Edward Lear

Infobox Writer
name = Edward Lear

birthdate = birth date|1812|5|12
birthplace = Highgate, London, England
deathdate = death date and age|1888|1|29|1812|5|12
deathplace = Sanremo, Italy
occupation = Artist, Poet
nationality = British
period = 1830 - 1888
movement = Nonsense literature
= Illustrations of the Family of the Psittacidæ (1832)

Edward Lear (12 May 181229 January 1888) was an English artist, illustrator and writer known for his literary nonsense, in poetry and prose, and especially his limericks, a form which he popularised.


He was born in Highgate, a suburb of London, the 20th child of Ann and Jeremiah Lear. He was raised by his eldest sister, Ann, twenty-one years his senior. At the age of fifteen, he and his sister had to leave the family home and set up house together. He started work as a serious illustrator and his first publication, at the age of 19, was "Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots" in 1830. His paintings were well received and he was favorably compared with Audubon. Throughout his life he continued to paint seriously. He had a lifelong ambition to illustrate Tennyson's poems; near the end of his life a volume with a small number of illustrations was published, but his vision for the work was never realized. Lear briefly gave drawing lessons to Queen Victoria, leading to some awkward incidents when he failed to observe proper court protocol.

He was not a healthy man. From the age of six until the time of his death he suffered frequent "grand mal" epileptic seizures, as well as bronchitis, asthma, and in later life, partial blindness. Lear experienced his first seizure at a fair near Highgate with his father. The event scared and embarrassed him. Lear felt lifelong guilt and shame for his epileptic condition. His adult diaries indicate that he always sensed the onset of a seizure in time to remove himself from public view. How Lear was able to anticipate them is not known, but many people with epilepsy report a ringing in their ears or an "aura" before the onset of a seizure. During Edward Lear's life, epilepsy was still believed to be associated with demonic possession, which contributed to his feelings of guilt and loneliness. When Lear was about seven, possibly due to the constant instability of his childhood, he began to show signs of depression. He suffered from periods of severe depression which he referred to as "the Morbids." [cite book |title=The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense |last=Lear |first=Edward |authorlink= |coauthors= |year=2002 |publisher=Penguin Books |location=New York |isbn=0142002275 |pages=19-20 ]

In 1846 Lear published "A Book of Nonsense", a volume of limericks which went through three editions and helped popularize the form. In 1865 "The History of the Seven Families of the Lake Pipple-Popple" was published, and in 1867 his most famous piece of nonsense, "The Owl and the Pussycat", which he wrote for the children of his patron Edward Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby. Many other works followed.

Lear's nonsense books were quite popular during his lifetime, but a rumour circulated that "Edward Lear" was merely a pseudonym, and the books' true author was the man to whom Lear had dedicated the works: his patron the Earl of Derby. Supporters of this rumour offered as evidence the facts that both men were named Edward, and that "Lear" is an anagram of "Earl". [cite book|last=Lear|first=Edward|title=More Nonsense Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, etc.|year=1894|chapter=Introduction|url=http://www.gutenberg.org/files/13650/13650-h/13650-h.htm#introduction3]

Lear's limericks

Edward Lear's nonsense works are distinguished by a facility of verbal invention and a poet's delight in the sounds of words, both real and imaginary. A stuffed rhinoceros becomes a "diaphanous doorscraper". A "blue Boss-Woss" plunges into "a perpendicular, spicular, orbicular, quadrangular, circular depth of soft mud". His heroes are Quangle-Wangles, Pobbles, and Jumblies. His most famous piece of verbal invention occurs in the closing lines of "The Owl and the Pussycat":

They dined on mince, and slices of quince
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
The moon,
The moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.

Though famous for his use of invented words, he was hardly reliant upon them for effect; witness, for example, "Cold Are The Crabs", [ [http://ingeb.org/songs/coldaret.html Cold Are The Crabs] ] with its adherence to the sonnet tradition until the dramatically foreshortened last line.

The "runcible spoon", a Lear neologism, entered the language and is now found in many English dictionaries.

Limericks are invariably typeset as five lines today, but Edward Lear's limericks were published in a variety of formats. It appears that Lear wrote them in manuscript basically in as many lines as there was room for beneath the picture. In the first three editions, most are typeset as, respectively, three, five, and three lines. The cover of one edition [ [http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear/BoN/index.html Edward Lear, A Book of Nonsense ] ] bears an entire limerick typeset in only two lines, thus:

There was an Old Derry down Derry, who loved to see little folks merry;
So he made them a book, and with laughter they shook at the fun of that Derry down Derry.

In Lear's limericks the first and last lines usually end with the same word, rather than rhyming. For the most part, they are truly nonsensical and devoid of any punch line or point; there is nothing in them to "get". They are completely free of the off-colour humour with which the verse form is now associated. A typical thematic element is the presence of a callous and critical "they". An example of a typical Lear limerick:

There was an Old Man of Aôsta,
Who possessed a large Cow, but he lost her;
But they said, 'Don't you see,
she has rushed up a tree?
You invidious Old Man of Aôsta!'

