Mervyn Laurence Peake was an English modernist writer, artist, poet and illustrator. He is best known for what are usually referred to as the Gormenghast books, though the Titus books would be more accurate: the three works that exist were the beginning of what Peake conceived as a lengthy cycle, following his protagonist Titus Groan from cradle to grave, but Peake's untimely death prevented completion of the cycle, which is now commonly but erroneously referred to as a trilogy. They are sometimes compared to the work of his older contemporary J.R.R. Tolkien, but his surreal fiction was influenced by his early love for Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson rather than Tolkien's studies of mythology and philology.
Peake also wrote poetry and literary nonsense in verse form, short stories for adults and children ('Letters from a Lost Uncle') , stage and radio plays, and Mr Pye, a relatively tightly-structured novel in which God implicitly mocks the evangelical pretensions and cosy world-view of the eponymous hero.
Peake first made his reputation as a painter and illustrator during the 1930s and 1940s, when he lived in London, and he was commissioned to produce portraits of well-known people. A collection of these drawings is still in the possession of his family. Although he gained little popular success in his lifetime, his work was highly respected by his peers, and his friends included Dylan Thomas and Graham Greene. His works are now included in the collections of the National Portrait Gallery and the Imperial War Museum.
Simple, seldom and sad
Alone on the Halibut Hills
A freckled and frivolous cake there was
That sailed upon a pointless sea,
Or any lugubrious lake there was
In a manner emphatic and free.