Edward Lear, View of Deir Kadige, 1867 (1884)


Edward Lear, View of Deir Kadige, on the Nile, Egypt.
Signed with monogram and dated ‘.1884′ (lower right) and inscribed and dated ‘Deir Kadige. 1867′ (lower right) and numbered and inscribed ’67. Deir Kadige’ (verso). Pencil and watercolour. 3 ¾ x 7 ¼ in. (9.5 x 18.5 cm.).

Lear visited Egypt four times, firstly in 1848, then again in 1853 and 1854. The present watercolour dates to his final trip which was from the winter of 1866 to the spring of 1867. Lear often executed ‘on the spot’ sketches complete with colour notes that were then revisited years later and worked into more finished watercolours such as the present view, hence the second date of 1884. Another view of Deir Kadige by Lear is in the National Maritime Museum.

Lear met Thomas Baring, later the Earl of Northbrook, in February 1848, and described him as ‘an extremely luminous & amiable brick, & I like him very much…& I suppose he likes me or he wouldn’t take the trouble of knocking me up as he does considering the lot of people he might take to instead’ (Letter to Chichester Fortescue, 12 February 1848, in V. Noakes, Edward Lear: The Life of a Wanderer, London, 2006, p. 71). They became close friends and when Northbrook became Viceroy of India in 1871, Lear was invited to stay and spent over a year travelling through the country and staying in Vice-Regal houses.


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Edward Lear, Val Montone, Near Tivoli, 1840


Edward Lear, Val Montone, near Tivoli.
Inscribed and dated ’8th May, 1840′ (lower left). Pencil. 8 ½ x 16 ¼ in. (21.6 x 41.3 cm.).


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Edward Lear, Views of Sta. Maura and Corfu



Edward Lear, View of Amaxichi and the Fort, Santa Maura; and View of Corfu from the Benitza Road, near Gastouri.
The first inscribed ‘Santa Maura’ (lower centre, in the margin), the second inscribed ‘Corfu’ (on a fragment attached to the mount). Pencil, one pen and brown ink, both brown wash, on oatmeal paper. 9¼ x 14½ in. (23.5 x 36.8 cm.).

Lear’s sixth book recording his travels was Views of the Seven Ionian Islands, published in 1863. The format echoed his Views in Rome and its Environs: the lithographic illustrations had a brief explanatory text with each one, rather than a personal journal. The illustrations resulted from a two month tour of the islands that Lear made in the Spring of 1863. He executed numerous pencil drawings, which he later penned out and overlaid with washes. The schematic style of the present drawings, which relate to plates 10 and 4 of Seven Ionian Islands, suggest they may have been part of the overall planning of the work rather than drawings intended for reproduction.

The island of Santa Maura is now known as Lefkada.


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Edward Lear, Near Massa, 1838



Edward Lear, Near Massa, Capri in the distance.
Inscribed and dated ‘Near Massa, 22 August/1838′ (lower left) and with extensive colour notes throughout. Pencil on buff paper. 10 x 14 in. (25.4 x 25.5 cm.)


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Small Potatoes


Small Potatoes, by Mary G. Jones, ran in the New York Herald from 10 July to 6 September 1903; it was one of several nonsense-rhyme cartoons in the Sunday supplements of the early years of the 20th century. The strip above, from 9 August, was posted by P. Maresca in his Origins of Sunday Comics series.

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WS Gilbert’s Nonsense Poems

W.S. Gilbert never really wrote Nonsense; his Bab Ballads and other collections, while obviously influenced by Edward Lear ― especially in the strongly caricatural style of the pictures accompanying his poems in the early editions – are rather in the humorous narrative tradition of William Cowper’s “Diverting History of John Gilpin” and Thomas Hood’s “Miss Kilmansegg and Her Precious Leg.”

Early in his career, however, he produced imitations of Nonsense, the most famous ― owing to its publication history ― being perhaps “The Advent of Spring.” It first appeared anonymously in Fun in 1862:


By a Devout Admirer of Mr. T―――――n.

Under the beechful eye,
When causeless brandlings bring,
Let the froddering crooner cry,
And the braddled sapster sing.
For never and never again
Will the tottering bauble bray,
For bratticed wrackers are singing aloud,
And the throngers croon in May!

The wracking globe unstrung,
Unstrung in the frittering light
Of a moon that knows no day!
Of a day that knows no night!
Diving away in the crowd
Of sparkling frets of spray,
The bratticed wrackers are singing aloud,
And the throngers croon in May!

Hasten, O hapful blue,
Blue of the thimmering brow,
Hasten to meet your crew,
They’ll clamour to pelt thee now!
For never again shall a cloud
Out-thribble the babbling day,
When bratticed wrackers are singing aloud,
And the throngers croon in May!

[WS Gilbert.] “The Advent of Spring.” Fun 1 February 1862, vol.1, p. 200.

The poem was then reprinted, apparently by mistake and with some variants, in Punch on 23 April 1873:


Shirley Brooks, editor of Punch at the time, wrote in his diary:

Miss Emily Leith has helped me into a mull. She sent me some things of her own some time back, and with them some very good nonsense verses in MS., which I also took to be hers, but which she says she told me were copied. If she did, I overlooked the statement, and having touched them up, used them this week, as they fitted a cut of Sambourne’s. Such things will happen, but I don’t do them often, usually eschewing outsiders.

