Son of A Wheelbarrow to Hell

From Yale University, Beinecke Library MS 404, Rothschild Canticles, 169v (thanks to Francois Soyer).

Previous instalments: The Natural History of the Wheelbarrow, A Wheelbarrow to Hell.

Rather than devils carrying souls to hell, the scene seems to represent a (good?) soul driving back a devil; or perhaps the weight of sin all people must carry?

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Edward Lear, Letter to Mrs Ford

5 Stratford Place.
30 June 1865

Dear Mrs. Ford,
I send you 2 photographs for your collection; — one, (the most professional,) was done this winter: the other — (the head,) — some time back: it is said by my friends to be a mixture of Socrates, Sir John Falstaff & Sancho Panza, & has an air preclusive of apoplexy.
Last evening at Dorchester House was a regular treat but I wonder if many of the pedestrians were drowned, for the rain after midnight was unpleasant, however “good for the country.”

Believe me,

Your’s sicerely,

Edward Lear.

Diary 29 June 1865:

… Cab to Dorchester House at 10.30, Magnificenza. Saw many people, & passed a pleasant time till 1. When the Digby Wyatts took me home in pouring rain. …

The Saleroom:

LEAR EDWARD: (1812-1888) English Artist, Illustrator and writer, remembered for his nonsensical poetry and limericks. A.L.S., Edward Lear, two pages, 8vo, Stratford Place, 30th June 1865, to Mrs. Ford. Lear sends his correspondent two photographs (no longer present), evidently of himself, for her collection, remarking ‘it is said by my friends to be a mixture of Socrates, Sir John Falstaff & Sancho Panza, & has an air preclusive of apoplexy.’ He further remarks on the previous evening at Dorchester House being ‘a regular treat’ although comments ‘I wonder if many pedestrians were drowned, for the rain after midnight was unpleasant, however “good for the country”‘. A small area of discolouration only lightly affects part of the text of the first page, otherwise VG

Thanks to St4ephen Duckworth.

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Edward Lear’s Mucous Membrane (Another Unpublished Poem and a ‘Drama’)

Harvard University, Houghton Library MS Typ 55.14, item 93:

Once I had a Mucous Membrane
And I kept him in a box ―
Which the lid I fastened down with
3 of Brahmah’s patent locks.
So ― said I ― my little darling ―
From [this time] there is no doubt
From this box so well securely
You will never more get out!
But my mucous membrane’s mind
Was of a lively wary kind ―
And in spite of Brahmah’s locks
He did evade that safety box.

What was my intense surprise ―
I could scarce believe my eyes ―

Walking like a placid Demon
Arm in arm with Mrs. Freeman
Up & down the Passeggiata
[Eating] bread & buttered Tomata?

Nothing could be more suprising.

But the voice of angry demon
Dr. F. & Mrs. Freeman ―
In a quarrel soon were heard

Why we’ve had no lunch at all!
luncheon yet!
Its too late for luncheon now ―
But we must have food anyhow (though its too late
All the restaurants are closed
Ha the Doctor interposed ―

Let us, rather than be starved
Cook & eat the Mucous Membrane ―
Which accordingly they did ―
Out from Castellani’s Inn,
Saucepans & all         of tin
Salt & pepper [too] of course
And a lot of Worcester sauce.
Then they dined & both declared
Better they had never fared.

& eaten hot from a little
silver pot. What was
left was wrapped in silk ―
& sent to Mrs. Crawford Dilke.
Half the mucous membrane
roast [as] & Sandwich [or] a
toast. Half was fried &

Half I painted
Of a bright celestial blue,
Half I painted emerald green
So that such a mucous membrane
half so lovely neer was seen.

“Once I had a Mucous Membrane” was probably inspired by something that happened to Lear and some acquaintances (Dr. and Mrs. Freeman) and written for this particular audience that knew what the “mucous membrane” was, much like in the “Scene from the New Drama of the ‘Middle Ravine’” at the Morgan Library (Dept. of Drawings and Prints):

In this case we have Lear’s own explanation, which while it does not clear everything at least gives an idea of what happened:

“Scene from the New Drama of the “Middle Ravine”
Place, Corfu. Time.5. P.M.March 13th 1864
Scene, a Nollive Wood: – 4 hands discovered from
behind a Nollive tree – persons belonging to the hands
unseen. An aged and obese Landscape painter observing
the 4 hands. A vast Multitewd looking on. A Julus on the ground.
A. The 4 hands.
B the aged & obese Landscape painter.
C. The domestic and tranquil Julus D The Multitewd.
Curtain rises to Sloe and Blackthorn melody: voices
heard singing, Flee-flee to the mountains – flee!
Chorus. FLEE!!!”

