‘A Betrayal of Love?’, Daily Mail, 12 September 1998. 23. Carol Sarler, ‘In the Name of Love Shut Up’, Observer, 28 February 1999. 24. Rosalie Osmond, ‘Art, Philosophy and “that Business of Falling in Love”’, The Tablet, 20 October 2001, p. 1496. 25. Peter J. Conradi, ‘Iris Uncovered’, Daily Mail, 1–5 September 2003. 26. See Frances White, ‘The Good, the Nice and the Ugly’, Iris Murdoch News Letter, 18 (2005): 7–14. 27. See Peter J. Conradi, ‘Did Iris Murdoch Draw from Life?’, Iris Murdoch News Letter, 15 (Winter 2001): 4–7. Conradi suggests that Hugo Belfounder in Under the Net is drawn from Yorick Smythies and that Mischa Fox in The Flight from the Enchanter is drawn from Elias Canetti. See also Valerie Purton, ‘Iris Murdoch and the Art of Dedication’, in the Iris Murdoch Review, 1 (Kingston University Press, 2008): 28–36. Purton teases out links between Murdoch’s characters and the dedicatees of her novels. 28. John Bayley, in conversation with Priscilla Martin. 29. A.N. Wilson, Iris Murdoch: As I Knew Her (London: Hutchinson, 2003). Wilson sums up Murdoch’s novels as ‘pretty good tosh’ and her philosophy as ‘just secular sermonizing’. 30. A.N. Wilson, ‘Author Who Shone a Kindly Light on a Godless World’, Daily Telegraph, 9 February 1999, p. 10. 31. See the Daily Mail, 18 August 2003, pp. 40–1. 32. The V&A Purchase Grant Fund contributed £20,000 to the purchase, and £30,000 was given by an anonymous donor. John Bayley and other generous individual donors, the members of the Iris Murdoch Society and Kingston University itself provided the remaining funds. The Centre has since acquired the library from her London flat in Cornwall Gardens, her unpublished book on Heidegger, her notebook on Sartre and the working archives of Peter Conradi. A number of significant letter runs, to Elias Canetti, Sister Marian of Stanbrook Abbey, an American writer, Roly Cochrane, a Canadian teacher and scholar, Scott Dunbar, the painter Barbara Dorf and an Oxford contemporary, Denis Paul, are also in the archives. These letters were purchased with the help of a grant from the Friends of the National Libraries. The archive catalogue can be viewed at http://fass.kingston.ac.uk/research/Iris-Murdoch/index. shtml. 33. Valerie Purton in Iris Murdoch: A Chronology (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008) announces that letters are ‘the single most valuable

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

188

34.

35.

36. 37.

189

source for any chronology’ (p. xvii) and that the Kingston letters had been invaluable. On 27 June 2009 the collections were featured on BBC Radio 4 on Archives on 4. A number of recent essays, for example by Mark Luprecht and Frances White in Iris Murdoch and Morality, refer to research material acquired by the Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies in the Murdoch Archives at Kingston University. See Anne Rowe, ‘Those Lives Observed: The Self and the Other in the Letters of Iris Murdoch’, in Meg Jensen and Jane Jordan (eds) The Spirit of the Age and the State of the Art (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), pp. 202–13. David Morgan, With Love and Rage: Record of a Friendship with Iris Murdoch (Kingston University Press, 2010). The journalist and presenter Bidisha, after visiting the Murdoch Archives at Kingston University, wrote in the Guardian of her delight and surprise at hearing about ‘the new generation of Murdoch students who read Murdoch for the first time and say with awe that the excitement, insight, beauty and depth of it has changed their lives’. Bidisha, quoting Anne Rowe in the Guardian, 29 June 2009.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Notes

Novels by Iris Murdoch An Accidental Man (London: Chatto & Windus, 1971). The Bell (London: Chatto & Windus, 1958). The Black Prince (London: Chatto & Windus, 1973). The Book and the Brotherhood (London: Chatto & Windus, 1987). Bruno’s Dream (London: Chatto & Windus, 1969). A Fairly Honourable Defeat (London: Chatto & Windus, 1970). The Flight from the Enchanter (London: Chatto & Windus, 1956). The Good Apprentice (London: Chatto & Windus, 1985). The Green Knight (London: Chatto & Windus, 1993). Henry and Cato (London: Chatto & Windus, 1976). The Italian Girl (London: Chatto & Windus, 1964). Jackson’s Dilemma (London: Chatto & Windus, 1995). The Message to the Planet (London: Chatto & Windus, 1989). The Nice and the Good (London: Chatto & Windus, 1968). Nuns and Soldiers (London: Chatto & Windus, 1980). The Philosopher’s Pupil (London: Chatto & Windus 1983). The Red and the Green (London: Chatto & Windus, 1965). The Sacred and Profane Love Machine (London: Chatto & Windus, 1974). The Sandcastle (London: Chatto & Windus, 1957). The Sea, The Sea (London: Chatto & Windus, 1978). A Severed Head (London: Chatto & Windus, 1961). The Time of the Angels (London: Chatto & Windus, 1966). Under the Net (London: Chatto & Windus, 1954). The Unicorn (London: Chatto & Windus, 1963). An Unofficial Rose (London: Chatto & Windus, 1962). A Word Child (London: Chatto & Windus, 1975).