And a few days later:

I inserted some verse sent me by Emily Leith, overlooking her distinct statement that she had copied them. So down come letters from Gilbert, who wrote them in Fun 10 years ago, Tom Hood and Burnand. Made the amende and wrote Gilbert. Mea culoa, and nobody else’s. (George Somes Layard, A Great Punch Editor. London: Sir Isaac Pitman & Sons, 1907. 542.)

“The Advent of Spring” is a parody of Tennyson’s notorious haziness of meaning, with particular reference perhaps to the poet laureate’s “The Progress of Spring” or “Early Spring.” The poem, with its profusion of invented words, sounds a lot like Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky,” which would only appear ten years after the first Fun publication.

Tennyson is also mentioned in a second experiment with nonsense, which was published in Fun in two installments in 1865:


1.―The Highland Jew.

I saw a red-haired Jew from Aberdeen,
In a gabardine,
At the Tabard Inn,
He wore a sword which was its scabbard in,
On a Wednesday!

  1. ―The Pious Q.C.
    I saw Mr. Big Ben Denison,
    Ask a benison
    On some venison,
    Which he bought of Alfred Tennyson,
    On a Wednesday.
  2. ―The Greek Maiden.
    I beg to state I love a yaller miss,
    Born at Salamis,
    And this gal, or miss,
    Bound to meet me down at Balham is,
    Every Wenesday!
  3. ― The Worthy Independent Minister.
    A worthy Independent minister,
    Born at Finisterre,
    Turning sinister,
    Smothered his wife with fumes of kinaster
    On a Wednesday!
  4. ―The Unhappy Marriage.
    Once I married a cook from charity,
    But disparity,
    And hair carroty,
    Made me treat her with barbarity
    Every Wednesday!
  5. ―The Sensation Opera Troupe
    I know a man who’s going to offer Gye
    (Or androphagi),
    Who will sing with French hippophagi
    Every Wednesday!

[WS Gilbert.] “Something Like Nonsense Verses.” Fun 10 June 1865, p. 31.

Something like Nonsense Verses.

No. II.

  1. ―The Unfortunate Revellers.
    Tipsy gents, the type of snobbery,
    Drunk and slobbery,
    Make a bobbery,
    And the victims are of robbery

Every Wednesday.

  1. ―The Jealous Dancer.
    As I Waltzed with Jane deliciously,
    Jones officiously,
    Bumped against us both most viciously,
    On a Wednesday.
  2. ―The Polite Student.
    A civil student at my college (he
    Learns horology
    And conchology)
    Offers me a full apology
    Every Wednesday.
  3. ―The Undignified Nobleman.
    I know a nobleman whose publicity
    And complicity
    In mendacity
    Is a fact of authenticity
    Every Wednesday.
  4. ―The Absurd Chancellor.
    Once a chancellor of acidity
    And timidity,
    With rapidity
    Used to sing “Run ti iddy ti!”
    Every Wednesday.

[WS Gilbert.] “Something like Nonsense Verses. No. II.” Fun 24 June 1865, p. 51.

The model for these short monorhyme five liners seems might have been Edward Lear’s A Book of Nonsense, whose third edition, the first one to be widely distributed, had been published to great acclaim in 1861.

For more on Gilbert’s little-known poems see: Ellis, James. “The Unsung W.S. Gilbert.” Harvard Library Bulletin 18.2 (1970): 109-40.

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A Wheelbarrow to Hell

In a previous post, The natural History of the Wheelbarrow, I published a series of images in which a woman was carried around in a wheelbarrow, usually by a loving husband or servants.

The first image, however, showed a devil carrying souls to hell in a wheelbarrow; the same MS ― ‘Taymouth Hours’, England (London?), second quarter of the 14th century, Yates Thompson MS 13, f. 139v ― has a similar image in which a “lecherous woman” is pictured so that she herself looks like a wheelbarrow while she is led to hell by demons:


Detail of a bas-de-page scene showing a lecherous woman, from the ‘Taymouth Hours’, Yates Thompson MS 13, f. 141v.

The wheelbarrow as a means of transport to a place of punishment was still well alive in the 16th century, when this print was published:


The small woodcut was prefixed to an early 16th century edition of an often-reprinted pamphlet by Maestro Andrea, Purgatorio delle Cortigiane, in which harlots lament their fate and describe their premature descent into hell on earth owing to the French disease, here represented by the sores and ulcers covering the woman’s body. I take the picture from Kurz, Hilde. “Italian Models of Hogarth’s Picture Stories.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 15.3/4 (1952): 136-68.

As Arturo Graf observed (Attraverso il cinquecento. Torino: Loescher, 1888. 272): “The Purgatorio delle cortigiane [...] is not the ordinary purgatory, but the hospital of San Giacomo, known as the Incurables’ hospital, in Rome,”

In cui si vede paurosi mostri,
Qui è di Franza il dilettevol male,
E di San Lazer la lebbra gioconda,
Cancheri e malattie universale.

The wheelbarrow also appears in the same manuscript, Yates Thompson MS 13, on f. 184r, where a mother-ape is pushing her three children, presumably to escape from a big bear which appears in the facing f. 183v:



On f. 184v the ape has abandoned the wheelbarrow, and lost one of her children:


The short story comes to an end in the next page (f. 185r) when the mother finally finds a tree to climb, much to the bear’s chagrin:


The mother now seems to hold one child only, however.

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