Mervyn Peake: “The Earth Swirls Down”

Photographer Unknown, (The Earth Swirls Down)

“The Earth swirls down through the ominous moons of preconsidered generations.”  

—Mervyn Peake

Born in July of 1911, Mervyn Laurence Peake was an English writer, poet, and illustrator. He is best known for what are usually referred to as the “Gormenghast” series of books. The three works were part of what Peake conceived as a lengthy cycle, the completion of which was prevented by his death. Sometimes compared to the work of his older contemporary J. R.R. Tolkien, Peake’s surreal fiction was influenced by his childhood love for Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson rather than mythology and the structure of languages. 

Peake also wrote poetry and literary nonsense in verse form, and short stories for adults and children, including the 1948 “Letters from a Lost Uncle”. He also wrote stage and radio plays, and in 1953 “Mr. Pye”, a relatively tightly-structured novel in which God implicitly mocks the evangelical pretensions and cosy world-view of the hero.

During the 1930s and 1940s when he lived in London, Peake made his reputation as a painter and illustrator, receiving commissions for portraits. At the end of World War II, he received commissions by newspapers for illustrations depicting war scenes. 

Peake gained little popular public success during his lifetime; however, his work was highly respected by his peers and friends which included Welsh poet and writer Dylan Thomas and English novelist Graham Greene. Peake’s works are now included in the National Portrait Gallery in London, the Imperial War Museum in London, and the National Archives of the United Kingdom. In 2008, the British daily newspaper “The Times” named Peake among the list of ”The Fifty Greatest British Writers Since 1945”.

One thought on “Mervyn Peake: “The Earth Swirls Down”

  1. Believe it or not, i had not heard of Mervyn Peake nor of Gormenghast and i thank you for informing me. I also think the photo is WONDER FULL!

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