Michael Moorcock's biography of Mervyn Peake — excerpt

Matt sez, "Michael Moorcock agreed to let me post the introduction to his work in progress, a memoir of Mervyn Peake, author of the "Gormenghast" books and his wife Maeve. It's going to be called "Lovers: Mervyn and Maeve Peake. A Personal Memoir." As a fan of both Moorcock and Peake, this is a big thing for me, as I suspect it will be for many other readers." Peake completely torqued my head around backwards when I was about 14.

The Peake parties were lush and rich but never self-conscious. The PreRaphaelite enthusiasms of the 60s, which brought Melvyn Bragg into a room dressed as if for the set of Isodora, which he was then writing, in black velvet, with silver rings, married well with the dark Fitrovian colours of Mervyn's canvasses, though Peake had no particular enthusiasm for the previous century. His preference was for the present, for Soho and the post-war world of eccentric Londoners whose portraits he collected in what he called his head-hunting sessions. At this stage of his life, however, because it reflected the concerns of his generation, his painting was somewhat out of fashion. England had entered one of her uncertain, self-examining periods of nostalgia, looking back to the fin-de-siecle and Edwardian social certainties.

Mervyn was dramatically handsome and his wife Maeve was dramatically beautiful. They had been a remarkable couple for years, though they had not mixed a great deal with the fashionable bohemians of their day. They had spent quite a lot of time away from London, in Sark in particular. They had come to prefer each other's company. Although an accomplished painter, she had put aside her own work for the most part, concentrating on her children. He drew her and painted her a lot. She is there in everything he did. He wrote her poems when he was taken into the army during the second world war, he produced fictional versions of her in his Titus Groan, which he wrote when he was drafted into the army. On leave, he would draw her and the children. He was an inexpert soldier. He had a mild breakdown, which kept him away from overseas conflict. Eventually, he was commissioned as a war artist. His pictures of Maeve are not exaggerated any more than the poems for and about her, of which he wrote so many


(Thanks, Matt!)