Into the etiolated, hidebound institution comes Steerpike, a vicious, amoral narcissist intent on motiveless malignity, as Shakespeare describes Iago in Othello.
Given recent events with the News of the World, I can't help seeing Murdoch and his minions as Steerpike. Luckily, Zoot Horn sent me his scans of Peake's drawings: these two seem particularly relevant to News International's frantic manoeuvring this week.
Click to embiggen.
'If ever he had harboured a conscience in his tough narrow breast he had by now dug out and flung away the awkward thing - flung it so far away that were he ever to need it again he could never find it'
And on the subject of NI's attempt to pin all the blame on a couple of individuals:
'He had to kill Barquentine in some way which left no trace: to dispose of the body and at the same time to mix pleasure and business in such a compound that neither was the weaker for union'.
I first read Peake's work as an angry teenager, incarcerated against my will in a very poor-quality Catholic boarding school. There were two inspirational teachers: Michael Caswell and Mike Elkin. Cas was an uproarious, tempestuous old-school teacher who triumphantly proved to me (though nobody else in class) that what I thought were boring old classics were actually filled with vim and passion. Elks was the French teacher, and had spent the 60s in bohemian Paris squats. He hated the classics as the detritus of a decadent society, and constantly loaded me down with radical experimental stuff. He gave me the Gormenghast trilogy. Between the pair of them, I became well - if oddly - read.