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Brigid Brophy (Brigid Antonia Susan Brophy) Biography

(1929–95), (Brigid Antonia Susan Brophy), Hackenfeller's Ape, The King of a Rainy Country, Flesh

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British novelist, biographer, and critic, born in London, educated at St Hugh's College, Oxford. A classicist, atheist, and humanist, she campaigned tirelessly for animals' and authors' rights. In 1972 (with Maureen Duffy, Lettice Cooper, and Francis King) she was a founder member of the Writers' Action Group which secured Public Lending Rights (1979); she also held offices at the Writers' Guild, the Society of Authors, and the Authors' Lending and Copyright Society, and was a president of the National Anti-Vivisection Society. Her first novel, Hackenfeller's Ape (1953), explores the relationship between an ape in London Zoo and a professor who observes its mating habits. Other novels include The King of a Rainy Country (1956); Flesh (1962); The Finishing Touch (1963), which features a headmistress based on Anthony Blunt; The Snow Ball (1964), a notable baroque comedy of manners that draws upon Mozart's opera Don Giovanni; and In Transit (1969), an experimental examination of gender and personality. Palace without Chairs (1978), a mature Shavian allegory about democracy, appeared a year before she was struck down by multiple sclerosis. Brophy's other works include The Crown Princess and Other Stories (1953); a play, The Burglar (perf. 1967); Mozart the Dramatist: A New View of Mozart, His Opera and His Age (1964); and Prancing Novelist: A Defence of Fiction in the Form of a Critical Biography in Praise of Ronald Firbank (1973), a lengthy defence of the author with whom her own work was also compared. Fifty Works of English Literature We Could Do Without (1967), co-authored by her husband Sir Michael Levey and Charles Osborne, proved controversial on its publication; Baroque ‘n’ Roll (1987), which features a courageous account of the disease that foreshortened her career, and Reads (1989) are among her collections of essays. Brophy was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature; her writing was characterized by erudition, wit, and incisiveness.

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