Novella by Iris Murdoch ‘Something Special’ (London: Chatto & Windus, 1999).

Philosophy by Iris Murdoch Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature (Peter Conradi (ed.)) (London: Chatto & Windus, 1997). Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals (London: Chatto & Windus, 1992). 190

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Select Bibliography

Select Bibliography

191

Short essays by Iris Murdoch Occasional Essays by Iris Murdoch (Yozo Muroya and Paul Hullah (eds)) (Okayama, Japan: University Education Press, 1998).

Plays by Iris Murdoch Acastos: Two Platonic Dialogues (London: Chatto & Windus, 1986). Joanna, Joanna (London: Colophon Press with Old Town Books, 1994). The One Alone (London: Colophon Press with Old Town Books, 1995) (a radio play of this was broadcast on BBC Radio 3, 13 February 1987). A Severed Head (with J.B. Priestley) (London: Samuel French, 1964). The Three Arrows with The Servants and the Snow (London: Chatto & Windus, 1973).

Poetry by Iris Murdoch Poems by Iris Murdoch (Yozo Muroya and Paul Hullah (eds)) (Japan: University Education Press, 1997). A Year of Birds with wood engravings by Reynolds Stone (1984; London: Chatto & Windus, 1991).

Reviews by Iris Murdoch ‘Important Things’. Review of Mandarins by Simone de Beauvoir, Sunday Times (17 February 1957). Reprinted in Encore: A Sunday Times Anthology (1963): 299–301. ‘Mass, Might and Myth’. Review of Crowds and Power by Elias Cannetti, Spectator CCIX (17 September 1962): 337–8. ‘The Swimmer as Hero’. Review of Haunts of the Black Masseur by Charles Sprawson, New York Review of Books (4 March 1993): 3–4.

Interviews with Iris Murdoch Blow, Simon, ‘An Interview with Iris Murdoch’, Spectator (25 September 1976), pp. 24–5. Bradbury, Malcolm, ‘Iris Murdoch in Conversation’, 27 February 1976. British Council Tape no. RS 2001. Bryden, Ronald (with A.S. Byatt), ‘Talking to Iris Murdoch’, Listener (4 April 1968), pp. 433–4.

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Sartre: Romantic Rationalist (London: Chatto & Windus, 1987). The Sovereignty of Good (London: Chatto & Windus, 1970).

Select Bibliography

Dooley, Gillian, From a Tiny Corner in the House of Fiction: Conversations with Iris Murdoch (South Carolina: University of South Carolina Press, 2003). Kenyon, Olga (ed.), ‘Iris Murdoch’, in Women Writers Talk (Oxford: Leonard Publishing, 1989), pp. 134–47. Robson, Eric, ‘Iris Murdoch Talks with Eric Robson’, Revelations, Border Television broadcast on Channel 4, 22 April 1984.

Critical works on Iris Murdoch Altorf, Marije, Iris Murdoch and the Art of Imagining (London: Continuum, 2008). Antonaccio, Maria, Picturing the Human: The Moral Thought of Iris Murdoch (Oxford University Press, 2000). Antonaccio, Maria and William Schweiker, Iris Murdoch and the Search for Human Goodness (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996). Baldanza, Frank, Iris Murdoch (New York: Twayne, 1974). Begnal, Kate, Iris Murdoch: A Reference Guide (Boston: G.K. Hall and Co., 1987). Bloom, Harold (ed.), Modern Critical Views: Iris Murdoch (New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1986). Bove, Cheryl, Understanding Iris Murdoch (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1993). Bove, Cheryl and Anne Rowe (eds), The Iris Murdoch News Letter (Bove 1987– 92; Bove and Rowe 1992–2007). See http://fass.kingston.ac.uk/research/irismurdoch/newsletter. Bove, Cheryl and Anne Rowe, Sacred Space, Beloved City: Iris Murdoch’s London (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008). Byatt, A.S., Degrees of Freedom: The Novels of Iris Murdoch (1965; London: Chatto & Windus, 1965). —— Iris Murdoch (Burnt Hill: Longman Group, 1976). Byatt, A.S., Ignês Sodré and Rebecca Swift (eds), Imagining Characters: Six Conversations about Women Writers (London: Chatto & Windus, 1995). Conradi, Peter J., Iris Murdoch: The Saint and the Artist (1986; London: Macmillan, 1989). —— The Saint and the Artist: A Study of the Fiction of Iris Murdoch (London: HarperCollins, 2001). —— A Writer at War: Iris Murdoch 1939–45 (London: Short Books, 2010). Dipple, Elizabeth, Iris Murdoch: Work for the Spirit (London: Methuen and Co. Ltd., 1982). Fletcher, John and Cheryl Bove, A Descriptive Primary and Annotated Secondary Bibliography (New York and London: Garland, 1994). Gerstenberger, Donna, Iris Murdoch (London: Associated University Pressses, 1975). Gordon, David J., Iris Murdoch’s Fables of Unselfing (Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1995). Griffin, Gabriele, The Influence of the Writings of Simone Weil on the Fiction of Iris Murdoch (San Francisco: Mellen Research University Press, 1993).

