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Mervyn Peake (Mervyn Laurence Peake) Biography

(1911–68), (Mervyn Laurence Peake), Titus Groan, Gormenghast, Titus Alone, Mr Pye, Boy in Darkness, The Glassblowers

gormenghast world war artist


British novelist, poet, and artist, born in China, the son of a medical missionary, educated at the Royal Academy Schools in London. Originally an illustrator, art teacher, and writer of verse and stories for children, Peake became a war artist in the Second World War; his experiences of the horrors of war and a visit to Belsen in 1945 deeply affected him. His best-known work is his Gormenghast trilogy (Titus Groan, 1946; Gormenghast, 1950; and Titus Alone, 1959), a Gothic fantasy which chronicles the life of Titus, 77th Earl of Groan, within the vast castle of Gormenghast. Reflecting the traditional landscape of the Gothic romance and peopled by a gallery of grotesques and eccentrics, Gormenghast is a closed world bound by ritual and threatened by a destructive evil. There are also implications of anti-clericalism and a dualistic view of good and evil, which are more clearly evident in Mr Pye (1953) and in the sinister novella Boy in Darkness (1956). Peake's verse includes The Glassblowers (1952), The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb (1962), and the posthumously published A Book of Nonsense (1972). His illustrations for his own books, and those for Coleridge's The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1943) and Stevenson's Treasure Island (1949), and his various exhibitions established his reputation as an artist. The memoir by Peake's widow Maeve Gilmour, A World Away (1970), describes their life together and the struggle in his later years against Parkinson's disease.

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