By Marcel Proust
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We soon learn that it is a Saturday morning, and the action extends over only four days, to the following Tuesday. It is, we can deduce, late September: Patrick Seton tells Elsie that his non-existent divorce suit 'comes up' on 25 November, '"In a couple of months"' (p. 23: this and subsequent references are to the Penguin edition), and Matthew Finch says that it is his birthday and that he comes '"under the sign of Libra"', the zodiacal period beginning on 23 September (p. 67). There is a good deal of this kind of particularity about days and times (Patrick's appointment with Dr Lyte, for instance, is at 'half-past twelve sharp'), but the time scheme has some odd features.
38 If Ronald had written a novel, we might say, it would not have been very unlike one of Muriel Spark's. Seton's spiritualism, on the other hand, is a corrupt or debased quasireligion that insists on the dualism of the material and the spiritual worlds with its claims for 'the after-life' and 'the spirit world'. As Matthew Finch says of Patrick Seton,' "The man's a dualist. No sacramental sense"' (p. 84), and a few lines later Matthew declares, '"It shows a dualistic attitude, not to marry if you aren't going to be a priest or a religious.
Aracteristic of Muriel Spark's refusal to play the game of fiction according to the timehonoured rules. With his Scottish name and his claim to be a graduate of the University of Edinburgh, the figure of Dougal suggests that the kind of ballad in question may be the traditional Border ballad such as 'Sir Patrick Spens' or 'The Demon Lover'. These poems are typically short to the point of being elliptical, show great narrative economy, make use of laconic dialogue and stylised description, and introduce scenes of death and often of violence and the supernatural.