It’s the centenary year of the birth of Mervyn Peake! How did I not know that? In my late teens I was obsessed with his work, starting with the Gormenghast trilogy but quickly embracing his poetry and art. I haven’t looked at any of it for ages, but particularly remember the novels and the illustrations for ‘The Ancient Mariner’ with (for me) an unusual clarity.
(Page of manuscript from Titus Groan showing Fuschia and Steerpike; it seems Peake sketched his characters as he wrote; taken from the Gormenghast website which is stuffed full of information about Peake)
I feel I should mark the occasion by rereading Gormenghast, but my copies are languishing in my parents’ house in England (my parents are most long-suffering and put up with boxes of books even though really I am far too old for this sort of thing and should go and sort them out) (one of these days). However, help is at hand! There is a terrific six-part serialisation of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast novels on BBC Radio 4 at the moment: The History of Titus Groan. I think it works much better on radio than as a television series, and the cast is wonderful (it includes Paul Rhys, Miranda Richardson, James Fleet, Tamsin Greig and Mark Benton).
('Swelter with Kitchen Urchin', pen-and-ink drawing, also from the Gormenghast website; Swelter is practically engulfing the child)
There’s also a programme about Peake from his children’s perspective: 'A Hundred Years of Mervyn Peake', and an exhibition at the British Library, The Worlds of Mervyn Peake; I am most disappointed that I won't be able to see it.