Monday, February 12, 2007

Pour on petrol - fire burns faster

The Hermeneutic of Continuity has sad news about the number of abortions carried out in the United Kingdom in January 2007. Up to a record high. Father Finigan provides a useful "translation" of the press release issued by Marie Stopes International, which carries out most of the abortions in Britain.

Marie Stopes (1880 - 1958), after whom the organisation was named, opened the UK's first family planning clinic in Holloway, North London in 1921.

The late Catholic novelist, Dame Muriel Spark (1918-2006) came into contact with Marie Stopes in the late 1940s before Spark became a Catholic. Both did not like each other, might be an understatement.

The New Criterion weblog [] described the relationship thus:

"In 1947, she [Spark] became editor of Poetry Review, the journal of the Poetry Society, where she stayed until 1949. It was a difficult job. Spark took the post partly because she was promised a flat. She never got the flat.

But she did earn the abiding animosity of certain members of the Poetry Society who could not understand why she hesitated to print their poetic effusions.

There was, for example, Robert Armstrong, "a physically and morally twisted, small, dark fellow," who was on the executive committee of the society. Spark published a poem of his which had been accepted by the previous editor, but she neglected to mention his name on the front cover. This brought an outraged letter from him on his business letterhead, H. M. Inspector of Taxes, Willesdon District. A battle ensued that ended only with Spark's departure from the Poetry Review.

Spark reserved some of her most delicious malice for another opponent of her innovations at the Poetry Society, Dr. Marie Stopes. Stopes, famous for her proselytizing activities on behalf of birth control, abominated any hint of experimentation in the realm of poetry. She instantly became Spark's bitter enemy and campaigned vigorously to have her removed as editor.

Stopes often led meetings of the society, "literally shaking her fist and making inflammatory, wild pronouncements." Among other things, she wrote to ask if it was true that Spark's husband had divorced her. Spark's reply begins: "I have received your outrageously impudent letter. . . . My private affairs are no concern of yours and your malicious interest in them seems to me to be most unwholesome."

In Curriculum Vitae, Spark eviscerates her. "I met [Stopes] at one of our meetings and knew she disliked me intensely on sight. I was young and pretty and she had totally succumbed to the law of gravity without attempting to do a thing about it." Spark concludes wistfully, "I used to think it a pity that her mother rather than she had not thought of birth control."

Spark satirised Stopes in a number of her novels.

Stopes is satirised, in fact, in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, as one of the Edinburgh spinsters leaning over a grocer’s counter and saying, ‘I tell you this, Mr. Geddes, birth control is the only answer to the problem of the working class. A free issue to every household’.

Other depictions can be found in Memento Mori and some of her other novels.