She took a part-time secretarial job with the publisher Peter Nevill and rented a study on his premises - across the street from her previous flat. Stanford, it seems, still used that place but nothing had been said to the landlady about Spark's departure. He picked up her mail and was in regular contact.
Baker, Natalie A. Who is Muriel Spark and why should we care about her? Use a larger geofence radius for locations where a user spends a significant amount of time, such as home or work. The year of publication ranged from to She breathed new life into prose, and broke with convention.
They still went out together. She saw her removal not as a final break but as a breathing space. If he could follow her into the church, they could reunite. Reviewing the situation in May , Stanford wrote that he felt "burdened with dismay" at his "many unkindnesses" to Spark, signing himself stiffly as "Derek S".
She had taken her first Anglo-Catholic communion on Maundy Thursday and from this point her drift towards the Roman Church isolated him. What Spark needed was intelligent, sympathetic company. Sheed decorously referred to the respective parties only algebraically: "A" Sydney Oswald Spark, her ex-husband and "B" Muriel.
Using this curious form, like a mathematician explaining a theorem, Spark related her sad story: of her husband Ossie's paranoia, violence and hospitalisation; of how she had left him and how he had divorced her for desertion. She had been told that she could not remarry, that if she were to become a Catholic she might have to remain celibate and to lose Stanford for ever, not only as a husband but also as a father to Robin.
Sheed thought not. His canonist, "the best in England", told him that "the insanity of A is an obstacle, since he will not presumably be able to respond to the interrogations The diocesan curia which takes the case will be able to deal with this obstacle, though it may mean that more time will be required before the matter is settled. The play became an obsession.
Her analysis was so acute that Eliot himself was astonished. It struck him "as one of the two or three most intelligent reviews I had read. It seemed to me remarkable that anyone who could only have seen the play once, and certainly not have read it, should have grasped so much of its intention. It seems to have been the key that unlocked Spark's anxieties. She was Her life was chaotic and, as the years ticked past, a gap was opening between the claims of the material world and those of the spiritual.
The Confidential Clerk addressed this directly.
It was another turning point. The new year had inaugurated her formal instruction at Ealing Priory under Dom Ambrose, and she was received into the Roman Catholic church on 1 May Happiness and radiance, however, had scarcely characterised her previous six months. In October she had moved back into Sussex Mansions, to a smaller, cheaper room.
For some months she had been innocently popping Dexedrine, then readily available from chemist shops to assist dieting. It seemed an ideal drug: she economised on food, lost weight, and her wits were sharpened for long working nights - three books to write, reviews, poems, letters, and reading, reading, reading. Then, shortly after she began instruction, in January , something went wrong.
Her friends noticed the trouble before she did: Eliot, she insisted, was sending her threatening messages. His play was full of them. Some were in the theatre programme. Obsessively, she began to seek them out - covering sheet after sheet of paper with anagrams and cryptographic experiments.
It was due to overwork and insufficient rest; I am a literary critic and had been working very hard on a book. Briefly, the trouble was that I began to imagine secret codes in everything I read, even in the press. Whatever else Spark denied herself, she had always paid her stamps and property insurance premiums. This pragmatism, however, had dissolved. Half the stamps for were missing and by mid-January so was half her mind. She was suffering, like Evelyn Waugh in early , from drug poisoning.
Dexedrine is "speed", an "upper", and as soon as she stopped taking it, the delusions evaporated. Malnutrition had added to her troubles. She began to eat better and, after three months, the three months of her Catholic instruction, achieved her normal vigour. Sheed advised her to concentrate on her Job book and to put aside the one on Eliot. She took yeast tablets and slept better, although her obsessive decoding continued through April.
Among Spark's closer friends were the writers June and Neville Braybrooke. Spark insisted that Eliot was the Braybrookes' window cleaner, that he was prying into their papers. She asked Neville if he had received any letters from him. He had a few. Muriel asked to see one. I've met him and I quite like him. The detection of codes in Eliot's writing presents a classic case of amphetamine poisoning.
Words jumped about on the page, rearranging themselves into frightening anagrams. The word "veil", for example, became "evil". Withdrawal from the use of Dexedrine frequently causes depressions and, over the next year, Spark suffered them.
But the drug Largactil introduced around this time to treat schizophrenia , and the support of her friends and of her Catholic counsellor, effected a steady recovery. Their friends still regarded them as a couple.
It was he who took control when she lost her grasp on the material world: acting as her business manager and secretary, organising a fund for her support, and even writing to Eliot to ask whether any messages in The Confidential Clerk were encrypted in Greek. Spark was sure that they were. But the awful part was not really knowing what sort of illusions I had to face.
Amid this furious schedule, on the Saturday, she had travelled to Ealing Priory for her reception into the church. Missing Stanford's scepticism and, addressing him as "Brother Mine" in a page letter, she explained her sense of loss since her conversion. And what is the defining mind but the mind that 'doubts well'? There can be no definition without doubt, unless it be an intuitive definition, in which case we must return to doubt in order to verify the intuition. Catholics are scared stiff of the Holy Ghost, and that's the truth, though the church teaches far otherwise.
All the great mystics have understood doubt. The necessity of doubt, unfixed, capable of incorporating multiple viewpoints, is the essence of what Spark later called the "nevertheless principle". The Old Testament God the Father had always presented her with a problem.
God the Son required selfless charity. As an artist, the Holy Ghost was to her the most important element of the Trinity. Just two months after her reception, she was thinking of becoming a nun. During July she stayed for a week at the Hermitage, a guest house attached to Stanbrook Abbey in Worcestershire. The routine of prayer and study attracted her, as did the isolation in a community of intelligent women. Stanford received enthusiastic letters detailing her discussions.
She borrowed a shelf full of Job books and investigated other orders but preferred the Benedictine, whose vows were stability, conversion of life and obedience, rather than poverty, chastity and obedience. Commitment to poverty and chastity held only limited appeal. Independence involved financial independence and control over the distribution of her resources. Either way, there was the problem of obedience, which was simply impossible for her. From Stanbrook she sent her son Robin a cheque for his 16th birthday. He presented another difficulty. Since he had been brought up by her parents in Edinburgh.
If she were to take the veil, she wanted first to be assured of his security. Who, for instance, would care for him should her mother die? Peter Owen, a partner at Nevill, set up independently and commissioned Spark to edit a volume of Jane Austen's letters. This provided 50 badly needed pounds but also more pressure. Now three contracted books were deferred, and the fourth not begun. The thought of repaying these spent advances disturbed her. Only one thing seemed clear: "That I'm paralysed as a writer unless I write according to this queer dictatorial sense I have.
Even her workroom was taken from her.