16 November 2016

To Norah Smallwood.


St Anne’s College 23 November 1953

Dear Mrs Smallwood,

This is just to say that I shall try to send back the typescript of the novel on Wednesday or Thursday of this week. Unless otherwise instructed, I’ll address it to you. You may feel, when you see it, that I’ve spent a long time doing very little. I’ve simply made cuts and minor amendments which didn’t involve creating anything new. Your objections to the opening chapter and the studio chapter I’m afraid haven’t been met. Quite apart from a total lack of time, I feel unclear about what to do with these bits; and conclude that it must sink or swim as it is, subject to your final approval! I hope you won’t think this is uncooperative. I think and hope I’ve done what you wanted on the other points. I’m very grateful indeed for the detailed and useful scrutiny which you gave to the novel.

I’m still stuck for a title. I’ll send my current ideas on the subject either with the typescript, or immediately after. Sorry to be slow-moving. I hope you are very well, and not overworked just before the ordeal of Christmas! I am homesick for London.

With good wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Iris Murdoch

Living on Paper
  • Living on Paper

  • ‘Love is the extremely difficult realisation that something other than oneself is real’

    This selection of Iris Murdoch’s most interesting and important letters gives us a living portrait of one of the twentieth century’s greatest writers and thinkers. Here for the first time is Murdoch in her own words, from her schoolgirl days to her last years.


    The letters show a great mind at work – we watch the young Murdoch struggling with philosophical issues, often unsure of herself; witness her anguish when a novel won’t come together; observe her involved in world events and exploring sensuality. They are full of sharp humour and irreverence. They also reveal her personal life, the subject of much speculation, in all its intriguing complexity: her emotional hunger and her tendency to live on the edge of what was socially acceptable. Gradually, we see how this fed into her novels’ plots and characters, despite her claims that her fiction was not drawn from reality.


    Quite apart from giving these valuable insights, her letters bring us closer than ever before to Iris Murdoch as a person. They make for an extraordinary and intimate reading experience: she is wonderful company.

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