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

192

193

Grimshaw, Tammy, Sexuality, Gender and Power in Iris Murdoch’s Fiction (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2005). Hague, Angela, Iris Murdoch’s Comic Vision (Selsinsgrove: Susquehana University Press, 1984). Hardy, Robert, Psychological and Religious Narratives in Iris Murdoch’s Fiction (Lampeter: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2000). Heusel, Barbara Stevens, Patterned Aimlessness: Iris Murdoch’s Novels of the 1970s and 1980s (Athens and London: University of Georgia Press, 1995). —— Iris Murdoch’s Paradoxical Novels: Thirty Years of Critical Reception (New York: Camden House, 2001). Johnson, Deborah, Key Women Writers: Iris Murdoch (Brighton: Harvester Press, 1987). Kane, Richard C., Iris Murdoch, Muriel Spark and John Fowles: Didactic Demons in Modern Fiction (London: Associated University Press, 1988). Khogeer, Afaf (Effat) Jamil, The Integration of the Self: Women in the Fiction of Iris Murdoch and Margaret Drabble (New York and Oxford: University Press of America, 2006). Kırca, Mustafa and Sule Okuroglu (eds), Iris Murdoch and her Work: Critical Essays (Stuttgart: Ibidem Verlag, 2009). Laverty, Megan, Iris Murdoch’s Ethics (London: Continuum, 2007). Leeson, Miles, Iris Murdoch: Philosophical Novelist (London: Continuum, 2010). Mettler, Darlene, Sound and Sense: Musical Allusion and Imagery in the Novels of Iris Murdoch (New York: Peter Lang, 1991). Nicol, Bran, Iris Murdoch for Beginners (New York and London: Writers and Readers, 2001). —— Iris Murdoch: The Retrospective Fiction (1999; Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004). Phillips, Diana, Agencies of Good in the Work of Iris Murdoch (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 1991). Rabinovitz, Rubin, Iris Murdoch (London: Columbia University Press, 1968). Ramanathan, Siguna, Figures of Good (London: Macmillan, 1990). Reynolds, Margaret and Jonathan Noakes, Iris Murdoch: The Essential Guide (London: Vintage, 2004). Roberts, Simone and Alison Scott-Bauman (eds), Iris Murdoch and Moral Imaginations (North Carolina: Macfarland Press, 2010). Rowe, Anne, The Visual Arts and the Novels of Iris Murdoch (Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press, 2002). Rowe, Anne (ed.), Iris Murdoch: A Reassessment (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). Rowe, Anne, Iris Murdoch Review, 1 (Kingston University Press, 2008). Rowe, Anne and Avril Horner (eds), Iris Murdoch and Morality (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010). Soule, George, Four British Women Novelists: Anita Brookner, Margaret Drabble, Iris Murdoch, Barbara Pym (Lanham and London: Scarecrow Press, 1998). Spear, Hilda D., Modern Novelists: Iris Murdoch (London: Macmillan, 1995), 2nd edition (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Select Bibliography

Select Bibliography

Todd, Richard, Iris Murdoch: The Shakespearean Interest (London: Vision, 1979). —— Contemporary Writers: Iris Murdoch (London: Methuen, 1984). —— Encounters with Iris Murdoch (Amsterdam, Free University Press, 1988). Tomczak, Anna, Reading Class: Non-verbal Communication as a Reflection of Middle Class Attitudes and Behaviours in Selected Novels of Iris Murdoch (Bialystok: Bialystok University Press, 2009). Tucker, Lindsay, Critical Essays on Iris Murdoch (New York: G.K. Hall and Co., 1992). Turner, Nick, Post-War British Women Novelists and the Canon (London: Continuum, 2010). Widdows, Heather, The Moral Vision of Iris Murdoch (Hampshire: Ashgate Publishing, 2005). Wolfe, Peter, The Disciplined Heart: Iris Murdoch and her Novels (Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1966).

