Muriel Spark was born Muriel Sarah Camberg in Edinburgh in 1918 to a Jewish father and a Gentile mother. Despite her father’s Jewishness, Spark has claimed that the influence of Judaism on her faith and fiction has been more cultural than religious, and she received an essentially Presbyterian upbringing. Spark attended James Gillespie’s School for Girls in Edinburgh, where she was encouraged to nurture her literary interests. Soon after leaving school, she married S. O. Spark and moved to Rhodesia; her son Robin was born in 1938. Although she was not writing at this time, Spark made many observations of Africa that provided material for subsequent short stories. With the end of her marriage in 1944, Spark returned to England, and worked in political intelligence at the Foreign Office. Following the war, Spark was employed as a journalist, and in 1947 she became the General Secretary of the Poetry Society, a duty which included editing Poetry Review. Leaving the Society in 1949, Spark started a magazine, Forum, which issued two numbers. At this time, she produced her first book-length publications, all of which were non-fiction studies of such literary figures as Mary Shelley and Emily Brontë, and she edited a collection of essays on Wordsworth. Some of these texts were written in collaboration with Derek Stanford. Spark’s interest in historical female literary figures at this time indicated her general concern for the position of women in society; this thematic interest is also reflected in her volume of poems, The Fanfarlo and Other Verse (1952).
In 1951, Spark produced her first short story, “The Seraph and the Zambesi,” winning a contest sponsored by the Observer newspaper. It was at this time that Spark became interested in the works of John Henry Newman. Asserting that until 1951 she had been almost completely indifferent to religious concerns, she now experienced a kind of spiritual crisis, the effects of which were to heavily influence her subsequent writings. Baptized into the Church of England in 1953, Spark rejected Anglo-Catholicism for Roman Ca-