5 Quotes from the Gormenghast Trilogy

Gormenghast by Mervyn Peake

Let’s have some quotes from Mervyn Peake’s beautifully disturbing Gormenghast trilogy. I love the books and, unlike many, I also really enjoyed the BBC adaptation, but there are rumors that Neil Gaiman is going to have a crack at his own TV version!



Lady Gertrude Groane, by Braen on DeviantArt
Lady Gertrude Groane, by Braen on DeviantArt

1. “He had no longer any need for home, for he carried his Gormenghast within him. All that he sought was jostling within himself. He had grown up. What a boy had set out to seek a man had found, found by the act of living.” Mervyn Peake.

Peake's notebook for Gormenghast, bearing his own illustrations
Peake’s notebook for Gormenghast, bearing his own illustrations

2. “Never having had either positive cruelty or kindness shown to her by her parents, but only an indifference, she was not conscious of what it was that she missed—affection.” Titus Groan, Chapter 37 “The Grotto”


Mervyn Peake
Mervyn Peake

4. ““She thinks she’s a lady.” And then he grinned until the very lake seemed to be in danger of engulfment. “Oh, dear!” the poor thing. Tries so hard, and the more she tries, the less she is. Ha! ha! ha! Take it from me, Fuchsia dear, The only ladies are those to whom the idea of whether they are or not never occurs. Her blood’s all right—Irma’s—same as mine, ha, ha, ha! but it doesn’t go by blood. It’s equipoise, my Gipsy, equipoise that does it—with a bucketful of tolerance thrown in.” Titus Groan, Chapter 65 “By Gormenghast Lake”

5. “Countless candles dribbled with hot wax, and their flames, like little flags, fluttered in the unchartered currents of air. Thousands of lamps, naked, or shuttered behind coloured glass, burned with their glows of purple, amber, grass-green, blue, blood red and even grey. The walls of Gormenghast were like the walls of paradise or like the walls of an inferno. The colours were devilish or angelical according to the colour of the mind that watched them. They swam, those walls, with the hues of hell, with the tints of Zion. The breasts of the plumaged seraphim; the scales of Satan.” Mervyn Peake



I Cannot Give the Reasons

Mervyn Peake

One of my favourite and most re-read books is Mervyn Peake’s A Book of Nonsense. The following poem comes from this book.


I cannot give the reasons,
I only sing the tunes:
the sadness of the seasons
the madness of the moons.

I cannot be didactic
or lucid, but I can
be quite obscure and practic-
ally marzipan

In gorgery and gushness
and all that’s squishified.
My voice has all the lushness
of what I can’t abide

And yet it has a beauty
most proud and terrible
denied to those whose duty
is to be cerebral.

Among the antlered mountains
I make my viscous way
and watch the sepia mountains
throw up their lime-green spray.

Mervyn Peake
Mervyn Peake

24 of the Best Mervyn Peake Quotes

Almost 49 years after his death, Mervyn Peake (1911-1968) is still inspiring new art today. Dark Arteries is a ballet score premiering in London this year. The literary inspiration comes from a line in Mervyn Peake’s coal mining poem ‘Rhondda Valley’ with its three individual movement titles taken from ‘GB84’ by David Peace. 4barsrest

So, looking for inspiration? Delve into these quotes from the man himself…

  1. 123133_29jun14_unbearable_1 Found on Craftster
  2. The sun sank with a sob and darkness waded in from all horizons so that the sky contracted and there was no more light left in the world, when, at this very moment of annihilation, the moon, as though she had been waiting for her cue, sailed up the night.
  3. Lingering is so very lonely when one lingers all alone.
  4. What is Time… That you speak of it so subserviently? Are we to be the slaves of the sun, that second-hand, overrated knob of gilt, or of his sister, that fatuous circle of silver paper? A curse upon their ridiculous dictatorship! – Found on AZ Quotes
  5. mervyn-peake-quotes-1
  6. noon-ripe-as-thunder-and-silent-as-thought-had-fled-unfingered-quote-1 Found on Picture Quotes
  7. mount-and-begone-the-world-awaits-you-quote-1
  8. something-to-remember-that-cats-for-missiles-quote-1 Found on Picture Quotes
  9. I am the wilderness lost in man. – Found on Quote Fancy
  10. 1051393-mervyn-peake-quote-life-is-too-fleet-for-onomatopoeia
  11. 1051377-mervyn-peake-quote-cold-love-s-the-loveliest-love-of-all-so-clear
  12. 1051367-mervyn-peake-quote-and-now-my-poor-old-woman-why-are-you-crying-so Found on Quote Fancy
  13. 1051399-mervyn-peake-quote-i-am-clever-enough-to-know-that-i-am-clever Found on Quote Fancy
  14. This tower, patched unevenly with black ivy, arose like a mutilated finger from among the fists of knuckled masonry and pointed blasphemously at heaven. At night the owls made of it an echoing throat; by day it stood voiceless and cast its long shadow. – Found on Quote Fancy
  15. 1051371-mervyn-peake-quote-his-was-not-the-hatred-that-arises-suddenly
  16. 1051403-mervyn-peake-quote-gormenghast-that-is-the-main-massing-of-the
  17. 1051361-mervyn-peake-quote-there-is-a-brotherhood-among-the-kindly-closer Found on Quote Fancy
  18. 1051373-mervyn-peake-quote-and-there-shall-be-a-flame-green-daybreak-soon Found on Quote Fancy
  19. Each day I live in a glass room unless I break it with the thrusting of my senses and pass through the splintered walls to the great landscape.
  20. as-i-see-it-life-is-an-effort-to-grip-before-they-slip-through-ones-fingers-and-slide-into-oblivion-quote-1
  21. i-was-brooding-boy-than-which-there-is-no-richer-pastime-it-muffles-one-with-rotting-plumes-it-quote-1 Found on Picture Quotes
  22. to-live-at-all-is-miracle-enough-quote-1
  23. oh-how-i-hate-people-quote-1 Found on Picture Quotes
  24. why-break-the-heart-that-never-beat-from-love-quote-1 Found on Picture Quotes

Side note: has anyone seen The Web (1987)? I haven’t, just wondering if it’s worth getting hold of?


-Peake in the garden at Wallington, early 1930’s – from MervynPeake.org