Biographies/memoirs of Iris Murdoch Bayley, John, Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch (London: Duckworth, 1998). —— Iris and the Friends (London: Duckworth, 1999). Conradi, Peter J., Iris Murdoch: A Life (London: HarperCollins, 2001). Morgan, David, With Love and Rage: Record of a Friendship with Iris Murdoch (Kingston University Press, 2010). Purton, Valerie, An Iris Murdoch Chronology (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). Wilson, A.N., Iris Murdoch: As I Knew Her (London: Hutchinson, 2003).

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

194

Ady, Peter, 36 Aldwinckle, Stella, 34 Ali, Monica, 165 Altorf, Marije, 175n Alzheimer’s disease, 59, 158, 162, 168 Amis, Kingsley, 13, 14, 174n Anscombe, Elizabeth, 9 Arendt, Hannah, 84 art, 166, 170, 184n, see also visual arts Arthurian legends, 152 Auden, Wystan Hugh, 2 Auerbach, Erich, 156, 186n Auerbach, Frank, 180n Auschwitz, 140 Austen, Jane, 15 Emma, 36 Mansfield Park, 36 Sense and Sensibility, 36 Ayer, Alfred Jules, 128 Badminton School, 1, 3–4, 136 Baggely, John, 181n Baker, Beatrice May, 4 Banville, John, 165 Barrie, James Matthew Peter Pan, 112–3 Barthes, Roland, 102 Bayley, John, 7, 12, 34, 35, 36, 39, 136, 140, 158, 168–9, 173n, 177n, 181n, 184n, 188n Characters of Love, The, 48 Iris: A Memoir of Iris Murdoch, 169–70 Bayley, Michael, 7 Beckett, Samuel, 28 Murphy, 15, 23 Waiting for Godot, 14 Beckman, Christopher, 181n, 184n

Beckmann, Max, 120, 121 Best, Marshall, 12, 73 Bidisha, 189n Bigsby, Christopher, 182n, 184n Biles, Jack I., 183n Binding, Paul, 175n Bloom, Claire, 71 Bloom, Harold, 165 Blow, Simon, 10, 39, 173n, 176n Booker Prize, The, 122, 128, 184n Boulton, Marjorie, 4 Bove, Cheryl, 172n, 175n, 180n, 182n Bowen, Elizabeth, 7 Bowen, John, 46, 47, 177n Bradbury, Malcolm, 163, 166, 186n Brans, Jo, 185n Brontë, Charlotte Jane Eyre, 62 Brontë, Emily Wuthering Heights, 36, 62–3 Bronzino Allegory on Venus Cupid, Folly and Time, 78, 86, 89 Brophy, Brigid, 36, 90 Hackenfeller’s Ape, 13 Bryden, Ronald, 74, 176n, 179n Buber, Martin, 8 Buddhism, 40, 68, 91, 127, 152, 184n Bunyan, John, 133 Burrell, Sheila, 71 Byatt, Antonia Susan, 38, 46, 47, 56, 74, 161, 164, 165, 179n, 183n, 186n Byron, Lord The Vision of Judgement, 96 Calvin, John, 32 Calvocoressi, Peter, 46, 177n 195

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Index

Index

Canetti, Elias, 28, 36, 46, 92, 175n, 180n, 184n, 188n Carter, Angela, 164, 165 Cecil, David, 13, 174n Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies, Kingston University, The, 170, 172n, 174n, 179n, 186n, 189n Chasen, Heather, 71 Chaucer, Geoffrey, 153, 186n Chevalier, Jean-Louis, 177n, 178n Christ, 21, 40, 68, 80, 96, 101, 130–1, 132, 136, 151, 161 Christ-figures, 161–2 Christianity, 34, 40, 68, 81, 91, 152 Clark, Ossie, 77 Cochrane, Roly, 136, 179n, 188n Cold War, The, 31 Coleridge, Samuel Taylor, 143 Coles, Joanna, 188n communism, 4–5, 7–9, 80 consciousness, 55, 100, 102, 117, 122–4, 126, 127 contingency, 17, 47–8 Conquest, Robert, 14, 174n Conradi, Peter J., 4, 6, 58, 59, 82, 112, 159, 160, 163, 164, 178n, 180n, 183n, 184n, 185n, 186n, 187n, 188n Iris Murdoch: A Life, 169 Cook, Stanley, 173n Cornford, Christopher, 77, 78 Cunningham, Valentine, 182n Cupitt, Don, 152 Dante, 106–7 David, Gwenda, 11, 12 Davie, Donald, 14 Davies, John, 39 Deguileville, Guillaume de Pèlerinage de la Vie Humaine, 153 Dench, Judi, 170 Denning, Lord, 85 Derrida, Jacques, 135 Dickens, Charles, 15, 73, 136

