Muriel Spark

Muriel Spark (Muriel Sarah Spark, née Camberg; 1 February 1918 – 13 April 2006) was a Scottish writer.

Spark attended the James Gillespie’s School for Girls. Unable to afford to be sent to university, she enrolled in a course in commercial correspondence and writing at Heriot-Watt College, while teaching English in a private school. Then, she worked as a personal secretary in a department store.

In 1937, she married Sidney Oswald Spark and moved to Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Muriel had a son in 1938, and divorced her husband in 1940. She moved back to England in 1944 and, in order to pursue her literary career, she left her son in the care of her parents in Edinburgh. Muriel then entered the Political Intelligence department of the British Foreign Office and worked on propaganda during World War II. In 1947, she became editor of the Poetry Review. 

In 1954, Muriel converted to Roman Catholicism. After living in New York and Rome, she set up house in Tuscany, in the early 1970’s, together with her life-long companion, the artist Penelope Jardine. She received honorary doctorates from the American University of Paris, the Heriot-Watt University, Oxford University, the University of London, among other institutions.

Awards

  • James Tait Black Memorial Prize (1965) for The Mandelbaum Gate
  • Officer of the Order of the British Empire (1967)
  • Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (1969) for The Public Image
  • Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize (1981) for Loitering with Intent
  • Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1993)
  • Golden PEN Award (1998) for a lifetime’s distinguished service to literature
  • Posthumously shortlisted, in 2010, for the “Lost Man Booker Prize of 1970” for The Driver’s Seat

Books

Novels

  • The Comforters (1957)
  • Robinson (1958)
  • Memento Mori (1959)
  • The Ballad of Peckham Rye (1960)
  • The Bachelors (1960)
  • The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1961)
  • The Girls of Slender Means (1963)
  • The Mandelbaum Gate (1965)
  • The Public Image (1968)
  • The Driver’s Seat (1970)
  • Not to Disturb (1971)
  • The Hothouse by the East River (1973)
  • The Abbess of Crewe (1974)
  • The Takeover (1976)
  • Territorial Rights (1979)
  • Loitering with Intent (1981)
  • The Only Problem (1984)
  • A Far Cry from Kensington (1988)
  • Symposium (1990)
  • Reality and Dreams (1996)
  • Aiding and Abetting (2000)
  • The Finishing School (2004)

Short-stories and plays

  • The Go-away Bird (short stories, 1958)
  • Voices at Play (short stories and plays, 1961)
  • Doctors of Philosophy (play, 1963)
  • Collected Stories I (1967)
  • Bang-bang You’re Dead (short stories, 1982)
  • Complete Short Stories (2001)

Poetry

  • The Fanfarlo and Other Verse (1952)
  • Collected Poems I (1967)
  • Going Up to Sotheby’s and Other Poems (1982)
  • All the Poems (2004)

Children’s books

  • The Very Fine Clock (illustrations by Edward Gorey, 1968)
  • The French Window and the Small Telephone (1993)

Nonfiction

  • Tribute to Wordsworth (edited with Derek Stanford, 1950)
  • Child of Light (a study of Mary Shelley, 1951)
  • John Masefield (biography, 1953)
  • Emily Brontë: Her Life and Work (with Derek Stanford, 1953)
  • My Best Mary (a selection of letters of Mary Shelley, edited with Derek Stanford, 1953)
  • The Brontë letters (1954)
  • Letters of John Henry Newman (edited with Derek Stanford, 1957)
  • Mary Shelley (complete revision of Child of Light; 1987)
  • Curriculum Vitae (autobiography, 1992)
  • The Golden FleeceEssays (2014)

About her

  • Muriel Spark: the Biography by Martin Stannard (2009)
  • Appointment in Arezzo: a friendship with Muriel Spark, by Alan Taylor (2017)
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One Comment

  1. I was just reading about Muriel Spark and how her capacity for feuding rivaled Hugh MacDiarmid’s.

    Like

    Reply

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