Brophy's Non-fiction

Brophy was an indefatigable contributor- on a broad range of topics- to literary magazines and journals where she was in demand for her book reviews and criticism. She also campaigned vigorously and effectively for Public Lending Right, and was an instigator of the modern animal rights movement, in addition to fighting for many other causes.

Black ShipTo Hell (1962)

A brilliant analysis of man’s destructive impulse, Brophy’s debut non-fiction volume is a tour de force unconstrained in scope and stunning in originality. A second edition, for which Brophy collated copious detailed notes, was sadly never published.

Brigid Brophy’s passion for Mozart is evident throughout her oeuvre. Mozart the Dramatist (1964) is Brophy’s inspired take on the composer’s psychological adoption of his dramatic themes, “We need not hesitate to accept Don Giovanni as Mozart’s own unconscious autobiography (…)’. This brilliant analysis is as valuable to music scholars and practitioners as it is to anyone who is, like me, simply a Mozart appreciator.

Don’t Never Forget (the title is from a Mozart letter) is a volume of ‘views and reviews published or broadcast between March 1962 and November 1965’. It was published in 1966 and it remains sharp, funny, witty and provocative. The photo shows part only of the contents.

Fifty Works of English Literature We Could do Without (1967). This jeu d’esprit offended lovers of the ‘greats’. (see my photo of part of the contents) Irrepressibly irreverent, slating Hamlet among a host of other classics, this collaboration by my parents and their friend Charles Osborne is vastly entertaining and still riles people.

Black and White was published in 1968, as the sixties’ revival of interest in Beardsley was underway. Describing Beardsley as polymorphic and an ironist, Brophy excavates from his ill-health the seeds of his originality. His black and white image-making was not by his choice, she asserts; he was forced, in effect to ‘be modern’.

Prancing Novelist (1973)

 

Brophy’s mighty intellect delves into the world of Ronald Firbank, making imaginative leaps and uncovering new information. This remains unrivalled as the biography of Firbank. In this sizeable volume Brophy mounts what she calls a ‘defence of fiction’ in the form of an unconventional, astonishing investigation into Firbank’s life and writing.

In 1976 Brophy’s second book about the life of Beardsley was published. Beardsley and his World is a perceptive biography containing fascinating details of the artist’s short life, and most poignantly, of his illness and death.

Published in 1983 and often mistaken for a children’s book, The Prince and the Wild Geese is a little-known work of Brophy’s. Brigid Brophy uses a Russian Prince's own paintings to recount this true nineteenth-century tale of his thwarted love for an Irish girl.

In 1987 Brigid Brophy’s only avowed piece of autobiographical non-fiction was published in this volume of essays. She described in detail the onset of multiple sclerosis and its effects on her life, in A Case-Historical Fragment of Autobiography. There are essays, too, in Baroque ‘n’ Roll featuring Shakespeare, Jane Austen, and Martina Navratilova.

Reads (1989). This collection includes what I think of as some personal, even mellow, reflections by Brophy.

Just a few Brophy pamphlets for various societies she belonged to.

A Guide to Public Lending Right (1983) charts the long process by which Brophy’s Writers’ Action Group (WAG) achieved its aim of getting government funding for authors to be paid each time their books were borrowed from public libraries.

Here is a short personal piece I wrote about the WAG campaign.

The Rights of Animals was first published in the Sunday Times in 1965; it threw a firecracker into the moral establishment. In making the case for decent treatment of our fellow animals, Brigid Brophy ignited a debate and the animal rights movement took a momentous step towards progress.