The witty, erudite, quirky Peacock, renowned for his range of knowledge, was largely self-educated. While working at the East India Company as a clerk to support his invalid wife and children, he mastered Greek, Latin, Italian, French, and Welsh. In his youth he associated with a number of free-thinking intellectuals, including Shelley (who called him "Greeky Peaky" for his fondness of ancient Greek literature), Jeremy Bentham, and John Stuart Mill. Peacock's daughter married and later abandoned George Meredith, who expressed his anguish in the sonnet sequence Modern Love (1862) and his novels The Ordeal of Richard Feverel (1859) and The Egoist (1879). Peacock's own fiction parodied the fashionable excesses of taste for the supernatural, medieval, melancholy, and sensibility that appeared in the popular novels, poetry, and melodramas. He also parodied the writers themselves for their eccentricities and attitudinizing. In a series of novels written over a long creative life (he died at age 81), with titles caricaturing the fashion for castles and abbeys---Headlong Hall (1816), Melincourt (1817), Nightmare Abbey (1818), Crotchet Castle (1831), and Gryll Grange (1861), Peacock tried to show that the proper function of literature, as he said in Nightmare Abbey, was "to reconcile man as he is to the world as it is.