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Professor John Bayley dies aged 89

Professor John Bayley dies aged 89

Professor John Bayley, Dame Iris Murdoch’s widower and former Booker Prize Chair, died aged 89 on 12 January 2015.


Bayley was born in Lahore (then British India) in 1925. He was educated at Eton and went on to study at Oxford University, where he later became a Professor of English – the first Warton Professor of English Literature. Amongst other things he was an esteemed literary critic and reviewer, novelist and editor. He edited Henry James' The Wings of the Dove and a two-volume selection of James' short stories. He was awarded the CBE in 1999.


Bayley was famously married to the writer Irish Murdoch, 1978 Booker Prize winner, from 1956 up until her death in 1999. He wrote Iris: A Memoir about his wife’s battle with Alzheimer’s, which was later adapted into a film starring Kate Winslet and Judi Dench as young and old Iris and Hugh Bonneville and Jim Broadbent playing the young and old Bayley. He went on to write two further books about their relationship – Iris and her Friends and Widower’s House.


Bayley was Chair of the 1994 Booker Prize judges, whose panel also included Rabbi Julia Neuberger, Dr Alastair Niven, Alan Taylor and James Wood. They selected James Kelman’s How Late It Was, How Late as their winner.