An intriguing view of happiness which would surely resonate with totalitarian regimes and dictatorial mindsets.

In this case and on this occasion, Flay can tolerate the momentary happiness around him as it is triggered by an event – the birth of a male heir to his aristocratice superiors – which makes it appropriate for the plebs to rejoice, particularly as they follow the requisite rituals of celebration by duly drinking themselves into stupors.  Vomit, not revolt, is on the menu; distasteful, but more readily cleaned up.

Flay himself feels happiness – in so far as he is able – knowing the Earl he has served for 40 years has begotten a long-awaited son.

‘It was not often that Flay approved of the happiness of others. He saw in happiness the seeds of independence, and in independence the seeds of revolt.’

See also our bestellar review of this book, with its lavishly illustrated quote-mosaic, packed with fine phrasing and fresh metaphors.  


Source: Mervyn Peake,Titus Groan (London: Vintage, 1998), p. 17

Photo credit: Adam Whitlock at


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