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Edward Lear’s The Little Mouse: An Unpublished Poem

This poem does not appear in The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense; Vivien Noakes mentioned it in a note to “The Uncareful Cow, who walked about” on p. 515, but obviously considered this sketch too rough to be published, and she was probably right, as the story is not brought to a satisfactory conclusion. “The Little Mouse” was probably to have a sad sentimental ending similar to that of other songs:


The Little Mouse

The little mouse lived quite close to the oven,
His nose was pink & his coat was gray
He said, “I’ll be neat ― I won’t be a sloven ―
I’ll comb my whiskers day by day.
I will brush my fur & I will never will fail
To … & smooth every hair
―――― take ^[most] particular care
Of the elegant tip of my beautiful tail[.]
& when I can find any crumbs to eat,
I’ll sit upright on my hinder feet
And nibble it slowly [illegible] genteel
Like high ^[well] bred people a eating a meal.


The large ^[soft] white ^[Pussey] cat lived close by the fire
And she said one day to the mouse ― O Sir!
It’s quite impossible not to admire
Your charming nose & your smoothy fur!
I shall have such pleasure, Sir she said
If you’ll make what use you please of my head
If gentle For my head is as soft as a velvet chair
And you’d find it pleasant a sitting there!


The little mouse said ― In all my life
I never had offer so kind as this is{1}
My darling ^[O] pussey I’ll come ―――
& I’ll give you 50 ^[20] thousand kisses!
Long long ago in happier times
―――――――――― chimes
My grandmother taught me to play on a straw
Some lovely melodies{2} ―10 or more ―
I will sit on your head & play it slowly ―
―――――――――― wholly ―

{1} Or “I never had offer / In all my life so kind as this is.”

{2} Corrects “A lovely melody.”

The Houghton Library “finding aid” entry for MS Typ 55.14, item 154 reads:

Lear, Edward, 1812-1888. The little mouse lived quite close to the oven: autograph manuscript (unsigned); [Italy, undated]. 1s. (1p.)
A nonsense poem.

The sheet is part of a series of manuscript versions of famous nonsense poems; specifically it is between “The Duck and the Kangaroo” (no. 153) and “The Owl and the Pussy-cat” (no. 155) and so was perhaps written in the same period (1867). With the former “The Little Mouse” shares the invitation to take advantage of a part of one of the protagonists’ body, with the latter the Pussy-cat as well as the singing of “lovely melodies.”

The poem should presumably have been part of the series devoted to more-or-less incongruous couples, like the duck and the kangaroo or the daddy-long-legs and the fly: as in some other poems of the group the protagonists are animals traditionally considered totally-incompatible enemies who find a way to be of use to each other and end up living together in harmony (but on the final happiness of these couples, see Daniel Karlin’s essay on Lear’s “Poems of Love and Marriage” in Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry). While the second stanza might be read as containing an equivocal invitation on the part of the cat, the picture clearly indicates that there should have been a relatively happy ending, remarkably similar to the one in the “Duck and the Kangaroo.”

Lear evidently did not find the poem interesting enough to complete it, or perhaps he realized it was little more than a repetition of themes already developed in the other Nonsense songs. However, it is useful as it allows us to see Lear’s modus operandi in writing a poem: he clearly starts from the end of the lines defining the rhyme, but also pays attention to the rhythmical cadence of the verse.

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And What About Charles?

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]

The 18th son Charles had an interesting story, he became medical Missionary and went to the West coast of Africa, was a great favourite of the Chiefs, and when he nearly died of malaria, was put on board a ship for England. The Captain would not take him without a nurse, so Adjouah the native girl who nursed him went too, Charles insisting upon marrying her first. He took her to his sister Eleanor Newsome who had no children, and lived with her husband at Leatherhead, Surrey. The story goes that the first day after her arrival she poured the hug of water in her bedroom over her head. They became very fond of Adjouah, she was sent to school for three years, and Charles returned to the Mission filed, where he died. Afterwards she became a Missionary and returned to work amongst her own people, the only relics we had of her were a high comb, made in fine basked work, and a long handled ivory had to scratch a troublesome back.

These few lines written by Lilly Bowen in 1835 for Angus Davidson, who was working on Edward Lear’s first full-length biography. I have already expressed my doubts on Ms Bowen’s reliability in the previous posts on the Lear family (Part 1, part 2, part 3). What she says is certainly reliable in this case though one would like to have some time frame in which to place the events. Most biographers of Edward assume that Charles disappeared soon after going back to Africa, probably in the 1840s.

