Maeve Gilmore

Maeve Patricia Mary Theresa Gilmore (14 June 1917  3 August 1983) was a British painter, sculptor and writer, and the wife of author Mervyn Peake.

Personal background

Gilmore was born in 1917 and brought up in Brixton, south London, where her father, Owen Eugene Gilmore (18621950), was a doctor. She was educated at a convent boarding school in Sussex, now St Leonards-Mayfield School, and later attended a finishing school in Switzerland, where she learnt to speak German and French, and became a good pianist (she particularly enjoyed the music of Johann Sebastian Bach).[1]

She was the wife and biographer of the author Mervyn Peake, whose father was also a doctor. They met at the Westminster School of Art, where she was a student, in 1936 and married in 1937.[2] They had three children named Sebastian,[3] Fabian, and Clare.[4][5] An accomplished painter and sculptor, she also wrote several short stories. However, when Peake became ill, she put her career on hold in order to care for him. Her memoir A World Away (1970) was written in the years immediately following Peake’s death, and depicts their life together.[1]

Titus Awakes

In the late 1950s, Peake's health began to decline and he finished Titus Alone, the third novel in his series of Titus books, following Titus Groan (1946), and Gormenghast (1950), only with difficulty. When published in 1959 Titus Alone was less polished than he might have wished, but he was beyond correcting it. He had always planned a longer series, taking his hero up to his forties at least.[6] On his death from Parkinson's disease in November 1968, Peake left a few pages of notes for a fourth book, of which fewer than a thousand words are legible.[7]

During the 1970s, Gilmore worked on the fourth Titus book herself, inspired partly by the list of people and places that Peake had imagined might feature in it. By 1980, she had completed a narrative she called Search Without End.[7][8] It told the story of Titus backwards – not returning to Gormenghast, but to Sark where his creator Peake had lived in the early 1930s and again between 1946 and 1949, taking in along the way some of Peake's experiences (as a Parkinsonian patient in hospital, for example). In her final version, however, she avoided mentioning any name or event from the Titus books, with the exception of the name of the hero, so that her book could be read independently of her husband’s work. She showed it to a few people, who did not encourage her to seek publication.[9]

Early in 2010, Gilmore’s children and grandchildren decided to publish it in time for the centenary of Mervyn Peake's birth in July 2011. Of the various versions, they preferred one that made direct reference to the Titus books,[10] and arranged for the publisher, Vintage (in the UK; Overlook in the USA), to reprint Peake's notes as the first chapter. They called it by one of Peake’s titles for his own novel, "Titus Awakes", subtitling it The Lost Book of Gormenghast.

Reviewing Titus Awakes, Michael Moorcock declared it "a fascinating, intensely personal homage", saying that Gilmore "successfully echoes the music of the originals, if not the eloquent precision of Peake's baroque style as she sends Titus on his adventure."[11]


  1. 1 2
  2. Winnington, G. Peter (2009). Mervyn Peake’s Vast Alchemies. London: Peter Owen. p. 118. ISBN 978-0-7206-1341-4.
  3. Winnington, G. Peter (2006). The voice of the heart: the working of Mervyn Peake's imagination. Liverpool English texts and studies. 48. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. p. 118. ISBN 1-84631-022-9.
  4. Winnington, G. Peter (2009). Mervyn Peake's Vast Alchemies. London: Peter Owen. pp. 136, 175, 224. ISBN 978-0-7206-1341-4.
  5. Peake, Clare (2011). Under a Canvas Sky: Living outside Gormenghast. London: Constable. pp. 33–37. ISBN 978-1-84901-511-0.
  6. Winnington, G. Peter (2009). Mervyn Peake's Vast Alchemies. London: Peter Owen. p. 148. ISBN 978-0-7206-1341-4.
  7. 1 2 Watney, John (1992). "Titus Awakes: Introduction" in: Titus Alone. Woodstock, New York: Overlook Press. pp. 357–358. ISBN 0-87951-427-2.
  8. Drew, Bernard A. (2009). Literary afterlife: the posthumous continuations of 325 authors' fictional characters. McFarland. p. 170. ISBN 0-7864-4179-8.
  10. Womack, Philip (30 June 2011). "Ways With Words: Interview with Mervyn Peake's Children". The Telegraph. Retrieved 1 October 2011.
  11. "Book review: 'Titus Awakes: The Lost Book of Gormenghast'", Los Angeles Times, August 28, 2011

External links

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