Muriel Spark, Scottish novelist, Died at 88

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Dame Muriel Sarah Spark died on the 13th of April 2006 at the age of 88, she was a Scottish novelist.

Born in the Bruntsfield area of Edinburgh on the 1st of February 1918 the daughter of Bernard Camberg, an engineer, and Sarah Elizabeth Maud (née Uezzell).

Her father was Jewish and her mother had been raised a Presbyterian, as was Muriel.

She was educated at James Gillespie’s School for Girls (1923–35).

Their son Samuel Robin was born in July 1938.

Within months she discovered that her husband was manic depressive and prone to violent outbursts.

In 1940 Muriel left Sidney and Robin.

She returned to Britain in early 1944, taking residence at the Helena Club in London; years later the club would be her inspiration for the fictional Mary of Teck Club in The Girls of Slender Means.

She worked in Intelligence for the remainder of World War II.

She provided money at regular intervals to support her son.

After living in New York City for some years, she moved to Rome, where she met artist and sculptor Penelope Jardine in 1968.

In the early 1970s they settled in Tuscany, in the village of Civitella della Chiana, of which in 2005 Spark was made an honorary citizen.

She was the subject of frequent rumours of lesbian relationships from her time in New York onwards, although Spark and her friends denied their validity.

She left her entire estate to Jardine, taking measures to ensure that her son receive nothing.

Spark and her son Robin had a strained relationship.

They had a falling out when Robin’s Orthodox Judaism prompted him to petition for his late grandmother to be recognised as Jewish (Spark’s maternal grandmother, Adelaide Hyams, had married Spark’s maternal grandfather, Tom Uezzell, in a church; it was unclear whether both of Adelaide’s parents were Jewish).

The devout Catholic Spark reacted by accusing him of seeking publicity to further his career as an artist.

At the age of 19, she married Sydney Oswald “Ossie” Spark. The couple sailed to Africa soon after they wed.

The union proved to be a brief and turbulent one.

She had a son, Robin, with her husband before the pair split up. For a time, Spark supported herself doing odd jobs.

She returned to England during World War II, leaving her son in Africa in the care of some nuns.

By the end of the 1960s, Spark moved to Italy.

She lived in Rome for many years.

There Spark met artist Penelope Jardine.

The pair became inseparable, eventually setting up house together in Tuscany. Jardine acted as Spark’s aide and companion. While some have speculated that their relationship was a romantic one, Spark told reporters that it was an “old-fashioned friendship,” according to The New York Times.

Not everyone knew what to do with this odd balance of the comic and tragic.

Allan Massie described her as “a comic writer with a sense of evil, a metaphysical in all sense of that difficult word” in the Spectator.

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