How verse drew a blank with Muriel Spark

MURIEL SPARK, regarded by many as the finest novelist writing in English today, had a more congenial time at the Royal Society of Literature last night than she did at the Poetry Society when younger, writes Will Bennett.

Mrs Spark, whose visit to Britain coincides with the publication on Monday of her autobiography Curriculum Vitae, had agreed to speak to the society to thank it for making her a Companion of Literature. She read a passage from her autobiography describing her time working for the Poetry Society as editor of the Poetry Review shortly after the Second World War. She had not found it easy to cope with the large but tender egos of the then members and had fallen out with Dr Marie Stopes, the birth control pioneer, who was then vice-president of the society. 'I used to think it was a pity that her mother rather than she had not thought of birth control,' she writes in her autobiography.

Afterwards she advised aspiring writers to write as if they were penning a letter to a close friend. 'I have a definite sense of confiding as I am writing. If someone interrupts me it is like interrupting a confidence.'

(Photograph omitted)