THOMAS LOVE PEACOCK (18 October 1785 – 23 January 1866) was an
English novelist , poet , and official of the
East India Company
* 1 Background and education
* 2 Early occupation and travelling
* 3 Friendship with Shelley
East India Company
* 7 Works
* 7.1 Novels * 7.2 Verse * 7.3 Essays * 7.4 Plays * 7.5 Unfinished tales and novels
* 8 References * 9 Sources
* 10 Bibliography
* 10.1 Editions
* 10.1.1 Correspondence
* 10.2 Works of criticism
* 11 External links
BACKGROUND AND EDUCATION
The young T.L. Peacock
Peacock was born in
Peacock's father died in 1794 in "poor circumstances" leaving a small annuity. Peacock's first known poem was an epitaph for a school fellow written at the age of ten and another on his Midsummer Holidays was written when he was thirteen. Around that time in 1798 he was abruptly taken from school and from then on was entirely self-educated.
EARLY OCCUPATION AND TRAVELLING
In February 1800, Peacock became a clerk with Ludlow Fraser Company,
who were merchants in the
City of London
In around 1806 Peacock left his job in the city and during the year
made a solitary walking tour of Scotland. The annuity left by his
father expired in October 1806. In 1807 he returned to live at his
mother's house at Chertsey. He was briefly engaged to Fanny Faulkner,
but it was broken off through the interference of her relations. His
friends, as he hints, thought it wrong that so clever a man should be
earning so little money. In the autumn of 1808 he became private
secretary to Sir
Home Popham , commanding the fleet before Flushing .
By the end of the year he was serving Captain Andrew King aboard HMS
Venerable in the Downs. His preconceived affection for the sea did
not reconcile him to nautical realities. "Writing poetry", he says,
"or doing anything else that is rational, in this floating inferno ,
is next to a moral impossibility. I would give the world to be at home
and devote the winter to the composition of a comedy ". He did write
prologues and addresses for dramatic performances on board HMS
Venerable. His dramatic taste then and for the next nine years
resulted in attempts at comedies and lighter pieces, all of which
lacked ease of dialogue and suffered from over-elaborated incident and
humour. He left HMS Venerable in March 1809 at Deal and walked around
Ramsgate in Kent before returning home to Chertsey. He had sent his
publisher Edward Hookham a little poem of the
Peacock travelled to North Wales in January 1810 where he visited
FRIENDSHIP WITH SHELLEY
In 1812 Peacock published another elaborate poem , The Philosophy of Melancholy, and in the same year made the acquaintance of Shelley. He wrote in his memoir of Shelley, that he "saw Shelley for the first time just before he went to Tanyrallt", whither Shelley proceeded from London in November 1812 (Hogg 's Life of Shelley, vol. 2, pp. 174, 175.) Thomas Hookham , the publisher of all Peacock's early writings, was possibly responsible for the introduction. It was Hookham's circulating library which Shelley used for many years, and Hookham had sent The Genius of the Thames to Shelley, and in the Shelley Memorials, pp. 38–40, is a letter from the poet dated 18 August 1812, extolling the poetical merits of the performance and with equal exaggeration censuring what he thought the author's misguided patriotism. Peacock and Shelley became friends and Peacock influenced Shelley's fortunes both before and after his death.
In the winter of 1813 Peacock accompanied Shelley and his first wife Harriet to Edinburgh. Peacock was fond of Harriet, and in his old age defended her reputation from slanders spread by Jane, Lady Shelley, the daughter-in-law of Shelley's second wife Mary.
