Mervyn Peake

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mervyn Laurence Peake (born July 9, 1911 in Kuling , German Empire ; died November 17, 1968 in Burford near Oxford , England ) was a British writer and illustrator . Before he became a cult author through the fantasy romance cycle Gormenghast , he was mainly valued for his book illustrations.


Mervyn Peake's grave in Burpham

Peake's father was a Christian missionary in China, where Peake also spent his early years and attended the English school in Tientsin . He then was from 1923 to 1929 at Eltham College in Kent and then studied art at Croydon College of Art in Surrey (1929) and at the Royal Academy Schools in London (1929-1933). He lived on the Channel Island of Sark until 1935 and then worked as a teacher for the Westminster School of Art in London. In 1937 he married Maeve Gilmore, with whom he had two sons and a daughter.

In 1941 Peake was called up for military service, but then retired in 1943 due to health problems. Until the end of the war he worked as an artist for the Ministry of Information . After the war he worked as a freelance artist and illustrated a number of classic books for children and young people. His first volume of poetry had already appeared in 1940, others followed, some of which he illustrated. The first novel in the Gormenghast cycle was published in 1946. In 1948 he received a grant from the Royal Literary Fund . He was a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature , whose Heinemann Award was given to him in 1951. The play, which premiered in 1957, was unsuccessful, which was a great disappointment for Peake.

In his later years, Peake showed symptoms of a degenerative nerve disease that increasingly affected his ability to work. He died in a nursing home in 1968 at the age of 57 and was buried in St. Marys Cemetery in Burpham.


The Gormenghast novels were originally designed as a series of about ten books, but were never completed due to Mervyn Peake's deteriorating state of health ( Parkinson's disease ). But the first three books that exist also give impressive testimony to the author's unique talent for designing a complete world that is both near and far from us.

The novels tell the story of Titus Groan, heir to Gormenghast Castle. In the first book, which begins with the birth of Titus Groan and ends with his first birthday, the reader is introduced to the oppressive, even gloomy atmosphere of the Gormenghast determined by the ritual . The ritual dominates the life of all castle residents, from the lowest servant to Lord Sepulchrave, the lord of the castle. Only the young, aspiring Steerpike disturbs the orderly life. His career initially overshadows that of the actual main character, Titus Groan. The growing up Titus can only develop in the second book, and then leave the castle in the third book and get to know the world.

From the Gormenghast material, Irmin Schmidt composed the opera Gormenghast (premiered in Wuppertal 1998), for which Duncan Fallowell wrote the original English-language libretto . In 2000, the novels were the basis for Gormenghast , a miniseries in 4 parts directed by Andy Wilson .


The Gormenghast novels
  • 1 Titus Groan (1946)
  • 2 Gormenghast (1950)
  • Boy in Darkness (1956, short story)
  • 3 Titus Alone (1959)
  • 4 Titus Awakes (2011, from the estate of Maeve Gilmore)
Short stories
  • Same Time, Same Place (1963)
    • German: Tomorrow at the same time. In: Larry T. Shaw (Ed.): Terror. Heyne TB # 960, 1972.
  • Danse Macabre (1963)
    • German: Totentanz. Translated by Margaret Meixner. In: John Carnell (Ed.): Panoptikum des Schreckens. Pabel (Vampir Taschenbuch # 6), 1974. Also in: Peter Haining (Ed.): Scheibenwahn. Heyne SF&F # 9037, 1999, ISBN 3-453-15602-1 .
  • The Adventures of Foot-Fruit (1969)
  • The Party at Lady Cusp-Canine's (1969)
  • For Mr Pye - An Island (1981)
  • I bought a palm tree (1981)
  • Mr Slaughterboard (1981)
  • Noah's Ark (1981)
  • The Connoisseurs (1981)
  • The House of Darkstones (1981)
  • The Touch o 'the Ash (1981)
  • The Weird Journey (1981)
  • The White Chief of the Umzimbooboo Kaffirs (1981)
  • The Wit to Woo (1981)
  • Ride a Cock-Horse and Other Nursery Rhymes (1940)
  • Shapes and Sounds (1941)
  • Rhymes without Reason (1944, with illustrations by the author)
  • The Glassblowers (1950)
  • Rhyme of the Flying Bomb (1962, with illustrations by the author)
  • Poems and Drawings (1965)
  • A Reverie of Bone: And Other Poems (1967)
  • A Book of Nonsense (1972)
  • The Craft of the Lead Pencil (1946)
Children's books
  • Captain Slaughterboard Drops Anchor (1939, with illustrations by the author)
    • English: Captain Slaughterboard drops anchor . Translated by Lisa Schons. Edited and with an afterword by Fanni Fetzer. Scheidegger & Spiess, Zurich 2017, ISBN 978-3-85881-563-7
  • Letters from a Lost Uncle from Polar Regions (1948, with illustrations by the author)
  • The Wit To Woo (first performed 1957)
Illustrated books
  • Ride a cock horse. 1940.
  • Lewis Carroll : The Hunting of the Snark : An Agony in Eight Fits. Chatto & Windus, London 1941.
  • Samuel Taylor Coleridge : The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. Chatto & Windus, London 1943.
  • Lewis Carroll : Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Continental Book Company, Stockholm & London 1946.
  • Grimm Brothers : Household Tales. Eyre & Spottiswoode, London 1946.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson : Treasure Island. Eyre & Spottiswoode, London 1949.
  • Johann R. Wyss: Swiss Family Robinson. 1949.
  • Paul Britten Austin: The wonderful life & adventures of Tom Thumb: An English fairy-story. Svenska Tryckeriaktiebolaget, Stockholm 1954/1955.
  • Aaron Judah: The Pot of Gold and Two Other Tales. Faber & Faber, London 1959.


