Thomas Love Peacock invented the novel of ideas, which sees the coming together in one place of a number of "opinionated faddists" with diametrically opposite views for the purpose of a "good dinner" and good light-hearted satire.
Here are two of his best attempts, Nightmare Abbey and Crotchet Castle, where the assembled faddists between them disseminate and discredit the intricacies of contemporary artistic and political culture. Nightmare Abbey sees Scythrop (gloomy-face) Glowry play host to an assortment of morbid and eccentric caricatures including those of Mr. Flosky (Coleridge) and Cypress (Byron) all chasing, or being chased by, ghosts, mermaids, drunken French valets and good dinners served up on a plate of classical allusion, metaphysical obscurity and a wilful lack of common-sense. Crotchet Castle, the later work, provides more of the stock Peacock scene with characters this time focused on dismantling any serious conceptions of industry and political economy.
Peacock's characters are all joyously tangled up in their own obsessions, ranging from Kantian Transcendentalism to Ichthyology, and which invariably send them into either verbal collisions around the dinner-table or a more crudely pantomime type, colliding and banging down stairs "like two billiard-balls in one pocket". He has a great sense for the absurd and has me laughing out loud over an otherwise assumedly unpromising collection of comedy characters.
Peacock was labelled `the laughing philosopher' in his time, and prided himself on his wide knowledge of classical literature and an Epicurean sensibility, but don't let this put you off. His novels are pure nonsense; they're a veritable rag-bag of farce, romantic idealism, philosophical absurdity all coloured with contemporary allusions and harmless rib-jabbing at what he saw as the unnecessary ideologico-scientifico- improbabo-historico-distractions from the simple and natural virtues of "a very good dinner."