And I shall teach the boy

And I shall teach the boy

Listening time: under 4 minutes.The Countess of Gormenghast ponders her personal curriculum for her newborn son Titus, soon after despatching him to a régime of nanny-care for the first five years of his life.  She clearly has higher hopes for him than for his...
Sea the colour

Sea the colour

I love different ways of describing eyes, and colours, and this one allows some range in its definition.  Blue or grey or green, or somewhere on that spectrum? ‘Eyes the colour of the North Sea in February…’For further eye colour quotes, meet other...
Gulch it down

Gulch it down

Mervyn Peake uses Rabelaisian vocabulary to describe the gargantuan appetites and appearance of Swelter, the castle cook in his Gormenghast trilogy.  Here, in Titus Groan, the thirst-quencher is poured:… down his throat in one dull gurgle to those unmentionable...
A gardener to the roots

A gardener to the roots

This gardener, who tends the castle grounds of the monstrous pile of Gormenghast, is driven by something more than the beauty and colour of the flowers he grows, rather by their vital sap or something similar.  He must have tapped into, or been made of, the same...
Call him Titus

Call him Titus

Baby Titus, born into a crumbling, rambling pile of stone, with parents of a warmth and tenderness approximately equivalent to the building material of their castle. Here is his mother, prescribing his care for the first five years of his life, at which point she will...
And I shall teach the boy

I shall teach the boy…

The Countess of Gormenghast ponders her personal curriculum for her newborn son, after despatching him to a régime of nanny-care for the first five years of his life.  She clearly has higher hopes for him than for his neglected sister.Her capacity for love is...
Wedge-headed man

Wedge-headed man

Trying to imagine the angle of the wedge!  Was it a heavy-jawed man with a pointed head, or one with a wide forehead and a pointed chin, or something all together more surprising? And always intrigued by people who can engage in abstract language at dizzy levels of...
Good strong tea

Good strong tea

A novel way to signal strong tea, its being so solid that it can support a mouse’s weight.  The more common version of the same idea has the tea ‘so strong you could stand a spoon up in it’. For another tea-related simile, less innocuous, see Mervyn...
An opiate vista

An opiate vista

A curious vista of ‘tallow-coloured’ images floating before an opium-steeped lord. ‘Laudanum’ was the name for various opium-based preparations and now refers to an alcoholic tincture of the same drug.  ‘Chloral’, of apparently...
On illusory madness

On illusory madness

A fine description of Mervyn Peake’s balance between bounding imagination and taut writing, rounded off with a vintage metaphor.’It remains essentially a work of the closed imagination, in which a world parallel to our own is presented in almost paranoiac...
Slaves to the sun?

Slaves to the sun?

While for the most part these twin sisters are nothing short of bonkers, I liked when one of them questioned the tyranny of time, speaking with splendid disregard for the sun of day and moon of night.For other examples of their more eccentric exchanges, see how they...
Heron-like paces

Heron-like paces

I love the idea of a human walk embodying the fastidious strut of the heron’s dainty stride. ‘He strode to the wooden shutters with long, slow heron-like paces, and the dust rose behind him.’  See another heron simile, by the poet Kevin...
Lime-green river

Lime-green river

In the context of Gormenghast, this intriguing river colour would unlikely be a sign of toxic effluent or bloom, so it struck me, along with the prediction of inheritance fishing. ‘The lime-green river where twelve years later he would be angling for the hideous...
Quill-like face

Quill-like face

Trying to picture this face resembling a quill, particularly as it describes the kindly, emotionally intelligent, acerbic doctor enjoying a soak in his veined-marble bath. ‘Only his quill-like face emerged above the perfumed surface of the water.’  ...

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