Peacock, Thomas Love

Tagged: Author

(1785-1866) UK businessman, poet and author, with the East India Company 1819-1856, active initially as a poet from before 1805; his first full-length fiction, Headlong Hall (dated 1816 but 1815), is a discussion novel or symposium, set in the Welsh country estate of Squire Harry Headlong ab-Rhaiader, and features a series of monomaniacal talking heads, whose individual maggots govern their names and natures and their every utterance, after the pattern of the Menippean Satire. The text itself is of indirect sf interest through the conflicting discourses of Foster, who is a "perfectibilian", and Escot, a "deteriorationist". Foster's Technology-obsessed triumphalism about a Utopian future contrasts vividly with Escot's conviction that Homo sapiens, provided an unending increase in choices, will compulsively "engender" new needs, "till every human being becomes such a helpless compound of perverted inclinations, that he is altogether at the mercy of external circumstances, [and] loses all independence and singleness of nature...." (see Media Landscape).

Of more direct interest is Peacock's second novel, Melincourt (1817 3vols; vt Melincourt; Or, Sir Oran Haut-ton 1856), which features the election of an evolved orangutan (see Apes as Human) to the English Parliament as MP for the rotten borough of Onevote; Sir Oran's civility is mute but clearly and touchingly evident throughout, so much so that his Mysterious Stranger incursion into Westminster is hardly noted by the monsters there. Nightmare Abbey (1818) is a Parody of Gothic fantasies, while Maid Marian (1818), set in the twelfth century, takes off from the ballads of Robin Hood, and The Misfortunes of Elphin (1829) spoofs the Matter of Britain [for Gothic Fantasy, Maggots and Robin Hood above, and for Arthur and Matter here, see The Encyclopedia of Fantasy under links below]. Peacock's last novels, Crotchet Castle (1831) and Gryll Grange (1860 Fraser's Magazine; 1861) are again symposia, moderately lightly plotted, though in the latter text Gregory Gryll, descended from a character in Homer's Odyssey, faces with comic perturbation the task of ensuring his line.

The atheist and contrarian Peacock was close friends with Percy Bysshe Shelley; they influenced each other deeply. [JC]

Thomas Love Peacock

born Weymouth, Dorset: 18 October 1785

died Lower Halliford, Middlesex: 23 January 1866

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