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Mervyn Peake


Mervyn Peake was born in 1911 in Kuling, China, where his parents were missionaries. The family returned to England in 1923 and, after school, Peake started studying art but also started writing verse. In the 1930s he moved to Sark and retained his affection for the island all his life. He was subsequently offered a post at Westminster School of Art, where he taught part-time for the rest of his life and where he met Maeve Gilmore whom he married in 1936. During this period he was painting and drawing, doing theatrical design and publishing his first book – a children’s story.

In 1942 he was called up by the army but was a very ineffectual soldier and was given an honourable discharge after a nervous breakdown. He then became a war artist and visited Continental Europe, including Belsen. His wife maintains that this changed him substantially. During this period he wrote the first of the books in the Gormenghast Trilogy, Titus Groan. After it was turned down by Chatto and Windus, Graham Greene picked it up for Eyre and Spottiswoode but this work, like most of his subsequent works, had comparatively limited commercial success during his lifetime. He turned to writing plays but had equally limited success. The effect told on his health and, for the last ten years of his life, he suffered from both depression and physical ill health. He produced little new work during this period, though there were notes for a fourth book in the Gormenghast Trilogy. He died in 1968. Since his death his work – particularly the Gormenghast Trilogy – has been recognised and the Gormenghast Trilogy is now considered one of the masterpieces of post-war English literature.

Books about Mervyn Peake

John Batchelor: Mervyn Peake: A Biographical and Critical Exploration
Maeve Gilmore: A World Away: A Memoir of Mervyn Peake
Sebastian Peake: A Child of Bliss: Growing Up with Mervyn Peake
Gordon Smith: Mervyn Peake: A Personal Memoir
John Watney: Mervyn Peake
G Peter Winnington:, Vast Alchemies: the Life and Works of Mervyn Peake
Malcolm Yorke: Mervyn Peake: My Eyes Mint Gold – A Life

Other links

Official site
Mervyn Peake
Who was Mervyn Peake?
Sark and Mervyn Peake
Peake Studies
Science-Fiction and Fantasy Books by Mervyn Peake

His art

A Profusion of Peake (covers of his books)
Mervyn Peake (some of his art work)
Mervyn Peake, War Artist
Mervyn Laurence Peake (his self-portrait)

On Titus Awakes

Titus Awakes (fragments of the fourth book of the Gormenghast Trilogy)
New Gormenghast novel found in attic
Titus Groan rises again!
Gormenghast sequel due, completed by Mervyn Peake’s widow
Random House to publish final Gormenghast book


1939 Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor
1941 Shapes and Sounds
1944 Rhymes without Reason
1946 Craft of the Lead Pencil
1946 Titus Groan
1948 Letters from a Lost Uncle
1949 The Drawings of Mervyn Peake
1950 Gormenghast
1950 The Glassblowers
1953 Mr Pye
1954 Figures of Speech
1956 Boy in Darkness
1959 Titus Alone
1962 The Rhyme of the Flying Bomb
1965 Poems and Drawings
1967 Reverie of Bone and Other Poems
1972 A Book of Nonsense
1972 Selected Poems
1975 Twelve Poems
1976 Boy In Darkness
1979 Peake’s Progress
1993 Ten Poems
1995 Eleven Poems
1996 The Cave
2008 Collected Poems
2011 Titus Awakes
2011 Complete Nonsense