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Thomas Love Peacock

(1785—1866) satirical novelist and poet

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satirist, essayist, and poet, was the son of a London glass merchant. He became a close friend of Shelley and his Memoirs of Shelley appeared in 1858. Peacock's prose satires, Headlong Hall (1816), Melincourt (1817), and Nightmare Abbey (1818), survey the contemporary political and cultural scene from a Radical viewpoint. Many of Peacock's convivial arguments take place over a dinner table. The satiric debate is diversified by a romantic love‐plot, increasingly important in Crotchet Castle (1831) and Gryll Grange (1860–61), and by amusing, clever song. Peacock assembles his characters in English country houses, and sends them on excursions into mountain and forest scenery. In Maid Marian (1822) and The Misfortunes of Elphin (1829) he varies his format by employing a historical setting. Rhododaphne (1818) is a fine and historically important poem; Peacock also wrote some touching lyrics, especially ‘Long Night Succeeds thy little Day’ (1826) and ‘Newark Abbey’ (1842). Of his satirical poems and squibs, The Paper Money Lyrics (1837) lampoon the dogmas of political economists and the malpractices of bankers. Peacock's sceptical attitude to the fashionable cult of the arts is apparent in his two most sustained critical essays, ‘Essay on Fashionable Literature’ (a fragment, written 1818) and ‘The Four Ages of Poetry’ (1820), to which Shelley's Defence of Poetry is a reply. In 1819 Peacock married Jane Gryffydh, the ‘White Snowdonian antelope’ of Shelley's ‘Letter to Maria Gisborne’. His eldest daughter Mary Ellen became the first wife of G. Meredith. Peacock entered the East India Company's service in 1819 and worked immediately under James Mill until the latter's death in 1836, when he succeeded to the responsible position of examiner.

Subjects: Literature

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