Thomas Love Peacock was born at Weymouth, Dorsetshire, England, on October 18, 1785. Although he associated with important early Romantic poets, he was not truly a part of the Romantic movement. Until his early thirties he wrote poetry that was intended to inspire readers as that of the Romantics did. His poetry, however, is unmemorable. Indeed, it is as a satirist of his age that Peacock is best remembered. An intimate of the Shelleys and of Lord Byron, but nevertheless a respected officer in the East India Company, Peacock in his novels pokes lighthearted fun at the foibles of his age.
He was unsympathetic to the new ideas of the time primarily because he felt they went beyond reason—which is to say they were to him unreasonably romantic. Using the method of irony, he satirized radicalism, medievalism, and transcendentalism as well as individual romanticists such as William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron, and Percy Bysshe Shelley.
Headlong Hall began a series of successful “conversation novels” which follow the same plan: A group of eccentric guests at a house party reveal the folly of their romantic persuasions in witty talk and inane action. Peacock’s novels Maid Marian and The Misfortunes of Elphin are burlesques of legends, the first of Robin Hood and the second of the Welsh. The critic Saintsbury believed that the latter novel was the best, although Crotchet Castle has remained the most popular. The main purpose of all the works was, Peacock said, “to blow bubbles and then burst them.” Peacock died at Halliford, Chertsey, in 1866.