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Views & Reviews Between the Lines

Peake, Prunesquallor, and Pye

BMJ 2011; 343 doi: (Published 31 August 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;343:d5468
  1. Theodore Dalrymple, writer and retired doctor

Like many a famous author, Mervyn Peake (1911-1968) had a medical father. Dr Peake was a medical missionary in China who once had to prove his prowess by operating on an official’s cataracts in public. Fortunately for him he passed the test; he might otherwise have been done to death and Mervyn would never have seen the light of day.

Dr Peake returned to England to become a general practitioner in Surrey. The young Mervyn showed artistic promise early, and studied at Chelsea Art College, where he met his wife, Maeve Gilmore, whose father was also a doctor.

One of the main characters in Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy of novels, Titus Groan (1946), Gormenghast (1950), and Titus Alone (1959), was Dr Alfred Prunesquallor. …

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