Brigid Brophy

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Brigid Brophy
Brigid Brophy 562717.jpg
BornBrigid Antonia Brophy
(1929-06-12)12 June 1929
Ealing, England
Died7 August 1995(1995-08-07) (aged 66)
Louth, Lincolnshire, England
SpouseMichael Levey

Brigid Antonia Brophy, Lady Levey (12 June 1929 – 7 August 1995) was a British novelist, critic, and campaigner for social reforms, including the rights of authors and animal rights. Among her novels was Hackenfeller's Ape (1953); among her critical studies were Mozart the Dramatist (1964, revised 1990) and Prancing Novelist: A Defence of Fiction ... In Praise Of Ronald Firbank (1973). In the Dictionary of Literary Biography: British Novelists since 1960, S. J. Newman described her as "one of the oddest, most brilliant, and most enduring of [the] 1960s symptoms."

She was a feminist and pacifist who expressed controversial opinions on marriage, the Vietnam War, religious education in schools, sex, and pornography.[1] She was a campaigner for animal rights and vegetarianism. A 1965 Sunday Times article by Brophy is credited by psychologist Richard D. Ryder with having triggered the formation of the animal rights movement in England.[2]

Brophy married art historian Michael Levey in 1954. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1983.[1]


Brigid Antonia Brophy was born on 12 June 1929, in Ealing in west London. She was the only child of the novelist John Brophy and Charis Brophy (née Grundy), who was a teacher. Even as a child she began writing plays. During World War II she attended The Abbey School, Reading, between May 1941 and July 1943, and other schools. She then attended St Paul's Girls' School in London. In 1947 she went on a scholarship to Oxford University (St Hugh's College), but left in 1948 without a degree.[3]

In 1953, when she was 25, her book of short stories, The Crown Princess, was published; it was followed in the same year by her much better received novel, Hackenfeller's Ape.

In 1954 she married art historian Michael Levey (afterwards director of the British National Gallery, 1973–87, and knighted in 1981). The couple had one daughter Katharine J Levey (b. 1957).[4] In the following years she brought out a series of novels, including Flesh (1962), The Finishing Touch (1963, described as a "lesbian fantasia"), The Snow Ball (1964) and Palace Without Chairs (1978, in which a child of royal descent survives political tumult).

Brophy also wrote several non-fiction books and essays, including Black Ship to Hell (1962; an appreciation of Shavian and Freudian ideas), Mozart the Dramatist (1964) and (with her husband and Charles Osborne) Fifty Works of English Literature We Could Do Without (1967). Her detailed study of Ronald Firbank, Prancing Novelist A Defence of Fiction in the Form of a Critical Biography in Praise of Ronald Firbank, appeared in 1973.

She was a campaigner for several reforms. With Maureen Duffy she fought between 1972 and 1982 for authors' Public Lending Right. She was one of the signers of the Humanist Manifesto.[5] She became president of the National Anti-Vivisection Society. In her book Baroque 'n' Roll (1987) she wrote about her struggle with multiple sclerosis (of which she knew the first symptoms in 1981), her bisexuality and the causes that she supported.

From 1987 her husband, Michael Levey, looked after her during her illness, resigning his position as director of the National Gallery to do so. She died on 7 August 1995, at Louth in Lincolnshire.



  • The Crown Princess and Other Stories (1953)
  • Hackenfeller's Ape (1953, reprinted 1991)
  • The King of a Rainy Country (1956, reprinted 1990, 2012)
  • Flesh (1962)
  • The Finishing Touch (1963, revised 1987)
  • The Snow Ball (1964)
  • The Burglar (play, first produced in London at Vaudeville Theatre, 22 February 1967, and published 1968)
  • In Transit: An Heroicycle Novel (1969, reprinted 2002)
  • The Adventures of God in His Search for the Black Girl: A Novel and Some Fables (1973)
  • Pussy Owl: Superbeast (1976), for children, illustrated by Hilary Hayton
  • Palace without Chairs: A Baroque Novel (1978)


  • Black Ship to Hell (1962)
  • Mozart the Dramatist: A New View of Mozart, His Operas and His Age (1964) (revised 1990)
  • Don't Never Forget: Collected Views and Reviews (1966)
  • (With husband, Michael Levey, and Charles Osborne) Fifty Works of English and American Literature We Could Do Without (1967)
  • Religious Education in State Schools (1967)
  • Black and White: A Portrait of Aubrey Beardsley (1968)
  • The Rights of Animals (1969. Animal Defence and Anti-Vivisection Society)
  • The Longford Threat to Freedom (1972)
  • Prancing Novelist: A Defence of Fiction in the Form of a Critical Biography in Praise of Ronald Firbank (1973)
  • Beardsley and His World (1976)
  • The Prince and the Wild Geese, pictures by Gregoire Gagarin (Hamish Hamilton, 1983)
  • A Guide to Public Lending Right (1983)
  • Baroque 'n' Roll and Other Essays (1987)
  • Reads: A Collection of Essays (1989)


  • Best Short Plays of the World Theatre, 1958–1967, 1968
  • Animals, Men and Morals, edited by Stanley and Roslind Godlovitch and John Harris (1971)
  • The Genius of Shaw, edited by Michael Holroyd (1979)
  • Animal Rights: A Symposium, edited by D. Paterson and R. D. Ryder (1979)
  • Shakespeare Stories, edited by Giles Gordon (1982)

A collection of Brophy's manuscripts is housed in Lilly Library at Indiana University at Bloomington.


  1. ^ a b Martin Pope (29 December 2008). "Sir Michael Levey". The Telegraph. London. Brigid Brophy was an outspoken campaigner on issues as diverse as humanism, animal rights, feminism, pornography, homosexual rights, the Vietnam War and religious education in schools (she disapproved of only the last two).
  2. ^ Richard Ryder (2000). Animal Revolution: Changing Attitudes Towards Speciesism. Berg. p. 5. ISBN 1-85973-330-1. The moral basis for animal liberation has been given much attention by modern philosophers since the publication of the well-known novelist Brigid Brophy's major article entitled 'The Rights of Animals' in the Sunday Times in 1965.
  3. ^ Sarah Lyall (9 August 1995). "Brigid Brophy Is Dead at 66; Novelist, Critic and Crusader". The New York Times.
  4. ^ "FreeBMD".
  5. ^ "Humanist Manifesto II". American Humanist Association. Retrieved 2 October 2012.

Further reading[edit]

  • The Review of Contemporary Fiction; 15:3 (1995 Fall), issue devoted to Brigid Brophy, Robert Creeley, Osman Lines
  • Discovering Brigid Brophy [1]
  • The King of a Rainy Country by Brigid Brophy - published in 2012 by The Coelacanth Press [2]

External links[edit]