Sunday, 9 August 2009

Off the shelf: Mervyn Peake 5

This is the last drawing from 'The Hunting of the Snark' illustrated by Mervyn Peake. It appears in 'Fit the Eighth - The Vanishing.' The hunting party are having no luck when suddenly the Bellman spots the Baker (who, by the way, wears seven coats) in the distance:

'..."There is Thingumbob shouting!" the Bellman said.
"He is shouting like mad, only hark!
He is waving his hands, he is wagging his head,
He has certainly found a Snark!"

They gazed in delight, while the Butcher exclaimed
"He was always a desperate wag!"
They beheld him - their Baker - their hero unnamed -
On top of a neighbouring crag,

Erect and sublime, for one moment in time.
In the next, that wild figure they saw
(As if stung by a spasm) plunge into a chasm,
While they waited and listened in awe...'

Though they search till darkness the Baker is never seen again, and the Snark is never seen at all. The End.
Peake would go on to illustrate The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, The Brothers Grimm, Jekyll and Hyde, Treasure Island, both Alices, Bleak House, and several other works besides his own writing. He eventually succumbed to Parkinson's Disease, which gradually robbed him of his ability to do what he loved. He died in November 1968, aged 57.
There's a site dedicated to him here, maintained by his son, Sebastian, with plenty of his work. There's also a book called 'Mervyn Peake - The Man and His Art' (which I must get hold of when I've got a few spare quids) cowritten by Sebastian and edited by Peter Winnington, who wrote to me earlier to correct my appalling research.
If you want to read 'Snark' in full you can find it here with the original stiff Victorian illustrations by Henry Holiday.

1 comment:

Goetz said...

Peake is not bad, but Henry Holiday still can surprise us.

Best regards from Munich