Thomas Love Peacock

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Last Updated on May 9, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 380

Thomas Love Peacock was born at Weymouth in Dorset, England, in 1785. His father, Samuel, was a London merchant, and his mother, Sarah, was a woman of Devonshire. The young Peacock attended a private school at Englefield Green until he was thirteen years old. After leaving school, he served for some time as a clerk at a mercantile house and as a private secretary. In his youth, Peacock found employment uncongenial, however, and his private resources, although insufficient to send him to a university, did preclude his having to work. Peacock used his leisure well.

An apt and diligent student, Peacock became a sound classicist through his independent reading. In 1812, he met Shelley through the agency of a mutual friend, Thomas Hookham. For the next few years he was often a part of the Shelley circle. Closely involved in Shelley’s tangled domestic affairs, Peacock attempted to be true to his friend, fair to the poet’s wife, Harriet, and civil to Shelley’s new love, Mary Godwin. When Shelley went abroad, Peacock corresponded with him and transacted business for him. When Shelley died, Peacock, along with Byron, was named executor of the estate.

In 1819, Peacock was appointed assistant to the examiner in the East India Office. The salary he derived from his position enabled him to marry Jane Gryffydh, a rector’s daughter whom he had last seen in 1811, when he had been on a walking tour of Wales. The marriage was not a particularly happy one; the professional appointment proved rather more auspicious. In 1837, on the retirement of James Mill, Peacock became examiner at East India House. He capably held this important administrative post until his retirement in 1856.

The pleasures of Peacock’s maturity were those he ascribes to various characters (most of them urbane clergymen) in his novels: good wine, good dinners, hours in the garden or in his study with the classics, rural walks from his house at Halliford in the Thames valley. One of the few new friends Peacock made during the latter half of his life was Hobhouse, Lord Broughton. Peacock’s peaceful old age was saddened by the unhappiness of his favorite daughter, the talented Mary Ellen, who had imprudently married novelist George Meredith, and by her death in 1861. Peacock died at Halliford in 1866.

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