Original ‘Jean Brodie’ manuscript on show in Edinburgh’s Muriel Spark exhibition

The four jotters from James Thin bookshop that The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was written on.
The four jotters from James Thin bookshop that The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was written on.
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Dame Muriel Spark's fans will get the chance to see the handwritten manuscript of her most famous novel for the first time ever in a major new exhibition in her home city of Edinburgh.

The writer shot to fame with The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, which was written in just four weeks in four exercise jotters bought at James Thin’s bookshop in the capital.

The first page of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

The first page of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie.

The National Library of Scotland has secured the loan of the original manuscript from the University of Tulsa, in the United States, which acquired it several decades ago.

It is understood the manuscript, which the writer sold direct to the university, has never been on public display before.

Published in 1961, the book was adapted for the stage five years later.

The novel was turned into a film in 1969, which won Maggie Smith an Academy Award, and was then adapted into an STV series, starring Geraldine McEwan, in 1978.

The handwritten title page of the book that brought Muriel Spark international fame.

The handwritten title page of the book that brought Muriel Spark international fame.

The exhibition will feature the writer’s handbags, dresses, a portable typewriter, a ration book and personal letters.

Highlights include correspondence and betting slips relating to a racehorse she bought from the Queen, a note from Hollywood star Elizabeth Taylor telling the writer that she and Richard Burton were “great fans” and a letter from Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis offering to buy the worldwide rights to the author’s autobiography.

Born in Edinburgh in 1918 to a Jewish father and a Presbyterian mother, Spark attended James Gillespie’s High School where one of the teachers, Christina Kay, was to inspire her best known novel, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie.

She left the city aged just 19 when she met and married Sydney Oswald Spark and the couple moved to Southern Rhodesia.

She moved to London in 1944 when the marriage broke up shortly after the birth of their son, Robin. Determined to carve out a writing career, Spark took a job with the British intelligence service.

Spark, who lived with her close friend Penelope Jardine in Tuscany from the early 1970s until her death in 2006, famously refused to throw out any of her personal papers.

The archive has gradually been acquired by the National Library, one of the main organisers of a nationwide programme of centenary events over the next 12 months.

The exhibition, which opens to the public tomorrow, explores her negotiations to see her life story turned into a big-screen movie and stage musicals, the support she generated from fellow writers, such as Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene, and private correspondence with Prime Minister Harold Macmillan and US President Richard Nixon’s wife, Pat.

Curator Colin McIlroy said: “What comes through strongly from correspondence in the archive is a picture of a generous, fun loving individual which is not how she has always been portrayed.

“She did fall out with people and she knew how to stand up for herself but she comes across as a much warmer and caring person than perhaps I was expecting.

“She kept friends for decades and she was fiercely loyal. I hope this exhibition helps people to get a better understanding of the person behind the books.”