Edward Lear

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Edward Lear (1870)
Edward Lear drawn by Vilhelm Marstrand

Edward Lear (born May 12, 1812 in Highgate , † January 29, 1888 in Sanremo ) was an English writer and painter. Together with Lewis Carroll he is considered one of the great masters of Victorian nonsense literature ; his numerous limericks and poems such as The Owl and the Pussycat are classics of the genre. At a young age, Lear first appeared as a landscape painter and illustrator of natural motifs, with his scientific drawings of exotic birds in particular gaining wide attention.


Edward Lear was the twentieth child of the London securities dealer Jeremiah Lear and his wife Ann. In his childhood he went through severe illnesses: at the age of five or six he suffered from epileptic seizures , a few years later from depressive attacks. Due to the father's speculation in 1816, the family became impoverished and the parents were no longer able to provide enough for their numerous children. Edward was therefore raised by his older sister Ann, who moved into their household at the age of 15. To make money, he tried his hand at an illustrator.

In June 1830 he began work on Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidæ, or Parrots , which were published in November and established his reputation as an ornithological illustrator. For some time he worked with John Gould . From 1832 to 1836 Lord Stanley , President of the Zoological Society of London , employed him as a draftsman at his country estate, Knowsley Hall . Lear was a member of the naturalistic Linnean Society of London . In the following years Lear traveled through Europe and made many other drawings.

In 1846, Lear published his best known work, A Book of Nonsense, under the pseudonym Derry Down Derry . In the same year he gave drawing lessons to Queen Victoria . He later met Alfred Tennyson and William Holman Hunt . From 1855 to 1864 Lear lived, apart from brief interruptions, on the Ionian island of Corfu, which was then under the British protectorate . From there he made several trips to the nearby Ottoman Balkan provinces. Lear tried his hand at oil painting, but his landscapes were not widely acclaimed. In February 1865 he published his first nonsense story, The History of the Seven Families of the Lake Pipple-Popple . His first nonsense song, The Owl and the Pussycat, followed two years later . The follow-up volume of his poems, More Nonsense , was published in December 1871. From 1871 Lear lived in Sanremo, first in the Villa Emily , then from 1881 in the Villa Tennyson , where he died in 1888. He was buried in the Cimitero Monumentale della Foce.

Modern editions of works


Lear's nonsense works have appeared in countless anthologies and individual prints, including many children's books. The editions with high editorial standards include:

  • The Complete Nonsense and other Verse . Ed., With an introduction and notes by Vivian Noakes. Penguin, London 2006, ISBN 9780140424652 .
  • Nonsensus. Comparing the 1846, 1855 and 1861 Printed Texts of 116 Edward Lear Limericks to Their Original Manuscripts . Compiled by Justin G. Schiller, with an introduction by Vivian Noakes. Catalpa Press, Strood 1988.

Modern editions of Lear's travel diaries:

  • Indian Journal . Edited by Ray Murphy. Jarrolds, London 1953.
  • Edward Lear in Southern Italy . With an introduction by Peter Quennell . William Kimber, London 1964.
  • Edward Lear in Greece . With an introduction by Peter Quennell. William Kimber, London 1965.
  • Lear's Corfu . With an introduction by Lawrence Durrell . Corfu Trafel, Corfu 1965.
  • Edward Lear in Corsica . With an introduction by Peter Quennell. William Kimber, London 1966.
  • The Cretan Journal . Edited by Rowena Fowler. Denise Harvey & Co., Athens 1984.
  • Edward Lear in the Levant: Travels in Albania, Greece and Turkey in Europe, 1848–1849 . Edited by Susan Hyman. John Murray, London 1988.
  • Edward Lear in Albania: Journals of a Landscape Painter in the Balkans . Edited by Bejtullah Destani and Robert Elsie, with a foreword by Vivian Noakes. IB Tauris, New York 2008, ISBN 9781845116026 .

Issues of letters:

  • Letters of Edward Lear . Edited by Lady Strachey. T. Fisher Unwin, London 1907.
  • Later Letters of Edward Lear . Edited by Lady Strachey. T. Fisher Unwin, London 1911.
  • Selected letters . Edited by Vivien Noakes. Oxford University Press, Oxford 1988.

Lear's painterly, graphic and musical work is available in the following modern editions:

  • Edward Lear's Tennyson . Edited and with an introduction by Ruth Pitman. Carcanet, Manchester 1988.
  • Impossible Picturesqueness: Edward Lear's Indian Watercolors, 1873-1875 . Edited by Vidya Dehejia. Columbia University Press, New York 1989.
  • 1830-1832: Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidæ, or Parrots. The parrots. Taschen Verlag, Cologne 2009, ISBN 978-3-8228-5274-3 (illustrated book with all illustrations from the first edition from 1832).
  • Edward Lear and the Art of Travel . Exhibition catalog of a retrospective at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (September 2000 - January 2001), ed. by Scott Wilcox and Eva Bowerman. Yale Center for British Art, New Haven 2000, ISBN 0930606922 .


Many of Lear's poems have been translated into German several times, with some of the results being regarded as adaptations rather than translations, including anthologies:

  • Edwards Lear's nonsense verses . German by HC Artmann , with an afterword by Klaus Reichert . Insel-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1963.
  • "How nice to know Mr. Lear." Rhymes and stories by Edward Lear . German by Grete Fischer. Heimeran, Munich 1965.
  • Edward Lear's complete nonsense: limericks, songs, ballads and stories . "Smuggled into German" by Hans Magnus Enzensberger . Insel, Frankfurt am Main 1977.
  • All limericks . Bilingual edition, German by Theo Stemmler. Reclam, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 978-3-15-020172-5 .
  • The Book of Limericks - The Book of Nonsense . Bilingual complete edition with the author's illustrations, translations into German by Kai Kilian and Kim Landgraf. Anaconda Verlag, Cologne 2008, ISBN 978-3-86647-263-1 .

Secondary literature

  • Matthew Bevis and James Williams (Eds.): Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry . Oxford University Press, Oxford 2016, ISBN 9780198708568
  • Thomas Byrom: Nonsense and Wonder: The Poems and Cartoons of Edward Lear . Dutton, New York 1977, ISBN 0525168354 .
  • Susan Chitty: That Singular Person Called Lear: A Biography . Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London 1988, ISBN 0297793888 .
  • Peter Levi: Edward Lear: A Biography . Macmillan, London 1995, ISBN 0333588045 .
  • Vivien Noakes : Edward Lear: The Life of a Wanderer . Collins, London 1968. 4th, revised and expanded edition: Sutton, Stroud 2004, ISBN 0750937432 .
  • Vivien Noakes: The Painter Edward Lear . David & Charles, Newton Abbot 1991, ISBN 0715397788 .
  • Jenny Uglow : Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense . Faber & Faber, London 2017, ISBN 978-0571269549 .
  • Sara Lodge: Inventing Edward Lear , Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press 2019, ISBN 978-0-674-97115-8

Web links

Commons : Edward Lear  - album with pictures, videos and audio files

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ^ E. Lear .: The Corfu years. A chronicle presented through his letters and journals. Ed. U. initiated v. Philip Sherrard. Athens / Dedham 1988, ISBN 0-907978-25-8 .
  2. Edward Lear. In: Find A Grave. May 12, 2012, accessed December 30, 2018 .