Muriel Spark (1918-2006)

She was perhaps the most popular and successful female, Scottish author in history

Feature by Jess McConnell | 16 May 2006
Much-loved Scottish author Muriel Spark has died at her home in Tuscany aged 88. Spark was made famous worldwide by her 1962 novel 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie'. Set in an Edinburgh girl's school, it tells of Miss Brodie's efforts to teach liberal views on sex and politics to her young charges. This was just one highlight of a literary career spanning 50 years, during which the author charmed critics and fans alike with her lively humour and deliciously dark style. As a novelist Spark remained prolific until 2004 when her final book, 'The Finishing School', was published and went on to reach the top of the bestseller list.

Spark did not confine herself to fiction, but also sought to promote women's literature in a broader sense, publishing celebrated studies on Emily Bronte and Mary Shelly. Despite huge international success Spark always maintained strong links to Edinburgh. She was an avid supporter of the capital's book festival and The Scottish Arts Council, evidenced by the creation of a fellowship in her honour in 2004.

Scots have every reason to be proud of their literary daughter, however they recently met with competition for her affections. The ever-amiable writer became so popular with locals in her adoptive Italian hometown she was made an honorary citizen there in 2002. Despite this, Muriel Spark's writing has become so tightly woven into the cultural make-up of this country that no one need fear the security of her position as perhaps the most popular and successful female, Scottish author - one of the vanguard of modern British writing.

Famously, Spark looked coolly on death and was criticised for what some called a whimsical approach to the subject. A cheery view is harder to take towards the death of the author herself but for one consideration - it is hard to feel sadness when one delves into the incomparable legacy she has left, and is reminded that the world was so lucky to have known her at all.