Complete Nonsense

MERVYN PEAKE was one of the best-loved illustrators of the twentieth century, and author of the celebrated Titus books: Titus Groan (1946), Gormenghast (1950) and Titus Alone (1959). Born in China in 1911, he was educated at Tientsin Grammar School, Eltham College in Kent and the Royal Academy Schools. From 1935 he taught life drawing at the Westminster School of Art. After being called up in 1940 he underwent military training, but was invalided out of the army following a breakdown in 1942. He worked for a while as an official War Artist, then in 1945 travelled through Germany recording the after-effects of the war, making drawings of Nazi war criminals, POWs and the concentration camp at Bergen-Belsen. In 1946 he went with his family to live on the island of Sark, returning in 1949 to teach life drawing again, this time at the Central School of Art. He was awarded the Heinemann Prize by the Royal Society of Literature in 1951 for his novel Gormenghast and poetry collection The Glassblowers. His play The Wit to Woo was performed at the Arts Theatre in 1957 but did not prove a critical success, and he suffered a second breakdown after its failure. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1958, and died ten years later.

R.W. MASLEN is Senior Lecturer at the University of Glasgow. His publications include editions of Mervyn Peake’s Collected Poems (Carcanet, 2008) and Sir Philip Sidney’s Apology for Poetry (2002), as well as books on Elizabethan prose fiction and Shakespeare’s comedies. He has also written a number of essays on Renaissance literature and twentieth-century fantasy.

G. PETER WINNINGTON is the author of an acclaimed biography of Peake, Mervyn Peake’s Vast Alchemies, and of The Voice of the Heart: The Working of Mervyn Peake’s Imagination, a major critical study of Peake’s oeuvre. The leading Peake scholar, he has also edited much of Peake’s previously unpublished writing, printing it in the periodical Peake Studies (, which he edits.