Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Muriel Spark, fully Dame Muriel Sarah Camberg Spark

Scottish Author and Novelist

"It is impossible to repent of love. The sin of love does not exist."

"Parents learn a lot from their children about coping with life."

"The word "education" comes from the root e from ex, out, and duco, I lead. It means a leading out. To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil's soul."

"It is difficult for people of advanced years to start remembering they must die. It is best to form the habit while young."

"It is impossible to persuade a man who does not disagree but smiles."

"Beware the ire of the calm."

"If you want to concentrate deeply on some problem, and especially some piece of writing or paper-work, you should acquire a cat. Alone with the cat in the room where you work...the cat will invariably get up on your desk and settle placidly under the desk lamp. The light from a desk lamp...gives a cat great satisfaction. The cat will settle down and be serene, with a serenity that passes all understanding. And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give your mind back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence alone is enough. The effect of a cat on your concentration is remarkable, very mysterious."

"Sex is a mystery, and I often think of it from that point of view. I wish it weren’t so much of an illusion. Sex in a relationship never lasts as long as people think, but one’s interest in sex never goes. I know a sexy man from a non-sexy man, I can tell you. I have not lost the power of sizing up. I don’t want people for myself, but there is a sexual way of looking at life and I don’t think one can not think sexually."

"Final perseverance is the doctrine that wins the eternal victory in small things as in great."

"Being in love is something like poetry. Certainly, you can analyze and expound its various senses and intentions, but there is always something left over, mysteriously hovering between music and meaning."

"Loitering with Intent: You must understand that everything happens for an artist, all time is redeemed, nothing is ever lost and wonders never cease."

"Be on the alert to recognize your prime at whatever time of your life it may occur."

"The vows of love-passion are like confessions obtained under torture. Erotic love is a madness... state of mental imbalance."

"I advocate the arts of satire and of ridicule. And I see no other living art form for the future. Ridicule is the only honourable weapon we have left."

"Art and religion first; then philosophy; lastly science. That is the order of the great subjects of life, that's their order of importance."

"Allow me, in conclusion, to congratulate you warmly upon your sexual intercourse, as well as your singing."

"All my pupils are the crŠme de la crŠme. Give me a girl of an impressionable age, and she is mine for life."

"After thirty years' hostile fellowship with Collie, of course she did quite well understand that collie had a habit of skipping several stages in the logical sequence of her thoughts and would utter apparently disconnected statements, especially when confused by unfamiliar subject or the presence of a man"

"Being over seventy is like being engaged in a war. All our friends are going or gone and we survive amongst the dead and the dying as on a battlefield."

"Everyone likes to visit a nun, it provides a spiritual sensation, a catharsis to go home with, especially if the nun clutches the bars of the grille."

"Give me a girl at an impressionable age and she is mine for life."

"For those who like that sort of thing, said Miss Brodie in her best Edinburgh voice, That is the sort of thing they like."

"Flattening their scorn beneath the chariot wheels of her superiority."

"Godfrey's wife Charmian sat with her eyes closed, attempting to put her thoughts into alphabetical order which Godfrey had told her was better than no order at all, since she now had grasp of neither logic nor chronology."

"For concentration you need a cat... And the tranquility of the cat will gradually come to affect you, sitting there at your desk, so that all the excitable qualities that impede your concentration compose themselves and give you back the self-command it has lost. You need not watch the cat all the time. Its presence is enough."

"Her lips are slightly parted: she, whose lips are usually pressed together with the daily disapprovals of the accountants' office where she has worked continually, except for the months of illness, since she was 18, that is to say, for 16 years and some months. Her lips, when she does not speak or eat, are normally pressed together like the ruled line of a balance sheet, marked straight with her old-fashioned lipstick, a final and judging mouth, a precision instrument."

"He looked as if he would murder me and he did."

"Her sentences march under a harsh sun that bleaches color from them but bestows a peculiar, invigorating, Pascalian clarity."

"I am putting old heads on your young shoulders, Miss Brodie had told them at that time, and all my pupils are the crŠme de la crŠme."

"I met her [Maria Stopes] at one of our meetings and knew she disliked me intensely on sight. I was young, pretty and she had totally succumbed to the law of gravity without attempting to do a thing about it. She was demented at this stage of her life. I used to think it a pity that her mother rather than she had not thought of birth control."

"I am a hoarder of two things: documents and trusted friends."

"If you can?t read on after page four or five, then the novel?s no damn good."

"I'm old-fashioned beyond my years."

"I never trust the airlines from those countries where the pilots believe in the afterlife. You are safer when they don't."

"I see no reason to keep silent about my enjoyment of the sound of my own voice as I work."

"I often wonder if we were all characters in one of God's dreams."

"I used to think it a pity that her mother rather than she had not thought of birth control."

"I wouldn't take the Pope too seriously. He's a Pole first, a pope second, and maybe a Christian third."

"If I had my life over again I should form the habit of nightly composing myself to thoughts of death. I would practice, as it were, the remembrance of death. There is no other practice which so intensifies life. Death, when it approaches, ought not to take one by surprise. It should be part of the full expectancy of life. Without an ever-present sense of death life is insipid. You might as well live on the whites of eggs."

"If we don?t look lively, she says, they will be taking over the homes and the children, and sitting about having chats while we go and fight to defend them and work to keep them. They won?t be content with equal rights only. Next thing they?ll want the upper hand, mark my words. Diamond earrings, I?ve read in the paper."

"I think sitting in the sun is justifying your existence."

"In Piero?s time there was great theological controversy. The Renaissance questioned everything. What was the nature of the Virgin? Was she just an ordinary woman or was she of the divine essence? Questions about spirit and substance were argued endlessly. What is spirit? What is substance? Today we know more about substance than ever before, but the more we know the more it is recognized that we know nothing. Five hundred years have taught us nothing new about the life of the spirit. Piero della Francesca, like all great artists, did not accept any dichotomy between spirit and matter. There is no spirit without substance; the whole of nature is impregnated with spiritual life. His Madonna del Parto, one of the few pregnant Madonnas, is both human and touched with divine revelation. It is a work that reposes in its own mystery: Life emerging into the life of the world, Light into its light."

"It is well, when in difficulties, to say never a word, neither black nor white. Speech is silver but silence is golden."

"It never really occurred to her that literary men, if they like women at all, do not want literary women but girls."

"It was a gusty day, and from the windows of Caroline's top-floor flat, only the sky was visible with its little hurrying clouds. It was a day when being indoors was meaningful, wasting an afternoon in superior confidences with a friend before the two-barred electric heater."

"It?s all right at the time, and it?s all right before says Lise, but the problem is afterwards. That is, if you?re not an animal. Most of the time, afterwards is pretty sad."

"It's a whydunnit in q-sharp major and it has a message: never talk to the sort of girls that you wouldn't leave lying about in your drawing-room for the servants to pick up."

"Lisa Brooke died in her seventy-third year, after her second stroke. She had taken nine months to die, and in fact it was only a year before her death that, feeling rather ill, she had decided to reform her life, and reminding herself how attractive she still was, offered up the new idea, her celibacy, to the Lord to whom no gift whatsoever is unacceptable."

"Men used to complain that I was only half there and wasn?t listening. But I was listening. Sometimes I reflect on what people are saying, and it gives me an absent appearance."

"Most people who write about Venice do not tell you what they think of it but how they feel. Venice is a city not to inspire thought but sensations. I think it is something to do with the compound of air, water, architecture and acoustics. Like the effect of these elements on the ear, there are acoustics of the heart. One can think in Venice, but not about Venice. One absorbs the marvellous place, often while thinking about something else."