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1001 Gormenghast
Added on 19th August 2020

Author Mervyn Peake
First published 1946
Publisher Eyre & Spottiswoode, London

The grotesque and the gothic meld in this darkly dystopian series.


The story begins with the birth of Titus Groan, destined to become the seventy-seventh Earl of Groan. Titus lives in Gormenghast Castle, a crumbling gothic edifice set in a remote and desolate landscape. The Castle is inhabited by a grotesque and eccentric collection of Titus' relatives and servants, chief among whom is the kitchen servant Steerpike who plots and schemes to gain power in the surreal, dreamlike dystopia of Castle life. The three books in the series chart Titus' journey to adulthood which culminates in him leaving the Castle.

Why we chose it

The Gormenghast stories have a distinctive dark gothic tone, with a cast of grotesque characters reminiscent of some of Charles Dickens' more extreme creations. The bleak dystopian setting evokes a fantasy world but the book doesn't neatly fit into any established genres. The first book was published to great cricital acclaim and they have continued to attract fans since then. They have been translated into over 20 languages and are widely regarded as one of the greatest fantasy works of the twentieth century.

Where it came from

Peake was a poet, writer and artist who spent his early childhood in China before returning to the UK aged 11. He trained and worked as an artist before the second world war and worked for a time as a war artist. He starting writing the first Gormenghast book during the war in the early 1940s and illustrated his manuscript with sketches and portraits of some of the main characters.

Where it went next

Titus Groan was published in 1946, followed by Gormenghast in 1950 and Titus Alone in 1959. Peake had planned to write at least two more books in the series but ill health prevented him from continuing his writing.

The books have been adapted for radio and television.

Associated stories

Peake was working on a fourth Gormenghast book when he died in 1968. Titus Awakes was finished by his widow Maeve Gilmore in the 1970s but was only published in 2009 when her family found the manuscript. Peake also wrote a novella Boy in Darkness which was published in 1956.

Added on 19th August 2020

Author Mervyn Peake
First published 1946
Publisher Eyre & Spottiswoode, London