Mervyn Peake

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Mervyn Laurence Peake (9 July 191117 November 1968) was an English novelist, artist, poet and illustrator. He is best known for what are usually referred to as the Gormenghast books, though the Titus books would be more accurate.


  • Gormenghast, that is, the main massing of the original stone, taken by itself would have displayed a certain ponderous architectural quality were it possible to have ignored the circumfusion of those mean dwellings that swarmed like an epidemic around its outer walls.
  • This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven.
    • Titus Groan ch.1
  • Withdrawn and ruinous it broods in umbra: the immemorial masonry: the towers, the tracks. Is all corroding? No. Through an avenue off spires a zephyr floats; a bird whistles; a freshet bears away from a choked river.
    • Gormenghast (Lines from opening page)
  • The paper is breathless
    Under the hand
    And the pencil is poised
    Like a warlock's wand.
    • Poem in The Glassblowers (1950)
  • There is a kind of laughter that sickens the soul. Laughter when it is out of control: when it screams and stamps its feet, and sets the bells jangling in the next town. Laughter in all its ignorance and cruelty. Laughter with the seed of Satan in it. It tramples upon shrines; the belly-roarer. It roars, it yells, it is delirious: and yet it is as cold as ice. It has no humour. It is naked noise and naked malice.
    • "Boy in Darkness," Sometime, Never (1956)
  • Each day I live in a glass room
    Unless I break it with the thrusting
    Of my senses and pass through
    The splintered walls to the great landscape.
    • "Each Day I Live in a Glass Room," A Reverie of Bone and other Poems (1967)
  • But we have seen it in the air,
    A fairy like a William Pear
    • Poem O Here it is
  • O'er seas that have no beaches
    To end their waves upon,
    I floated with twelve peaches,
    A sofa and a swan.
    • Poem O'er seas that have no beaches
  • I saw all of a sudden
    No sign of any ship.
    • Poem O'er seas that have no beaches
  • It's not their fault if, in the heat
    Of their transactions, I repeat
    It's not their fault if vampires meet
    And gurgle in their spats.
    • Poem The men in bowler hats are sweet
  • When Uncle Jake
    Became a snake
    He never found it out;
    And so as no one mentions it
    One sees him still about.
    • Poem Uncles and aunts
  • Leave the stronger
    and the lesser
    things to me!
    Lest that conger
    named Vanessa
    who is longer
    than a dresser
    visits thee.
    • Poem Vanessa
  • To live at all is miracle enough.
    • Poem of the same title (also on Peake's tombstone)

About Mervyn Peake[edit]

  • Mervyn Peake is a finer poet than Edgar Allan Poe, and he is therefore able to maintain his world of fantasy brilliantly through three novels. It (Gormenghast trilogy) is a very, very great work … a classic of our age.
  • Words were shapes and sounds to him. He saw them, as if he were listening to an unknown language, in shapes.
    • Maeve Gilmore (his widow), Introduction to A Book of Nonsense, p. 10
  • You are the first person who has been able to illustrate the book adequately since Tenniel, though I still argue as I think I argued with you years ago that your Alice is a little bit too much of a gamin.
  • [Peake's books] are actual additions to life; they give, like certain rare dreams, sensations we never had before, and enlarge our conception of the range of possible experience.

External links[edit]

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