Dinan, Carolyn, 180n Dipple, Elizabeth, 69, 179n Dodds, Eric Robertson, 120 Dorf, Barbara, 188n Dostoevsky, Fyodor, 51, 81, 136, 163, 164 The Idiot, 21 Drabble, Margaret, 187n Du Maurier, Daphne, 63 Rebecca, 36 Dunbar, Scott, 188n Eagleton, Terry, 182n Eckhart, 152 eco theory, 164, 165 Eliot, George, 15, 73, 163, 179n, 185n Middlemarch, 65, 139–40 Eliot, Thomas Stearns, 8, 11, 83, 84, 173n, 186n Four Quartets, 151 Waste Land, The, 160 Enright, Dennis Joseph, 14 ‘ethical turn’, the, 167 evil, 61, 82, 84, 86, 93–4, 140, 142 existentialism, 16, 81 Eyre, Richard, 170 Faulks, Sebastian, 164, 165, 186n, 187n feminism, 175n Fenner, Rachel, 74, 77 Fletcher, Tom, 5 Foot, Michael Richard Daniell, 5, 8, 49 Foot, Philippa, 4, 7, 11, 49, 173n Forster, Tony, 90 Foster, William, 10 Foucault, Michel, 102 Fowles, John, 165 Fraenkel, Edouard, 4 Frayling, Christopher, 180n freedom, 33 Freud, Sigmund, 20, 51, 71, 86, 101, 127, 142, 146 Froebel School, 3

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

196

Index

Hale, Sheila, 184n Hammond, Annie, 172n Hammond, Richard, 172n Hansford Johnson, Pamela, 8 Hardy, Robert, 71 Hart, Josephine, 136 Hartley, Leslie Poles Go-Between, The, 59 Hayman, Eric, 173n Heidegger, Martin, 135, 159, 186n Being and Time, 79 Hensher, Philip, 164, 186n Herbert, Hugh, 109 Hicks, David, 7, 8, 16, 34, 174n Hitler, Adolf, 83, 143 Hockney, David, 77, 180n Hodges, John, 188n Hollinghurst, Alan, 165 Holocaust, 40, 166, 187n Holocaust Theory, see Holocaust Homer Iliad, 120, 147 Odyssey, 119–20 homosexuality, 42, 45, 164, 176n Hope-Wallace, Philip, 71 Horace, 1 Horner, Avril, 61, 178n

Howard, Elizabeth Jane, 178n Hulluh, Paul, 172n Hume, David, 122 incest, 49, 52, 68, 178–9n intertextuality, 151–3 Ireland, 3, 58–61, 179n Iris (film), 170 Irish Republican Army, 70, 109 Iris Murdoch Archives, see Centre for Iris Murdoch Studies, Kingston University Iris Murdoch Society, The, 170, 184n, 188n Islam, 147 James, Henry, 7, 8, 37, 53, 71, 78, 117, 128, 129, 136, 165, 176n, 177n, 179n, 185n Golden Bowl, The, 36, 55, 73 Portrait of a Lady, The, 30, 54 Roderick Hudson, 54 Wings of the Dove, The, 128–9, 151 Janeway, Elizabeth, 73 Jennings, Elizabeth, 14 Jenson, Meg, 189n Johnson, Deborah, 175n Jordan, Jane, 189n Joyce, James, 7, 60, 65, 73 Dubliners, 60 Ulysses, 65 Julian of Norwich, 46, 130, 151 Kant, Immanuel, 90, 122 Keeler, Christine, 75 Khogeer, Afaf Jamil, 187n Kierkegaard, Søren, 8 Kipling, Rudyard, 136 Klatschko, Lucy (Sister Marian), 188n Kokoschka, Oskar, 165 Kreisel, Georg, 9 Krishnamurti, Jiddu, 140 language, 18–19, 123 Lankester, Tim, 98

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Gadda, Carlo Emilia, 73 Gainsborough, Thomas, 44, 78 Gerstenberger, Donna, 69, 179n Gibbons, Stella Cold Comfort Farm, 73 Gifford Lectures, the, 135 God, 10, 40, 44, 79–80, 82, 83, 88, 91, 96, 152, 167 Goff, Martin, 178n good, the, 44, 87–8, 117, 143 gothic, the, 57, 61–2, 65, 72, 164, 165, 178n Greene, Graham, 8, 118 Brighton Rock, 60 Griffin, Gabrielle, 173n Grimshaw, Tammy, 173n, 175n, 180n, 185n Gunn, Thom, 14

