Mervyn Peake (1911-1968)

...Rottcodd was unmarried. An aloofness and even a nervousness was apparent on first acquaintance and the ladies held a peculiar horror for him. His, then, was an ideal existence, living alone day and night in a long loft. Yet occasionally, for one reason or another, a servant or a member of the household would make an unexpected appearance and startle him with some question appertaining to ritual, and then the dust would settle once more in the hall and on the soul of Mr. Rottcodd.

--from The Gormenghast Trilogy

Relatively neglected during his lifetime, the English artist, poet, playwright, and novelist Mervyn Laurence Peake, b. July 9, 1911, d. Nov. 17, 1968, gained posthumous popularity for his fantastic Gormenghast trilogy, comprising Titus Groan (1946), Gormenghast (1950), and Titus Alone (1959). Set in an imaginary kingdom ruled according to ancient ritual, the novels trace the hero Titus's quest for freedom in pages--illustrated by Peake--that are marked by eerily beautiful imagery. Peake's Selected Poems were posthumously published in 1972.

Bibliography: Batchelor, John W., Mervyn Peake: A Biographical and Critical Exploration (1979); Gardiner-Scott, Tanya J., Mervyn Peake: The Evolution of a Dark Romantic (1989); Gilmore, Maeve, A World Away: A Memoir of Mervyn Peake (1970); Smith, Gordon, Mervyn Peake: A Personal Memoir (1985); Watney, John, Mervyn Peake (1976).

Text Copyright © 1993 Grolier Incorporated

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