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Complete Nonsense

Mervyn Peake

Edited by Peter Winnington and Robert Warner Maslen

Complete Nonsense by Mervyn Peake
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Paperback
ISBN: 978 1 847770 87 5
Categories: 20th Century, British, Humour
Imprint: FyfieldBooks
Published: July 2011
216 x 135 x 19 mm
256 pages
Publisher: Carcanet Press
Also available in: eBook (EPUB), eBook (Kindle)
Digital access available through Exact Editions
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  • 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

    from ‘I Cannot Give the Reasons’
    ‘Nonsense’, wrote Mervyn Peake, ‘can take you by the hand and lead you nowhere. It’s magic.’ Peake (1911–68) is one of the great English nonsense poets, in the tradition of Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear. His verses lead the reader into places where cause is cut free of effect and language takes on a giddy life of its own. Malicious bowler hats threaten their owners, a cake is chased across an ocean by a rakish knife, aunts become flatfish or live on sphagnum moss.

    Fully annotated, with a detailed introduction, Complete Nonsense contains all the poems and illustrations previously published in Peake’s Book of Nonsense (1972), with forty unpublished poems discovered in manuscripts and thirty from other uncollected sources, including all the nonsense verses from his novels. It reprints complete – for the first time and in colour – the words and images from Rhymes without Reason (1944), and Peake’s comic masterpiece Figures of Speech (1954). All the poems have been newly edited, often from Peake’s manuscripts, by Robert Maslen, editor of Peake’s Collected Poems (Carcanet), and Peter Winnington, the leading Peake scholar and biographer. Peake wrote of the rare art that ‘glitters with the divine lunacy we call nonsense’: Complete Nonsense glitters with Peake’s benign and wayward imagination.

    Cover painting: Mervyn Peake, ‘Sensitive, Seldom and Sad’ from Rhymes without Reason (1944) © the Mervyn Peake Estate. Cover design StephenRaw.com.
    Mervyn Peake
    Mervyn Peake was a novelist, poet, playwright, painter, illustrator and children’s writer. Born in a small European settlement called Kuling, on 9 July, 1911 Peake spent most of his childhood south of Peking, in Tientsin, China, where he attended the Tientsin Grammar School. His family returned to England in 1923 when ... read more
    Peter Winnington
    G. Peter Winnington is the leading Peake scholar. He has published both an acclaimed biography of Peake and a critical study of his oeuvre, taking in his novels, the poems, the plays, and his graphic work. He has also edited much of Peake's previously unpublished writing and printed it in his ... read more
    Robert Warner Maslen
    Educated at Christ Church, Oxford, Robert Maslen has taught at Universities in Oxford, London and Exeter. He is currently a Senior Lecturer at the University of Glasgow, where he teaches an MLitt in Creative Writing, and has been Visiting Professor at Dartmouth College, NH, the University of St Thomas, MN, and ... read more
    '...full of a fastidious author's joy in the sheer music of language, shot through with the sensitivity, melancholy and savage realism that sings in all his work.'
    A L Kennedy
    Praise for Mervyn Peake 'a landmark volume... a testament to a poet who never quite achieved the level of attention that he deserved.'
    Jay Parini, the Guardian
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