In 1814 Peacock published a satirical ballad, Sir Proteus, which appeared under the pseudonym "P. M. O'Donovan, Esq." Shelley resorted to him during the agitation of mind which preceded his separation from Harriet. After Shelley deserted Harriet, Peacock became an almost daily visitor throughout the winter of 1814–15 of Shelley and Mary Godwin (later Mary Shelley), at their London lodgings. In 1815 Peacock shared their voyage to the source of the Thames. "He seems", writes Charles Clairmont, Mary Godwin's stepbrother and a member of the party, "an idly-inclined man; indeed, he is professedly so in the summer; he owns he cannot apply himself to study, and thinks it more beneficial to him as a human being entirely to devote himself to the beauties of the season while they last; he was only happy while out from morning till night". By September 1815 when Shelley had taken up residence at Bishopsgate, near Windsor, Peacock had settled at Great Marlow . Peacock wrote Headlong Hall in 1815, and it was published the following year. With this work Peacock found the true field for his literary gift in the satiric novel, interspersed with delightful lyrics, amorous, narrative, or convivial.
During the winter of 1815–16 Peacock was regularly walking over to
visit Shelley at Bishopgate. There he met
Thomas Jefferson Hogg , and
"the winter was a mere Atticism. Our studies were exclusively Greek".
In 1816 Shelley went abroad, and Peacock appears to have been
entrusted with the task of finding the Shelleys a new residence. He
fixed them near his own home at Great Marlow. Peacock received a
pension from Shelley for a time, and was put into requisition to keep
off wholly unauthorised intruders upon Shelley's hospitable household.
Peacock was consulted about alterations in Shelley's Laon and Cythna,
and Peacock's enthusiasm for Greek poetry probably had some influence
on Shelley's work. Shelley's influence upon Peacock may be traced in
the latter's poem of Rhododaphne, or the Thessalian Spell, published
in 1818 and Shelley wrote a eulogistic review of it. Peacock also
wrote at this time the satirical novels Melincourt published in 1817
Peacock told Shelley that "he did not find this brilliant summer," of 1818, "very favourable to intellectual exertion;" but before it was quite over "rivers, castles, forests, abbeys, monks, maids, kings, and banditti were all dancing before me like a masked ball." He was at this time writing his romance of Maid Marian which he had completed except for the last three chapters.
EAST INDIA COMPANY
The East India House, London, 1817.
At the beginning of 1819, Peacock was unexpectedly summoned to London
for a period of probation with the
East India Company
On 1 July 1819 Peacock slept for the first time in a house at 18 Stamford Street, Blackfriars which, "as you might expect from a Republican, he has furnished very handsomely." His mother continued to live with him in Stamford Street.
In 1820 Peacock contributed to Ollier's Literary Pocket Book and
wrote The Four Ages of Poetry, the latter of which argued that
poetry's relevance was being eclipsed by science, a claim which
Defence of Poetry . The official duties of the
India House delayed the completion and publication of Maid Marian ,
begun in 1818, until 1822, and as a result of the delay it was taken
for an imitation of
Peacock showed great ability in business and in the drafting of official papers. In 1829 he began to devote attention to steam navigation, and drew up a memorandum for General Chesney's Euphrates expedition, which was praised both by Chesney and Lord Ellenborough. He opposed the employment of steamers on the Red Sea, probably in deference to the supposed interests of the company. In 1829 he published The Misfortunes of Elphin founded upon Welsh traditions, and in 1831 Crotchet Castle , the most mature and thoroughly characteristic of all his works. He was greatly affected by the death of his mother in 1833 and said himself that he never wrote anything with interest afterwards.
Peacock often appeared before parliamentary committees as the company's champion. In this role in 1834, he resisted James Silk Buckingham's claim to compensation for his expulsion from the East Indies, and in 1836, he defeated the attack of the Liverpool merchants and Cheshire manufacturers upon the Indian salt monopoly. In 1836 his official career was crowned by his appointment as Chief Examiner of Indian Correspondence, in succession to James Mill. The post was one which could only be filled by someone of sound business capacity and exceptional ability in drafting official documents: and Peacock's discharge of its duties, it is believed, suffered nothing by comparison either with his distinguished predecessor or his still more celebrated successor, Stuart Mill . In 1837 appeared his Paper Money Lyrics and other Poems of which only one hundred copies were printed. Also in 1837, Headlong Hall, Nightmare Abbey, Maid Marian, and Crotchet Castle appeared together as vol. 57 of Bentley's Standard Novels. In 1839 and 1840 Peacock superintended the construction of iron steamers which rounded the Cape, and took part in the Chinese war.