Among Lear's tremble-bembles and the chippy-wippy-sikki-tees can be found some very felicitous turns of phrase. Lear's self-portrait in verse, "How Pleasant to know Mr. Lear," closes with this stanza, a pleasant reference to his own mortality:

He reads but he cannot speak Spanish,
He cannot abide ginger-beer;
Ere the days of his pilgrimage vanish,
How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!

Five of Lear's limericks from the Book of Nonsense, in the 1946 Italian translation by Carlo Izzo, were set to music for choir a cappella by Goffredo Petrassi, in 1952.


*"Illustrations of the Family of the Psittacidæ" (1832)
*"Tortoises, Terrapins, and Turtles" by J.E. Gray
*"Views in Rome and its Environs" (1841)
*"Gleanings from the Menagerie at Knowsley Hall" (1846)
*"Illustrated Excursions in Italy" (1846)
*"Book of Nonsense" (1846)
*"Journal of a Landscape Painter in Greece and Albania" (1851)
*"Journal of a Landscape Painter in Southern Calabria" (1852)
*"Book of Nonsense and More Nonsense" (1862)
*"Views in the Seven Ionian Isles" (1863)
*"Journal of a Landscape Painter in Corsica" (1870)
*"Nonsense Songs and Stories" (1871)
*"More Nonsense Songs, Pictures, etc." (1872)
*"Laughable Lyrics" (1877)
*"Nonsense Alphabets"
*"Nonsense Botany" (1888)
*"Tennyson's Poems, illustrated by Lear" (1889)
*"Facsimile of a Nonsense Alphabet" (1849, but not published until 1926)
*"The Scroobious Pip", unfinished at his death, but completed by Ogden Nash and illustrated by Nancy Ekholm Burkert (1968)
*"The Quangle-Wangle's Hat" (unknown)


*"Edward Lear's Parrots" by Brian Reade, Duckworth (1949), including 12 coloured plates reproduced from Lear's "Psittacidae"
* The 1970 Saturday morning cartoon "Tomfoolery", based on the works of Lear and Lewis Carroll



External links

* [http://www.uflib.ufl.edu/ufdc/?c=juv&m=hrat&t=lear,%20edward,,,&f=AU,+TX,+FC,+TI Full text, images, and covers of several of Edward Lear's books] available as Open Access from the Baldwin Library of Historical Children's Literature
* [http://www.bencourtney.com/ebooks/lear/ Edward Lear's Books of Nonsense]
* [http://public-domain.zorger.com Scans of illustrations from the Nonsense series of books]
* [http://www.nonsenselit.org/Lear Edward Lear Home Page] at [http://www.nonsenselit.org nonsenselit.org]
* [http://www.reelyredd.com/0501longlegs.htm Reelyredd's Poetry Pages] The Daddylonglegs and The Fly (audio file)
* [http://www.phryne.com/artists/16-47-41.HTM Phryne's list of pictures by Lear in accessible UK collections]
* [http://www.ansp.org/museum/digital_collections/lear/index.php Parrot Gallery at The Academy of Natural Sciences]
* [http://www.bompa.org/ The Owl and the Pussy-cat translation project] Available in more than 55 languages

ee also

*List of wildlife artists

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  • Edward Lear — (* 12. Mai 1812 in Highgate; † 29. Januar 1888 in Sanremo) war ein britischer Maler, Illustrator und Schriftsteller. Zusammen mit Lewis Carroll gilt er als einer der großen Meister der viktorianischen Nonsens Literatur. Leben Edward Lear war das… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Edward Lear — Saltar a navegación, búsqueda Edward Lear, 1812 1888 Edward Lear (12 de mayo de 1812 29 de enero de 1888) fue un escritor, ilustrador y artista inglés conocido por su poesía sin sentido y sus limericks (poesías humorísticas breves, de cinco… …   Wikipedia Español

  • Edward Lear — (12 de mayo de 1812 29 de enero de 1888) fue un escritor, ilustrador y artista inglés conocido por su poesía sin sentido y sus limericks (poesías humorísticas breves, de cinco líneas, en las que las dos primeras y la última riman). Nació en… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Edward Lear — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Lear. Edward Lear Activités poète, illustrateur …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Edward Lear — noun British artist and writer of nonsense verse (1812 1888) • Syn: ↑Lear • Instance Hypernyms: ↑artist, ↑creative person, ↑humorist, ↑humourist * * * Edward L …   Useful english dictionary

  • Edward Lear — ➡ Lear * * * …   Universalium

  • Edward Lear — (1812 1888) British poet and artist, author of books containing nonsense verse and limericks …   English contemporary dictionary

  • Lear-Ara — Illustration eines Lear Aras von Edward Lear, diese Abbildung und ein Balg im Naturkundemuseum in Paris liegen der Artbeschreibung zu Grunde Systematik …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Lear — or Leir can refer to any of the following:* Leir of Britain, a legendary king of the Britons. * King Leir , an anonymous play based on the legend of Leir of Britain, published in 1605. * King Lear , a tragedy by William Shakespeare, also based on …   Wikipedia

  • Edward Gorey — Birth name Edward St. John Gorey Born February 22, 1925(1925 02 22) Chicago, Illinois, Unit …   Wikipedia

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