Iris Murdoch was the only child of Anglo-Irish parents, and spent a happy childhood in Dublin. At boarding school, she played field hockey and was head girl. She went on to graduate from Oxford, where she taught philosophy until 1963. The author of more than 20 novels, as well as plays and philosophical works, Murdoch was made a Dame of the British Empire in 1987. Murdoch was beloved by a large number of friends. In the words of Hilary Mantel, "She radiated a powerful benignity, a goodness that seemed to have little to do with 'saintliness,' but much to do with strength and vertu; there was a heartbreaking simplicity about her...." In 1994, Iris Murdoch became afflicted with Alzheimer's Disease. from which she died in 1999 at the age of 79. A moving memoir of her last years, ELEGY FOR IRIS, was published a year before she died by her husband, the writer John Bayley, whom she married in 1956.