Peacock's occupation seems to have principally lain with finance, commerce, and public works. He wrote a light poem on "A Day at the India Office":
From ten to eleven, have breakfast for seven; From eleven to noon, think you've come too soon; From twelve to one, think what's to be done; From one to two, find nothing to do; From two to three, think it will be A very great bore to stay till four.
In about 1852 towards the end of Peacock's service in the India office, his taste or leisure for authorship returned, and he began to contribute to Fraser\'s Magazine in which appeared his entertaining and scholarly Horæ Dramaticæ, a restoration of the Querolus , a Roman comedy probably of the time of Diocletian, and his reminiscences of Shelley.
Peacock retired from the India House on 29 March 1856 with an ample
pension. In his retirement he seldom left Halliford and spent his life
among his books, and in the garden, in which he took great pleasure,
and on the River Thames. In 1860 he still showed vigour by the
His granddaughter remembered him in these words:
In society my grandfather was ever a welcome guest, his genial manner, hearty appreciation of wit and humour in others, and the amusing way in which he told stories made him a very delightful acquaintance; he was always so agreeable and so very witty that he was called by his most intimate friends the "Laughing Philosopher", and it seems to me that the term "Epicurean Philosopher", which I have often heard applied to him, describes him accurately and briefly. In public business my grandfather was upright and honourable; but as he advanced in years his detestation of anything disagreeable made him simply avoid whatever fretted him, laughing off all sorts of ordinary calls upon his leisure time.
Sir Edward Strachey wrote of him:
A kind-hearted, genial, friendly man, who loved to share his enjoyment of life with all around him, and self-indulgent without being selfish.
Richard Garnett in the
Dictionary of National Biography
a rare instance of a man improved by prosperity; an element of pedantry and illiberality in his earlier writings gradually disappears in genial sunshine, although, with the advance of age, obstinate prejudice takes its place, good humoured, but unamenable to argument. The vigour of his mind is abundantly proved by his successful transaction of the uncongenial commercial and financial business of the East India Company; and his novels, their quaint prejudices apart, are almost as remarkable for their good sense as for their wit. But for this penetrating sagacity, constantly brought to bear upon the affairs of life, they would seem mere humorous extravaganzas, being farcical rather than comic, and almost entirely devoid of plot and character. They overflow with merriment from end to end, though the humour is frequently too recondite to be generally appreciated, and their style is perfect. They owe much of their charm to the simple and melodious lyrics with which they are interspersed, a striking contrast to the frigid artificiality of Peacock's more ambitious attempts in poetry. As a critic, he was sensible and sound, but neither possessed nor appreciated the power of his contemporaries, Shelley and Keats, to reanimate classical myths by infusion of the modern spirit.
Peacock married Jane Griffith or Gryffydh in 1820. In his "Letter to Maria Gisborne", Shelley referred to Jane as "the milk-white Snowdonian Antelope." Peacock had four children, a son Edward who was a champion rower, and three daughters. One of them, Mary Ellen, married the novelist George Meredith as her second husband in August 1849. Only his son survived him, and he for less than a year, but he left several grandchildren. Jane Peacock died in 1865. Canada boasts the majority of Peacock relatives.
Peacock's own place in literature is pre-eminently that of a satirist. That he has nevertheless been the favourite only of the few is owing partly to the highly intellectual quality of his work, but mainly to his lack of ordinary qualifications of the novelist, all pretension to which he entirely disclaims. He has no plot, little human interest, and no consistent delineation of character. His personages are mere puppets, or, at best, incarnations of abstract qualities such as grace or beauty, but beautifully depicted.
