Muriel Spark, the celebrated author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and many other black-humoured philosophical novels, was a frequent visitor to Inverleith in her childhood.
Selected by Marian McIntyre
(Reprinted from The Inverleith News , Autumn 2002)
Muriel Spark, the celebrated author of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and many other black-humoured philosophical novels, was a frequent visitor to Inverleith in her childhood. She writes in her autobiography Curriculum Vitae of her visits in the late 1920s and 1930s (1993 edition, Penguin Books, pp. 69 and 96).
‘What good times Frances and I had together! … At weekends we roamed the botanical gardens, or went for walks at Puddocky (a puddock is a frog) beside the Water of Leith, then home for tea. We buried a document – I think it was a jointly written story – under an ancient tree in the botanical gardens. But what exactly it was, and why we buried it, I can’t remember, except that I know it had a lot of the Celtic Twilight culture woven into it.’
‘For Hallowe’en, Frances and I made a witches’ room out of one of the basement rooms of her house at 8 Howard Place. I stayed overnight on occasions like this when we had something to celebrate or some parts in a play to rehearse. Hallowe’en was celebrated by a roaring fire in the handsome old fireplace of a room which must once have been a large kitchen or servants’ hall in that thrilling house next door to Robert Louis Stevenson’s birthplace (which was No. 10*). I was familiar not only with No. 8 but also with the Stevenson house, by our time a museum. But I have also seen the house in my mature years. I think it altogether charming, possibly mid-Victorian, a town house in a row. Of course it had nothing of the more impressive architecture of Adam, the eighteenth-century lines of Stevenson’s later home at Heriot Row, but to me, and to Frances, it was full of mystery and stimulants to the imagination such as the equivalent, next door, of the old room where, with the lights out, before a flickering fire, we were Hallowe’en witches’.
*Miss Spark’s memory of the house number and architectural detail appear to be a little hazy!