Saturday, June 05, 2010

Newman: Radioactivity from the Page

The late novelist Muriel Spark (1918 - 2006) had a special regard for Cardinal John Henry Newman.

In 1961 Vincent F Biehl was engaged in editing Newman`s letters for a definitive edition. He decided to edit a selection of Newman`s sermons which was eventually published in 1964 as Realisations.

Biehl asked Spark to write the foreword

She wrote:

In the Foreword she also records her own personal debt to Newman:

As regards her own personal conversion to Catholicism, she wrote in her Autobiography Curriculum Vitae:

`When I am asked about my conversion, why I became a Catholic, I can only say the answer is too easy and too difficult,...The simple explanation is that I felt the Roman Catholic faith corresponded to what I had always known and believed; there was no blinding revelation in my case. The more difficult explanation would involve the step by step building up of a conviction; as Newman himself pointed out, when asked about his own conversion, it was not a thing one could propound “between the soup and the fish” at a dinner party.’

In her novel, Loitering with Intent (1981), she drew on her experiences as a penniless writer in postwar London. It is framed as a memoir, as Fleur Talbot, the celebrated writer, looking back.

In the novel her two literary models of Autobiography are: Benvenuto Cellini, the 16th-century goldsmith and Cardinal Newman.