Editions of works and illustrated books
  • The Drawings of Mervyn Peake. Introduction by Hilary Spurling . Davis-Poynter, London 1974, ISBN 0-7067-0141-0 .
  • Mervyn Peake: Writings & Drawings. Edited by Maeve Gilmore and Shelagh Johnson. Academy, London 1974.
  • Peake's progress: Selected writings and drawings of Mervyn Peake. Lane, London 1978, ISBN 0-7139-1147-6 .
  • Selected poems. Faber, London 1975, ISBN 0-571-09815-0 .
  • Boy in Darkness and Other Stories. Peter Owen, London 2007, ISBN 978-0-7206-1306-3 .
  • Collected poems. Edited with an introduction by RW Maslen. FyfieldBooks / Carcanet, Manchester 2008, ISBN 978-1-85754-971-3 .
Biographies and Monographs
  • John Batchelor: Mervyn Peake: A Biographical and Critical Exploration. Duckworth, London 1974.
  • Tanya J. Gardiner-Scott: Mervyn Peake: The Evolution of a Dark Romantic. Lang, New York et al. 1989, ISBN 0-8204-0943-X .
  • Maeve Gilmore, Sebastian Peake: Mervyn Peake: Two Lives. Vintage, London 1999, ISBN 0-09-928286-0 .
  • Sebastian Peake: A child of bliss: Growing up with Mervyn Peake. Lennard, Luton 1989, ISBN 1-85291-057-7 .
  • Gordon Smith: Mervyn Peake: A Personal Memoir. Gollancz, London 1984, ISBN 0-575-03431-9 .
  • John Watney: Mervyn Peake. Joseph, London 1976, ISBN 0-7181-1495-7 .
  • G. Peter Winnington (Ed.): Mervyn Peake: the man and his art. Peter Owen, London 2006, ISBN 0-7206-1284-5 .
  • G. Peter Winnington: Vast Alchemies: the life and work of Mervyn Peake. Peter Owen, London 2000. Expanded new edition 2009: Mervyn Peake's Vast Alchemies: The Illustrated Biography. ISBN 978-0-7206-1341-4 .
  • G. Peter Winnington: The Voice of the Heart: The Working of Mervyn Peake's Imagination. Liverpool University Press, Liverpool 2006, ISBN 1-8463-1022-9 .
  • G. Peter Winnington: Miracle enough: papers on the works of Mervyn Peake. Cambridge Scholars Press, Newcastle upon Tyne 2013, ISBN 978-1-4438-4411-6 .
  • Malcolm Yorke: Mervyn Peake: My Eyes Mint Gold: A Life. John Murray, London 2000, ISBN 0-7195-5771-2 .
  • Peake studies: dedicated to the life and work of Mervyn Peake (1911-1968). Edited by G. Peter Winnington. Orzens, 1988 ff., ISSN 1013-1191.

Web links

Commons : Mervyn Peake  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. Gormenghast. Internet Movie Database , accessed June 10, 2015 .