Peake in China: Memoirs of Ernest Cromwell Peake
Dr Ernest Cromwell Peake was the first medical missionary to arrive in the region of Hankow, inland China, and he had to overcome significant obstacles in the building and establishment of his hospital, as well as the intense hostility of the Chinese towards foreigners and towards Western medical practice. He succeeded in his endeavour, and during his time in China he also married and had two children, one of whom was the writer and artist Mervyn Peake, whose first 12 years were spent there. Dr Peake wrote his memories of this period many years later when he had returned with his family to England, recording his arrival, his impressions of the Chinese, and the story of his establishment of a hospital. He also witnessed the historic events of the Chinese Revolution in 1911, the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty and the Boxer Rebellion. The memoirs provide a fascinating account of a Westerner in China at the turn of the last century. Of equal interest is the influence of the China years on Dr Peake's son Mervyn, who was born in China and went on to become one of the most talented British writers and artists of the twentieth century.
An introduction by the renowned biographer Hilary Spurling explores the connection between Mervyn Peake's years in China and his Gormenghast novels.