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Eaten by Owls

Michael Wood: Mervyn Peake, 26 January 2012

Peake’s Progress: Selected Writings and Drawings of Mervyn Peake 
edited by Maeve Gilmore.
British Library, 576 pp., £25, June 2011, 978 0 7123 5834 7
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The Illustrated Gormenghast Trilogy 
by Mervyn Peake.
Vintage, 943 pp., £25, June 2011, 978 0 09 952854 8
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Titus Awakes 
by Maeve Gilmore and Mervyn Peake.
Vintage, 288 pp., £7.99, June 2011, 978 0 09 955276 5
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Complete Nonsense 
by Mervyn Peake.
Fyfield, 242 pp., £14.95, July 2011, 978 1 84777 087 5
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A Book of Nonsense 
by Mervyn Peake.
Peter Owen, 87 pp., £9.99, June 2011, 978 0 7206 1361 2
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... Mervyn Peake, the son of a medical missionary, was born just over a hundred years ago in Kiang-Hsi Province, China. The family moved back to England when he was 12. He attended the Royal Academy and served in the British army in the first years of the Second World War. He suffered from severe mental illness periodically from that time on, spending various spells in a series of remarkably grim-sounding institutions, and was overtaken by Parkinson’s disease ...

At the National Portrait Gallery

Peter Campbell: Wyndham Lewis, 11 September 2008

... he was also a writer. English painters have written more than most. Some, like Blake, David Jones, Mervyn Peake and Michael Ayrton (who did a portrait of Lewis and dust jackets for his late novels), have created literary and visual worlds that overlap. Lewis, despite being a novelist, was more like Sickert or Hogarth, who used words to fight critical ...


Terry Eagleton, 28 April 1994

What a Carve Up! 
by Jonathan Coe.
Viking, 512 pp., £15.50, April 1994, 0 670 85362 3
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... turrets and corridors, its drunken butler and freight of family horrors. It is as though Mervyn Peake has intersected with Margaret Drabble, as an age of instantly consumable time is incongruously overlaid with a lineage of furtive doings in the shrubbery and insane aunts raving in solitary bedrooms. A carve-up of contemporary Britain, What a ...

British Worthies

David Cannadine, 3 December 1981

The Directory of National Biography, 1961-1970 
edited by E.T. Williams and C.S. Nicholls.
Oxford, 1178 pp., £40, October 1981, 0 19 865207 0
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... makes clear, is to work harder and live longer than your rivals and contemporaries. The wayward Mervyn Peake, living on ‘this desperate edge of now’, or the mercurial evanescence of a Jim Clark or a Joe Orton, counts for little in the scales of achievement when weighed against such elephantine stamina and titanic endurance. This book ...

Stories of Black and White

Michael Wood, 4 October 1984

In Love and Trouble: Stories of Black Women 
by Alice Walker.
Women’s Press, 138 pp., £7.50, September 1984, 0 7043 2852 6
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Nights at the Circus 
by Angela Carter.
Chatto, 295 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 7011 3932 3
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by Joan Didion.
Chatto, 234 pp., £8.95, September 1984, 0 7011 2890 9
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... diction. It is a book full of echoes of other writers, Balzac, Blake, Sade, Baudelaire, Goethe, Mervyn Peake, Wallace Stevens and a host of forgotten describers of circuses, of Russia and of dear old smoky London, and for a while it seems lost in the throng. ‘Lor’ love you, sir,’ it opens in stage Cockney, introducing us to Fevvers, the famous ...

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