'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie', first edition, 1961.
In December 1960 Muriel Spark returned to her parents' home in Edinburgh.
From a four-week outpouring of creativity, she completed one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.
Four notebooks in the Muriel Spark archive at the National Library contain the entire first draft.
Drawing on her own school experiences in 1930s Edinburgh, Spark fashions a literary masterpiece around the central figure of charismatic schoolteacher Miss Jean Brodie.
Announcing 'I am in my prime', Miss Brodie introduces to her girls 'the order of the great subjects of life … art and religion first, then philosophy; lastly science'. But while she is 'an Edinburgh Festival all on her own', alongside her lessons on culture are her admiration for Mussolini and fascism.
Sandy Stranger recognises the sinister side of Miss Brodie's attempts to mould her pupils in her own image and make them 'the crème de la crème'.
As one of 'the Brodie set', Sandy notes: 'She thinks she is Providence … she thinks she is the God of Calvin', and sets in motion the betrayal of her teacher.
Spark's novel draws on the influence of Robert Burns, James Hogg, Mary Shelley and Robert Louis Stevenson.
Portrayals of Miss Brodie
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie remains Spark’s most popular work, and has inspired numerous versions on stage, screen, radio, and television. The novel was adapted for the stage by Jay Presson Allen, and opened at Wyndham's Theatre in London's West End on 6 May 1966, starring Vanessa Redgrave as Miss Brodie. Redgrave writes to Spark, saying 'Jean Brodie and the play seem to enthral the audience'.
The most famous performance is that of Maggie Smith in the 1969 film, also adapted by Jay Presson Allen. Smith won an Oscar for her portrayal of the Edinburgh schoolteacher. Read the telegram from Maggie Smith
In 1978 Scottish Television broadcast a seven-part series adapted from 'The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie', starring Geraldine McEwan in the central role. Spark stated that 'Geraldine McEwan really got the essence of it, probably because she had more time and space in it. She has more scope to express herself'.