197

Index

La Princesse de Clèves, 63 Larkin, Philip, 14 Lascelles, Mary, 4, 172n Lawrence, David Herbert, 73 Lawrence, Thomas Edward, 8 Lawson, George, 158, 186n Leavis, Frank Raymond, 14 Lessing, Doris, 165 Lloyd, A. C, 11 Lodge, David, 164 logical positivism, 93 Lord, Stephen, 85 love, 21, 22, 41, 48–9, 88–9, 91, 100, 107 Lovibond, Sabina, 175n Luprecht, Mark, 181n, 186n, 189n Luxemburg, Rosa, 29, 175n McCurdy, Michael, 178n McEwan, Ian, 165, 182n, 187n MacKinnon, Donald, 4, 8, 169 McWilliam, Candia, 165 Magee, Brian, 56, 176n magic, 93, 128, 140 Mallarmé, 7 Mann, Thomas, 166 Marcel, Gabriel, 17, 77 Marsh, Leonie, 5 Martin, Priscilla, 172n, 173n, 177n, 179n, 180n, 181n, 183n, 185n, 188n Marxism, 147–8 Marx, Karl, 80 Matthias, William, 99 Mattisse, Henri, 165 metafiction, 102 Mettler, Darlene, 181n Meyers, Jeffrey, 174n Midgley, Mary, 4, 172n, 173n, 179n Milsom, Toby, 85 Momigliano, Arnold, 36 Mooney, Bel, 188n morality, 50–1, 79, 81 Morgan, David, 75, 77, 171, 180n, 183n, 189n

Moroya, Yozo, 172n Motesiczky, Marie Louise, 180n Murdoch, Iris Accidental Man, An, 96–9, 100, 133, 163, 183n contingency, 96–7, 98, 99 politics, 98 ‘Against Dryness’, 11, 17, 47, 48, 49, 173n ‘Agamemnon Class 1939’, 6 ‘Art is the Imitation of Nature’, 177n Bell, The, 7, 35, 39–46, 50, 51, 76, 78, 80, 151 critical response, 46 good, the, 44 homosexuality, 42, 45 love, 41 saint/artist dialectic, 45 sermons, 41–3, 176n Shakespearean allusions, 45 transcendence, 44 Black Prince, The, 7, 21, 99–105, 116, 136, 137, 146, 151 love, 100 metafiction, 102 Shakespearean allusions, 104 suffering, 101 Titian’s Flaying of Marsyas in, 101 wins James Tait Memorial Prize, 99 Black Prince, The (play), 100, 136, 181–2n Book and the Brotherhood, The, 5, 76, 146, 147–9 Marxism, 147, 148 terrorism, 147 Bruno’s Dream, 74, 89–91, 162, 163 Buddhism, 91 death, 90–1 ‘Existentialist Hero, The’, 174n, 182n ‘Existential Political Myth, The’, 11

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

198

‘Existentialists and Mystics’, 182n Existentialists and Mystics, 184n Fairly Honourable Defeat, A, 7, 9, 23, 26, 28, 42, 45, 76, 78, 92–6, 139, 142, 151 allegorical structure, 92 evil, 93–4 freedom, 95 philosopher characters, 10 ‘Fire and the Sun, The’, 49 Flight from the Enchanter, The, 7, 28–34, 42, 45, 50, 76 Cold War, 31 freedom, 33 politics, 29–30 power, 29–30, 32 refugee characters, 9, 28 religion, 34 saint/artist dialectic, 30 Good Apprentice, The, 22, 78, 140–6, 152 evil, 140, 142–4 goodness, 143 suffering, 141, 144–5 Green Knight, The, 42, 78, 151, 152, 154–8, 160, 185n medieval influences, 155–6 myth, 155 Heidegger: The Pursuit of Being, 186n, 188n Henry and Cato, 60, 76, 78, 117–22, 133, 184n Titian’s Death of Actaeon, 120 ‘Irish, are they Human, The’, 172n Italian Girl, The, 72–3, 78 Freudian narrative, 72 gothic, the, 72 Italian Girl, The (play), 72, 179n Jackson’s Dilemma, 158–62, 172n Alzheimer’s effect on, 158, 162 Jerusalem, 46 Joanna, Joanna, 73, 92, 179n, 181n Message to the Planet, The, 60, 76, 78, 138, 146, 147, 149–51 Shakespearean allusions, 150

