Edward Lear

(12 or 13 May 1812 - 29 January 1888)

English artist, illustrator, author and poet, and is known now mostly for his literary nonsense in poetry and prose and especially his limericks, a form he popularised. His principal areas of work as an artist were threefold: as a draughtsman employed to illustrate birds and animals; making coloured drawings during his journeys, which he reworked later, sometimes as plates for his travel books; as an illustrator of Alfred Tennyson's poems. As an author, he is known principally for his popular nonsense works, which use real and invented English words.

Lear was born into a middle-class family in the village of Holloway near London, the penultimate [next to the last] of twenty-one children (and youngest to survive) of Ann Clark Skerrett and Jeremiah Lear. He was raised by his eldest sister, also named Ann, 21 years his senior. Owing to the family's limited finances, Lear and his sister were required to leave the family home and live together when he was aged four. Ann doted on Edward and continued to act as a mother for him until her death, when he was almost 50 years of age.

Lear suffered from lifelong health afflictions. From the age of six he suffered frequent grand mal epileptic seizures, and bronchitis, asthma, and during 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. When Lear was about seven years old he began to show signs of depression, possibly due to the instability of his childhood. He suffered from periods of severe melancholia which he referred to as "the Morbids."

Lear was already drawing "for bread and cheese" by the time he was aged 16 and soon developed into a serious "ornithological draughtsman" employed by the Zoological Society and then from 1832 to 1836, by the Earl of Derby, who kept a private menagerie at his estate Knowsley Hall. Lear's first publication, published when he was 19 years old, was Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots, in 1830. His paintings were well received and he was compared favourably with the naturalist John James Audubon.

Among other travels, he visited Greece and Egypt during 1848–49, and toured India and Ceylon during 1873–75. While travelling he produced large quantities of coloured wash drawings in a distinctive style, which he converted later in his studio into oil and watercolour paintings, as well as prints for his books. His landscape style often shows views with strong sunlight, with intense contrasts of colour.

Between 1878 to 1883, Lear spent his summers on Monte Generoso, a mountain on the border between the Swiss canton of Ticino and the Italian region of Lombardy. His oil painting "The Plains of Lombardy from Monte Generoso" is in the Ashmolean Museum in the English city of Oxford.

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.

Lear's most fervent and painful friendship involved Franklin Lushington. He met the young barrister in Malta in 1849, and then toured southern Greece with him. Lear developed an undoubtedly homosexual passion for him that Lushington did not reciprocate. Although they remained friends for almost forty years, until Lear's death, the disparity of their feelings for one another constantly tormented Lear. Indeed, none of Lear's attempts at male companionship were successful; the very intensity of Lear's affections seemingly doomed the relationships.

The closest he came to marriage with a woman was two proposals, both to the same person 46 years his junior, which were not accepted. For companions he relied instead on friends and correspondents, and especially, during later life, on his Albanian Souliote chef, Giorgis, a faithful friend and, as Lear complained, a thoroughly unsatisfactory chef. Another trusted companion in San Remo was his cat, Foss, who died in 1886 and was buried with some ceremony in a garden at Villa Tennyson.

Lear travelled widely throughout his life and eventually settled in San Remo, on his beloved Mediterranean coast, in the 1870s, at a villa he named "Villa Tennyson."

Lear was known to introduce himself with a long pseudonym: "Mr Abebika kratoponoko Prizzikalo Kattefello Ablegorabalus Ableborinto phashyph" or "Chakonoton the Cozovex Dossi Fossi Sini Tomentilla Coronilla Polentilla Battledore & Shuttlecock Derry down Derry Dumps" which he based on Aldiborontiphoskyphorniostikos.

After a long decline in his health, Lear died at his villa in 1888, of the heart disease from which he had suffered since at least 1870. Lear's funeral was said to be a sad, lonely affair by the wife of Dr. Hassall, Lear's physician, none of Lear's many lifelong friends being able to attend.

Lear is buried in the Cemetery Foce in San Remo. On his headstone are inscribed these lines about Mount Tomohrit (in Albania) from Tennyson's poem To E.L. [Edward Lear], On His Travels in Greece: all things fair. With such a pencil, such a pen. You shadow forth to distant men, I read and felt that I was there.

In 1846, Lear published A Book of Nonsense, a volume of limericks that 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 rumor developed 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. Promoters of this rumor offered as evidence the facts that both men were named Edward, and that "Lear" is an anagram of "Earl."

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. One of his most famous verbal inventions, the phrase "runcible spoon," occurs in the closing lines of The Owl and the Pussycat, and is now found in many English dictionaries:
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 neologisms, Lear used a number of other devices in his works in order to defy reader expectations. For example, "Cold Are The Crabs, conforms to the sonnet tradition until the dramatically foreshortened last line.

