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Peacock, Thomas Love

Born: 1785 AD
Died: 1866 AD
3.1 (62.35%) 17 votes

1785 – Thomas Love Peacock was born at Weymouth, October 18, 1785.

1800 – Gained the eleventh prize for an essay on the comparative advantages of history and biography as themes of study.

1801 – At the age of sixteen Peacock moved to London, and there is evidence in his papers of his having for a time followed some mercantile occupation, the exact nature of which is unknown. He began visiting the Reading Room of the British Museum, which he frequented for many years, a diligent student of the best literature in Greek, Latin, French, and Italian.

1808 – In the autumn of 1808 he became private secretary to Sir Home Popham, commanding the fleet before Flushing. His preconceived affection for the sea did not reconcile him to nautical realities. "Writing poetry", he says, "or doing anything else that is rational, in this floating inferno, is next to a moral impossibility. I would give the world to be at home and devote the winter to the composition of a comedy". He did write prologues and addresses for dramatic performances on board the Venerable: his dramatic taste then and for nine years subsequently found expression in attempts at comedies and pieces of a still lighter class, all of which fail from lack of ease of dialogue and the over-elaboration of incident and humour.

1812 – Peacock published another elaborate poem, "The Philosophy of Melancholy", and in the same year made the acquaintance of Shelley: he says in his memoir of Shelley, that he "saw Shelley for the first time just before he went to Tanyrallt", whither Shelley proceeded from London in November 1812 (Hogg’s Life of Shelley, vol. 2, pp. 174, 175.) The medium of introduction was no doubt Mr Thomas Hookham, the publisher of all Peacock’s early writings, whose circulating library ministered to Shelley’s intellectual hunger for many years. He had sent "The Genius of the Thames" to Shelley, and in the "Shelley Memorials", pp. 38-40, will be found a letter from the poet under date of August 18, 1812, extolling the poetical merits of the performance and with equal exaggeration censuring what he thought the author’s misguided patriotism. Personal acquaintance almost necessarily ensued, and hence arose an intimacy not devoid of influence upon Shelley’s fortunes both before and after his death.

1813-1815 – For some years, the course of Peacock’s life is only known from its connection with his illustrious friend. In the winter of 1813 he accompanies Shelley and Harriet to Edinburgh; throughout the winter of 1814-15 he is an almost daily visitor of Shelley and Mary at their London lodgings. In 1815 he shares their voyage to the source of the Thames. "He seems," writes Charles Clairmont, a member of the party, "an idly-inclined man; indeed, he is professedly so in the summer; he owns he cannot apply himself to study, and thinks it more beneficial to him as a human being entirely to devote himself to the beauties of the season while they last; he was only happy while out from morning till night". During the winter of 1815-16 Peacock was continually walking over from Marlow, where he had established himself some time in this year, to visit Shelley at Bishopgate. There he met Hogg, and "the winter was a mere Atticism. Our studies were exclusively Greek". The benefit which Shelley derived from such a course of study cannot be overrated. Its influence is seen more and more in everything he wrote to the end of his life. The morbid, the fantastic, the polemical, fade gradually out of his mind; and the writer who had begun as the imitator of the wildest extravagances of German romance would, had not his genius transcended the limits of any school, have ended as scarcely less of a Hellene than Keats and Landor.

1816 – In 1816 Shelley went abroad, and Peacock appears to have been entrusted with the commission of providing the Shelleys with a new residence. He fixed them near his own abode at Great Marlow. Melincourt was published at this time; and Nightmare Abbey and "Rhododaphne" written.

1819 – On January 13, 1819, he writes from 5 York Street, Covent Garden: "I now pass every morning at the India House, from half-past 10 to half-past 4, studying Indian affairs. My object is not yet attained, though I have little doubt but that it will be. It was not in the first instance of my own seeking, but was proposed to me. It would appear that the East India Company had become aware that their home staff was too merely clerical, and had determined to reinforce it by the appointment of four men of exceptional ability to the Examiner’s office, including Peacock and James Mill. On July 1, 1819 that Peacock slept for the first time in "a house in Stamford Street (No 18) which, as you might expect from a Republican, he has furnished very handsomely".

1822 – In 1822 Maid Marian, begun in 1818, was completed and published. It was soon dramatised with great success by Planché, and enjoyed the honour of translation into French and German. Peacock’s salary was now £1000 a year, and in 1823 he acquired the residence at Lower Halliford which continued his predilection to the end of his life. In 1829 came The Misfortunes of Elphin, and in 1831 Crotchet Castle, the most mature and thoroughly characteristic of all his works.

1836 – Peacock official career was crowned by his appointment as Chief Examiner of Indian Correspondence, in succession to James Mill. The post was one which could only be filled by someone of sound business capacity and exceptional ability in drafting official documents: and Peacock’s discharge of its duties, it is believed, suffered nothing by comparison either with his distinguished predecessor or his still more celebrated successor, Stuart Mill.

1866 – Peacock died at Lower Halliford, January 23, 1866, and is buried in the new cemetery at Shepperton.

3.1 (62.35%) 17 votes