199

Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals, 40, 44, 56, 80, 120, 122, 135, 148, 152, 153, 156, 184n ‘Miss Beatrice May Baker’, 172n ‘Moral Decision About Homosexuality, The’, 176n Nice and the Good, The, 42, 74, 75, 76, 79, 83–9, 163, 178n, 184n Bronzino’s Allegory on Venus Cupid Folly and Time in, 78, 86, 89 goodness, 87–8 refugee characters, 9 sexual freedom, 85 ‘Nostalgia for the Particular’, 11 ‘Novelist as Metaphysician, The’, 174n Nuns and Soldiers, 59, 65, 78, 128–34, 151, 185n Christ, 130–2 One Alone, The, 73, 99, 181n ‘On “God” and “Good”’, 91, 156 Philosopher’s Pupil, The, 58, 70, 76, 136–40 goodness, 139 narrator, 137 Shakespearean allusions, 138 ‘Phoenix-Hearted, The’, 2–3 Red and the Green, The, 60, 61, 65–70, 72, 76, 120, 156 Ireland, 57, 65–6, 68–70 saint/artist dialectic, 65, 68 Sacred and Profane Love Machine, The, 78, 105–7, 109, 116, 133, 150, 160, 163, 183n love, 107 Titian’s Sacred and Profane Love, 106 wins Whitbread Literary Award for Fiction, 182n ‘Salvation by Words’, 157 Sandcastle, The, 35, 36–9, 50, 51, 76, 176n experimental style, 38–9 marriage, 37

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Index

Index

Sartre: Romantic Rationalist, 15, 16, 17, 172n, 174n Sea, The Sea, The, 7, 48, 115, 122–8, 133, 136, 152, 175n, 184n consciousness, 122–4, 126–7 language, 123 obsession, 124 wins Booker Prize, 122, 128 Servants and the Snow, The, 73, 99 Severed Head, A, 13, 45, 49–53, 71, 72, 74, 75, 76, 78, 84, 174n incest, 49 Irish characters, 59 London, 8 psychoanalysis, 51–2 satire, 50 Severed Head, A (play), 71–2, 179n Severed Head, A, (film), 71–2 ‘Something Special’, 57, 60–1, 178n ‘Sovereignty of Good, The’, 44, 80, 81, 93 ‘Thinking and Language’, 123 ‘Three Arrows, The’, 73 Time of the Angels, The, 48, 74, 76, 79–83, 84, 88, 115, 156, 163 evil, 93 London, 8 morality, 81 secularity, 51, 79, 80, 82 Under the Net, 4, 9, 11, 15–29, 30, 31, 32, 33, 39, 41, 42, 45, 48, 50, 60, 68, 71, 76, 139, 151, 156, 163, 172n, 184n, 187n epigraph, 27, 146 existentialism, 16 Irish characters, 23, 59–60 language, 17–9 London, 3 love, 20–2 open ending, 25–6 Plato’s myth of the cave, 20 politics, 29 realism, 23

religion, 27 saint/artist dialectic, 18, 24 war, 27 Unicorn, The, 60, 61–5, 68, 70, 72, 76, 151, 162, 182n gothic, the, 61–2, 65 Ireland, 57, 61–2 Unofficial Rose, An, 7, 42, 53–6, 67, 78, 120 consciousness, 54–5 critical response, 56 experimental style, 57 influence of Henry James on, 54–5 love, 53 saint/artist dialectic, 53, 142 Tintoretto painting in, 54–6 Word Child, A, 3, 7, 76, 107–16, 133, 183n class tensions, 112–4 education system, 108 Peter Pan, 109, 112–15 Year of Birds, A, 181n music, 181n National Gallery, The, 44, 48, 86, 89, 120 ‘negative capability’, 103–4 ‘neo-theology’, 8, 40, 79, 80, 167 ‘new criticism’, 14, 174n Newman, Paul, 181n Nicodemus, 8 Nicol, Bran, 178n, 182n, 184n, 187n Nietzsche, Friedrich, 40 Osborn, Pamela, 173n, 180n Osbourne, John, 14 Osmond, Rosalie, 188n paintings, see visual arts Paisley, Ian, 179n Parsons, Ian, 13, 173n, 178n Pears, David, 36 Peter Pan, 109, 112–16, 141, 183n Phaedrus, 62 Phillips, Tom, 185n