Limericks are invariably typeset as four plus one lines presently, but Lear's limericks were published in a variety of formats. It appears that Lear wrote them in manuscript in as many lines as there was room for beneath the picture. For the first three editions most are typeset as, respectively, two, five, and three lines. The cover of one edition bears an entire limerick typeset in two lines:
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. or the most part they are truly nonsensical and devoid of any punch line or point. They are completely free of the bawdyness 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!'.

Lear's self-description in verse, "How Pleasant to know Mr. Lear", ends with this stanza, a 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!



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Works:
Illustrations of the Family of the Psittacidae, or Parrots (1832)
Mount Timohorit, Albania (1848)
Tortoises, Terrapins, and Turtles, by J.E. Gray
Views in Rome and its Environs (1841)
Gleanings from the Menagerie at Knowsley Hall (1846)
Book of Nonsense (1846)
Journal of a Landscape Painter in Greece and Albania (1851)
The falls of the Kalama Albania (1851)
Journal of a Landscape Painter in Southern Calabria (1852)
Journal of a Landscape Painter in Corsica (1870)
Nonsense Songs and Stories (1870, dated 1871)
More Nonsense Songs, Pictures, etc. (1872)
Laughable Lyrics (1877)
Nonsense Alphabets
Argos from Mycenae (1884), now in the collection of Trinity College, Cambridge
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)



References:
Dictionary of National Biography Vol.32., Sidney Lee, Edward Lear, by Charles William Sutton, (1892).
Later Letters of Edward Lear: Author of The Book of Nonsense, Lady Constance Braham Strachie, 1911.
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
"Introduction" More Nonsense Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, etc., Lear, Edward (1894).
A Short Biographical Dictionary of English Literature by John William Cousin, (1910)

External links:
Wikiquote
Wikimedia Commons
Wikisource
Project Gutenberg



Birth: May 12, 1812, Holloway, Greater London, England
Death: Jan. 29, 1888, San Remo, Provincia di Imperia, Liguria, Italy
Burial: San Remo Cemetery, San Remo, Provincia di Imperia, Liguria, Italy
© Copyright Ownership: findagrave.com - Edward Lear

English Artist, Illustrator, Author and Poet. He is known now mostly for his literary nonsense in poetry and prose and especially his limericks, a form he popularised. His principal areas of work as an artist were threefold: as a draughtsman employed to illustrate birds and animals; making coloured drawings during his journeys, which he reworked later, sometimes as plates for his travel books; as a illustrator of Alfred Tennyson's poems. As an author, he is known principally for his popular nonsense works, which use real and invented English words. He was educated at home, mainly by his sister Ann, who was twenty one years his senior. He suffered from an early age from asthma and bronchitis, and also both depression (the 'Morbids') and epilepsy (the 'demon'). In 1827, the family split up, and he set up house in Grays Inn Road, London, with his sister Ann. He began to draw to earn a living around 1827, colouring screens, fans and prints, and for some time making disease drawings for doctors and hospitals. In 1830, he made application to the Zoological Society to make drawings of the parrots in their collection. From his drawings from life he produced fine hand coloured lithographs, which he sold by subscription, though the series was never finished. In 1831, he began collaborating with John Gould on the Birds of Europe, and accompanied him to Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Berlin and Berne. Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby, had seen him at work at the zoological gardens, and invited him to his 100 acre Knowsley Park, near Liverpool, to make drawings of the birds in his menagerie. Lear worked at Knowsley off and on for the next six years. He also developed ambitions to become a landscape painter, and enrolled in Sass's School of Art, which prepared students for the Royal Academy Schools, then visited Ireland and toured the Lake District, making sketches. his health deteriorated, and Lord Stanley and his nephew Robert Hornby together offered to send him to Rome. He stayed in Italy for most of the next 10 years, supporting himself by teaching and selling drawings. 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, the phrase "runcible spoon", occurs in the closing lines of The Owl and the Pussycat, and is now found in many English dictionaries

Family links:
Parents: Jeremiah Lear (1757 - 1833) -- Ann Clarke Skerrett Lear (1769 - 1844)
Siblings:
Ann Lear (1791 - 1861)*
Sarah Lear Street (1794 - 1873)*
Mary Lear Boswell (1796 - 1861)*
Henry Lear (1798 - 1877)*
Cordelia Lear (1803 - 1834)*
Frederick Lear (1805 - 1888)*
Florence Lear (1806 - 1838)*
Charles Lear (1808 - ____)*
Catherine Lear (1813 - 1837)*
*Calculated relationship



View painter's work: Edward Lear (1812-1888)

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