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THOMAS LOVE PEACOCK

1785-1866
English

"But still my fancy wanders free
Through that which might have been"

Thomas Love Peacock was born on the 18 October 1785 in Weymouth, Dorset. He was the only son of Samuel Peacock, a glass merchant, and his wife, Sarah Love.

In 1791, Peacock went with his mother to live with her family at Chertsey, and attended school at Englefield Green. His formal schooling in Greek, Latin, and French ended before he was thirteen, and he was entirely self-educated from then on. Throughout his life he read widely in five languages. With the help of a modest inheritance from his father, Peacock was able to live as a man of letters. He worked for the British East India Company for much of his life.

In February 1800, Peacock became a clerk with the Ludlow Fraser Company, who were merchants in the City of London, and lived with his Mother on the firm’s premises. He left this job in 1806 and spent the year undertaking a solitary walking tour of Scotland.

He returned to Chertsey in 1807 to live at his mother's house. He was briefly engaged to Fanny Faulkner, but it was broken off through the interference of her relations. In the winter of 1808-09, he served as a secretary on board H.M.S. Venerable.

In 1812 Peacock published The Philosophy of Melancholy, and in the same year made the acquaintance of Percy Bysshe Shelley. Peacock became a close friend of Shelley  and throughout the winter of 1814–15, he visited Shelley and his mistress, Mary Godwin (later Mary Shelley), at their London lodgings on a daily basis.

Peacock wrote Headlong Hall in 1815, and it was published the following year. Melincourt, Nightmare Abbey and Rhododaphne were also written around this time.  Peacock’s novels are satirical, each with the same basic setting - characters at a table discussing and criticising the philosophical opinions of the day.

In 1820, Peacock married Jane Griffith and they went on to have three daughters. One of them, Mary Ellen, married the novelist George Meredith as her second husband in August 1849. In 1826, Jane Peacock suffered a breakdown at the death of their third daughter. Never fully recovering, she was a mental invalid until her death.

Peacock published Maid Marian in 1822, four years after he began writing it.  In 1829 came The Misfortunes of Elphin, and in 1831 Crotchet Castle, the most mature and thoroughly characteristic of all his works.

Peacock's mother died in 1833 and he lost interest in writing for a long period. Peacock spent much of his final years in his library, or in his garden, and seldom left his home at Lower Halliford, near Chertsey. His last novel, Gryll Grange, a satire on the mid-Victorian age, was published in 1860 and is considered by some to be his masterpiece.

Wordsworth Editions publish three classic Gothic novels: Horace Walpole's The Castle of Otranto, Thomas Love Peacock's Nightmare Abbey and William Beckford's Vathek, in one volume,

Peacock died at Lower Hallifordon 23 January 1866, from injuries sustained in a fire in which he had attempted to save his library. He is buried in Shepperton.

TITLES BY THOMAS LOVE PEACOCK

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