Headlong Hall

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Camden House, 1875 - Fiction - 76 pages
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Headlong Hall was an instant success upon its anonymous first appearance in 1816. Like most of Peacock's novels, it assembles a group of characters -- Mr Cranium, Miss Poppyseed, Mr Treacle and others -- who, while eating and drinking to abandon, discuss topics which were then of interest to Peacock and his circle of intellectual friends. Some of the figures are thinly-disgused portraits of contemporaries (Mr Escot, for example, is widely thought to be modelled on Shelley); others embody current views of the age, and are held up to scorn. There is a minimum of plot, but much discussion in a unique and lively style, and with burlesque Rabelaisan humour; throughout, Peacock uses the work to parody contemporary thinking in a variety of disparate areas, including utilitarianism, vegetarianism, aesthetics, music, poetry, art criticism, and so on. In the meantime there is dancing and drinking and falling in love. This edition contains an introduction by America's master of science fantasy, RAY BRADBURY, who adds his own special touch to this feast of ideas and language.

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About the author (1875)

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.

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