His comedy combines the mock-Gothic with the Aristophanic . He
suffers from that dramatist's faults and, though not as daring in
invention or as free in the use of sexual humour, shares many of his
strengths. His greatest intellectual love is for Ancient Greece,
including late and minor works such as the
He tended to dramatize where traditional novelists narrated; he is
more concerned with the interplay of ideas and opinions than of
feelings and emotions; his dramatis personae is more likely to consist
of a cast of more or less equal characters than of one outstanding
hero or heroine and a host of minor auxiliaries; his novels have a
tendency to approximate the
Classical unities , with few changes of
scene and few if any subplots; his novels are novels of conversation
rather than novels of action; in fact, Peacock is so much more
interested in what his characters say to one another than in what they
do to one another that he often sets out entire chapters of his novels
in dialogue form.
Headlong Hall (published 1815 but dated 1816)
* Melincourt (1817)
* The Monks of St. Mark (1804)
* Palmyra and other Poems (1805)
* The Genius of the Thames: a Lyrical
* The Four Ages of Poetry (1820) * Recollections of Childhood: The Abbey House (1837) * Memoirs of Shelley (1858–62) * The Last Day of Windsor Forest (1887) * Prospectus: Classical Education
* The Three Doctors * The Dilettanti * Gl'Ingannati, or The Deceived (translated from the Italian, 1862)
UNFINISHED TALES AND NOVELS
* Satyrane (c. 1816)
* Calidore (c. 1816)
* The Pilgrim of Provence (c. 1826)
* The Lord of the Hills (c. 1835)
* Julia Procula (c. 1850)
* A Story Opening at
* ^ A B C D E F G H I J K "Peacock, Thomas Love". Dictionary of
National Biography . London: Smith, Elder & Co. 1885–1900.
* ^ A B Richard Garnett Introduction for the edition of Thomas Love
Peacock's novels published by J. M. Dent & Co. in 1891
* ^ A B C D E F G
Thomas Love Peacock
* Some of the text of this article was extracted from the
Introduction written by Richard Garnett for the edition of Thomas Love
Peacock's novels published by J. M. Dent & Co. in 1891.
* Lists of Peacock's works from The
Thomas Love Peacock
* Garnett, R . (1891). Introduction. In T. L. Peacock, Headlong
Hall, pp. 7–43. J. M. Dent & Co.
Thomas Love Peacock
Modern paperback editions of Peacock's works are almost nonexistent. The standard edition of Peacock's verse and prose is the Halliford edition, edited by H. F. B. Brett-Smith and C. E. Jones and published in ten volumes between 1924-34.
* Brett-Smith, H. F. B. (ed.) The Four Ages of Poetry etc. (Oxford:
Basil Blackwell, 1953) . Contains The Four Ages of Poetry , as well as
P. B. Shelley's response
Defence of Poetry , and Robert Browning's
Essay on Shelley. 3rd volume of The Percy Reprints series. The text is
presumably that of the Halliford edition. Out of print.
* Peacock, Thomas Love
Headlong Hall /
* Joukovsky, N. A. (ed.) The Letters of
Thomas Love Peacock
WORKS OF CRITICISM
* Burns, B. The Novels of
Thomas Love Peacock
* t * e
Thomas Love Peacock
* WorldCat Identities * VIAF : 17239611 * LCCN : n80038467 * ISNI : 0000 0001 2122 276X * GND : 118790072 * SUDOC : 028533038 * BNF : cb12035016n (data) * NLA : 35413655 * NDL : 00472849 * NKC : kup19960000075016 * IATH : w6mc8z9v
* ^ Peacock, Thomas Love (1969). Wright, Raymond, ed. Nightmare Abbey / Crotchet Castle. Harmondsworth: Penguin English Library. p. 35. ISBN 01