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

200

Plato, 10, 20, 41, 80, 82, 88, 93, 106–7, 127, 160, 173n, 174n, 184n Symposium, 21, 64 Pliatsky, Leo, 5 poetry, 1, 2–3, 6, 71 politics, 29–30 postmodernism, 102, 167 post-structuralism, 102, 167 Priestley, John Boynton, 71 Profumo, John, 75, 85 Proust, Marcel, 7 À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, 59, 145 psychoanalysis, 51–2, 104 Purton, Valerie, 172n, 175n, 181n, 185n, 187n, 188n Pushkin, Alexander, 8 Queneau, Raymond, 28, 174n Pierrot Mon Ami, 9, 15 Ramanathan, Suguna, 172n, 185n Ramsey, Peggy, 92, 179n religion, see Christianity, Islam Rembrandt, 187n Riley, Bridget, 77 Rimbaud, Arthur, 15 Roberts, Simone, 187n Robinson, John, 179n Honest to God, 73, 80 Robson, Eric, 136 Rose, Jacqueline, 183n Rose, W. K., 74, 98, 176n, 181n Rowe, Anne, 172n, 175n, 176n, 178n, 180n, 182n, 183n, 185n, 189n Royal College of Art, 75, 77, 78, 83, 171 Ryle, Gilbert, 11 Sage, Lorna, 164, 165, 186n, 187n Samson, Frederic, 78 Sarler, Carol, 169, 188n Sartre, Jean-Paul, 15–17, 28, 55, 77, 166, 188n

201

Chemins de la Liberté, Les, 16 Nausée, La, 16, 26, 88 Saunders, James, 72 Schlenker, Ines, 180n Scholes, Robert, 151, 186n Schweiker, William, 173n, 180n Scott, Winnie, 13 Scott-Bauman, Alison, 187n Shakespeare, William, 7, 45–6, 74, 84, 86–7, 92–3, 104, 117, 123, 150–2, 157, 164, 174n, 184n As You Like It, 45, 87, 159 Comedy of Errors, The, 46 Hamlet, 104, 128–9 King Lear, 93, 150 Merchant of Venice, The, 87 Midsummer Night’s Dream, A, 22, 45 Much Ado About Nothing, 46, 93 Othello, 93 ‘Sonnet XX’, 45 Tempest, The, 45, 93, 123, 136, 138, 150 Twelfth Night, 46, 87 Winter’s Tale, The, 129 Shields, Carol, 165 Shoaf, R. A, 186n Simopoulos, John, 36 ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’, 151–8, 183n, 186n Sizemore, Christine, 175n Slaymaker, William, 140, 185n Smallwood, Norah, 12, 13, 39, 50, 71, 73, 128, 173n, 176n, 177n, 179n Smith, Zadie, 165, 187n Smolenska Greenwood, Maria, 185n Smythies, Yorick, 9, 188n Solomon, Harold, 51 Spark, Muriel, 8 Spear, Hilda, 66, 178n, 184n Spender, Natasha, 129, 185n Spender, Stephen, 129, 185n Ste Croix, Carolyn, 89–90 Stendhal, 184n Stone, Janet, 181n

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

Index

Index

Stone, Reynolds, 172n, 181n suffering, 28, 63–4, 68, 91, 101, 120, 122, 141, 143–4, 145, 148–9, 162 Sullivan, Zoreh T., 178n Thompson, Edward Palmer, 5 Thompson, Frank, 5, 6, 8, 90 Tillich, Paul, 80, 176n Tintoretto, 54–6, 78 Titian, 120, 121, 125, 184n, 185n Flaying of Marsyas, The, 101, 136 Perseus and Andromeda, 125 Sacred and Profane Love, 106 Todd, Richard, 45, 177n, 182n, 184n Tolstoy, Leo, 73 tragedy, 93, 119, 156–7 transcendence, 44 Turner, Jane, 159 Turner, Nick, 168, 188n Turner, William, 94 United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA), 8, 9, 28, 55 Updike, John, 164, 186n Ustinov, Peter, 181n Vaughan Williams, Alun, 99 Vietnam War, 98 Virgil, 30 visual arts, 44, 48, 54–6, 78, 86, 89, 101, 106, 120, 146

Wagner, Richard, 177n Wain, John, 14 Warner, Marina, 165 Warnock, Mary, 175n Weil, Simone, 9, 16, 28, 29, 152, 173n, 175n White, Frances, 166, 175n, 187n, 188n, 189n White, Patrick, 173n Williamson, Malcolm, 181n Wilson, Andrew Norman, 58, 59, 70, 164, 165, 170, 177n, 186n, 188n Iris Murdoch: As I Knew Her, 170 Wilson, Angus, 47 Wilson, Harold, 71 Wind, Edgar, 107, 182n, 183n Winslet, Kate, 170 Winsor, Dorothy A., 178n Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 9, 16, 19, 40, 174n Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, 18 Woodward, Joanna, 181n Woolf, Cecil, 181n Woolf, Virginia, 7 To The Lighthouse, 59 Waves, The, 148 Wordsworth, William, 173n Wullschlager, Jackie, 186n Yeats, William Butler, 3, 172n, 178n, 179n ‘Easter 1916’, 66, 69

10.1057/9780230282964 - Iris Murdoch, Anne Rowe and Priscilla Martin

Copyright material from www.palgraveconnect.com - licensed to Universitetsbiblioteket i Tromso - PalgraveConnect - 2011-03-14

202