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Muriel Spark

  • The letters of famous people can be placed into two categories: there is the type of letter which becomes itself a valuable contribution to literature through its wit, style or wisdom; another kind is that whose main importance lies in the provision of a background to their author's life. Especially in the correspondence of great writers and poets, these two factors are very often combined ...

    • Muriel Spark,
    • in Muriel Spark, ed., The Letters of The Brontës: A Selection ()
  • Parents learn a lot from their children about coping with life. It is possible for parents to be corrupted or improved by their children.

  • Neurotics are awfully quick to notice other people's mentalities ...

    • Muriel Spark,
    • "Come Along, Marjorie," The Go-Away Bird ()
  • Oh, the trifles, the people, that get on your nerves when you have a neurosis!

    • Muriel Spark,
    • "Come Along, Marjorie," The Go-Away Bird ()
  • If you choose the sort of life which has no conventional pattern you have to try to make an art of it, or it is a mess.

  • Looking forward to going home, I was necessarily looking backward.

  • It was one thing to applaud justice, another to bring it about.

  • I was just as anxious to prevent injustice as to cause justice.

  • Being over seventy is like being engaged in a war. All our friends are going or gone and we survive amongst the dead and the dying as on a battlefield.

  • If I had my life over again I should form the habit of nightly composing myself to thoughts of death. I would practise, as it were, the remembrance of death. There is no other practice which so intensifies life. Death, when it approaches, ought not to take one by surprise. It should be part of the full expectancy of life. Without an ever-present sense of death life is insipid. You might as well live on the whites of eggs.

  • Mabel Pettigrew thought: I can read him like a book. She had not read a book for over forty years, could never concentrate on reading, but this nevertheless was her thought ...

  • There was altogether too much candor in married life; it was an indelicate modern idea, and frequently led to upsets in a household, if not divorce ...

  • You look for one thing and you find another.

  • Art and religion first; then philosophy; lastly science. That is the order of the great subjects of life, that's their order of importance.

  • ... be on the alert to recognize your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur.

  • It is impossible to persuade a man who does not disagree, but smiles.

  • These years are still the years of my prime. It is important to recognise the years of one's prime, always remember that. ... One's prime is elusive.

  • For those who like that sort of thing ... that is the sort of thing they like.

  • Outwardly she differed from the rest of the teaching staff in that she was still in a state of fluctuating development, whereas they had only too understandably not trusted themselves to change their minds, particularly on ethical questions, after the age of twenty.

  • To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil's soul. To Miss Mackay it is a putting in of something that is not there, and that is not what I call education, I call it intrusion ...

  • Give me a girl at an impressionable age, and she is mine for life.

  • Ben was an intellectual, and intellectuals, say what you like, seemed to last longer than anyone else.

    • Muriel Spark,
    • "The Fathers' Daughters," Voices at Play ()
  • Let us run up debts. One is nobody without debts.

    • Muriel Spark,
    • "The Fathers' Daughters," Voices at Play ()
  • Fiction to me is a kind of parable. You have got to make up your mind it's not true. Some kind of truth emerges from it, but it's not fact.

    • Muriel Spark,
    • "My Conversion," in Twentieth Century ()
  • One should only see a psychiatrist out of boredom.

  • Every communist has a fascist frown, every fascist a communist smile.

  • People who quoted the Scriptures in criticism of others were terrible bores and usually they misapplied the text. One could prove anything against anyone from the Bible.

  • It is impossible to repent of love. The sin of love does not exist.

  • ... we have invented sex guilt to take our minds off the real thing.

  • ... I never trust the airlines from those countries where the pilots believe in the afterlife. You are safer when they don't.

  • A rebellion against a tyrant is only immoral when it hasn't got a chance.

  • 'Invariably, a man you feed both ends,' Gertrude says. 'You have to learn to cook and to do the other.'

  • Contradictions in human character are one of its most consistent notes ...

  • Frankness is usually a euphemism for rudeness.

  • I have a great desire to make people smile — not laugh. Laughter is too aggressive. People bare their teeth.

    • Muriel Spark,
    • in The London Times ()
  • [Being in love] is something like poetry. Certainly, you can analyze it and expound its various senses and intentions, but there is always something left over, mysteriously hovering between music and meaning.

    • Muriel Spark,
    • "On Love," Partisan Review ()
  • It isn't necessarily the great and famous beauty spots we fall in love with. As with people, so with places. Love is unforeseen, and we can all find ourselves affectionately attached to the minor and the less obvious.

    • Muriel Spark,
    • "Side Roads of Tuscany," in The New York Times ()
  • So great was the noise during the day that I used to lie awake at night listening to silence.

  • [On Marie Stopes, noted contraception pioneer:] Up to his death three years earlier she had been living with Lord Alfred Douglas, the fatal lover of Oscar Wilde, an arrangement which I imagine would satisfy any woman's craving for birth control.

  • From my experience of life I believe my personal motto should be 'Beware of men bearing flowers.'

  • Her parents had searched through the past, consulted psychiatrists, took every moment to bits. In no way could she be explained.

  • Jealousy ... is an affliction of the spirit which, unlike some sins of the flesh, gives no one any pleasure.

  • ... sooner or later I do what I want to do.

    • Muriel Spark,
    • in Martin Stannard, Muriel Spark: The Biography ()
  • ... everything happens to an artist; time is always redeemed, nothing is lost and wonders never cease.

  • Tom often wondered if we were all characters in one of God's dreams. To an unbeliever this would have meant the casting of an insubstantiality within an already insubstantial context. Tom was a believer.

  • Ridicule is the only honorable weapon we have left.

    • Muriel Spark,
    • speech, American Academy of Arts and Letters ()

Muriel Spark, Scottish-born English novelist, poet, critic

(1918 - 2006)

Full name: Muriel Sarah Camberg Spark.