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Dame Muriel Spark, DBE, lived from 1 February 1918 to 13 April 2006. She was a novelist, poet and non-fiction author. The wider picture in Scotland at the time is set out in our Historical Timeline.
Muriel Sarah Camberg was born in Edinburgh. Her father was an engineer and her mother a music teacher. She was educated at James Gillespie's High School for Girls, and in 1934-1935 she took a course in "Commercial correspondence and précis writing" at Heriot-Watt College. She then worked as an English teacher and as a secretary. One of her teachers at James Gillespie's High School was Christina Kay, who would later become the model for the main character in Muriel Spark's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.
In 1937 Muriel married Sidney Oswald Spark, and shortly afterwards they moved together to Rhodesia, now called Zimbabwe, where he had secured a job as a teacher. They had a son, Robin, in 1938, by which time, Muriel had discovered her husband was a manic depressive. Muriel left her husband and son to return to the UK where, from 1944, she worked in British Intelligence. Spark later said it had been her intention to establish a family home in Britain, but her husband returned separately and their son was brought up by Muriel's parents in Edinburgh.
After the Second World War, Muriel began writing under her married name, which she felt was more memorable than her maiden name. Her first outings were into poetry and literary criticism, and in 1947 she became editor of the Poetry Review. In 1954, following a breakdown, she converted to Roman Catholicism. She later said this was an important step on her path towards becoming a novelist, and it was three years later that her first novel, The Comforters, was published. Her fifth novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, was published in 1961 to considerable acclaim and success. In all, Muriel Spark wrote 20 novels, concluding with The Finishing School which was published in 2004. She also published 19 further works, ranging from collections of poetry to short stories and biographical works about authors like Emily Brontë and John Masefield.
Muriel spent part of the 1960s living in New York. She moved to Rome in 1967, where she met the artist and sculptor Penelope Jardine. They settled in the village of Civitella della Chiana in Tuscany, where they lived until Muriel's death in 2006. During her career, Dame Muriel Spark had won a string of literary awards, and in 1993 was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to literature.