However, a few years ago, Harlon V. Wells, a descendant of Frederick Lear, sent me an e-mail which might throw some  light on the events. In it he mentioned a letter

written on 2 July 1888, from Dublin, Erath Co., Texas, by Francis Frederick Lear, (son of Frederic Lear), to his wife, back home, in Blanket, Brown Co., Texas.  This being only two days since his father, Frederick, had died of cancer, there in Dublin, at the home owned by Frederick’s wife’s half sister, Frances “Fannie” Elizabeth Boyd.  He was explaining to his wife about the manner in which he thought the inheritance from his father was to be distributed.  Coincidentally, at about the same time, he was expecting an inheritance distribution from his grandmother Skerritt’s estate.  (This is curious because her will was proven on 20 January 1834, so why was it just being distributed in 1888??  I haven’t a clue!)  At this point, Frederick and Aunt “Fannie” were living together after the death of his wife, in 1880.  Here is an excerpt from my[Mr. Wells’s] transcription of that lengthy letter:

It has been a hard matter to make Aunt understand it but I believe it is all right – I think from what she says she will take a childs part ie – 1/4 part – so that when Pa’s share com [sic], and I don’t think it will be less than $4000 clear – it will be $1000 apiece – and when it is legally Settled that Uncle Charles is dead – His share will Come – It will not be less that [sic] $4000 unless they spend a good deal hunting for him. I am anxiously waiting to hear from England to Know what they have done and what they are going to do – I hear the train Come in, so I must go and see if there is any mail I must close for the present.
I Remain your affectionate Husband,
Fras F. Lear

It seems then that in 1888 not even the family knew what had happened to Charles; he was presumed dead, but this could not yet be legally asserted.

According to an article by R.M. Jarvis and M.F. Chaney (“‘The Living, the Dead, the Undecided’ – An Annotated Bibliography of Law Review Articles Dealing with the Law of Absentees and Returnees.” International Journal of Legal Information 44.2 (2016) 182):

In antiquity, the presumption of “continuing life” required proof that an absentee was dead. In the 17th century, the English Parliament by statute reversed this presumption with respect to missing spouses and, later, missing life tenants. As a result, such persons could be declared legally dead after being absent for seven years. In 1805, Lord Ellenborough relied on these statutes to hold that any person who had been missing for seven years could be declared legally dead.

We can imagine that no one tried to determine Charles’s status before at least 1881.

Notice that Aunt Fannie seems to accept a “child’s part,” i.e. a quarter, as Frederick had three children, here is a registry report for Frederick Lear provided by Mr. Harlon V. Wells:

Frederick5 Lear (Jeremiah4, Henry3, George2, George1), born 1 Mar 1805 in Pentonville, Middlesex, England; died 25 Jun 1888 in Dublin, Erath, Texas; buried in Live Oak Cem, Dublin, Erath, Texas. He married on 17 May 1830 in Shoreditch, Middlesex, England, Rosa Annie Smyth , born 1813 in , England; died 17 Jul 1880 in St Louis, St Louis, Missouri; buried 18 Jul 1880 in Bellefountaine C, St Louis, St Louis, Missouri.

Frederick Lear, the only one of Edward’s brothers for whom we have a photograph. Photo provided by Harlon V. Wells.

Notes for Frederick LEAR
Occupation: Mining Engineer, CSA Captain, & Plantation Owner?
Married in the Parish of St Leonard
Buried in The New Dublin Liveoak Cemetery

Frederick’s wife Rosa Anna Smyth. Photo supplied by Harlon V. Wells. Photo provided by Harlon V. Wells.

Notes for Rosa Annie SMYTH:
Buried in Bellefountaine Cemetery N, 4947 W Flourissant, block 205, lot 01, grave 116, no gravestone

Children of Frederick LEAR and Rosa Annie SMYTH were as follows:
Francis Frederick6 Lear , born 28 May 1832 in , Jamaica, West Indies; died 1 Jul 1889 in Blanket, Brown, Texas; buried in Eureka Cemetery, Blanket, Brown, Texas.
Rosa Frances Ann6 Lear , born 1840 in , Cuba, West Indies; died 1910/19 in Fullerton, Orange, California.
Mary Ellen AnastasiaLear , born 1842 in Havana Harbor, Cuba, West Indies. Born aboard ship in Havana Harbor bound for United States.

Mary Ellen Anastasia Lear, Frederick’s daughter. Photo provided by Harlon V. Wells.

Mr. Wells has provided further information in this page, where he maintains that Charles died before 1859 and is buried in Sierra Leone. Following the links provides additional details on some of the other Lear siblings.

[Part 1] [Part 2] [Part 3]

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“Twentieth of Twenty-one”: Edward Lear and his Siblings (3)

[Part 1] [Part 2]

Catherine Lear, by Unknown artist. Silhouette, circa 1830s. Given by Francis Adeney Allen, 1915. NPG 1759c.

The Lears were non-conformists and had their children baptized at the Meeting House at Haberdashers’ Hall by Pastor Joseph Brooksbank, and all the children who reached adulthood, except Charles, appear in the “Register of Births and Baptisms at the Haberdashers Independent Hall at Staining Lane in the City of London from 1785 to 1825” (RG4/4243), scans of which are available online at There are records for the baptism of:

Ann Lear (1791)
Sarah Lear (1792)
Sarah Lear (1795)
Mary Lear (1796)
Henry Lear (1798)
Eleanor Lear (1799)
Jane Lear (1801)
Harriet Lear (1802)
Cordelia Lear (1804)
Frederick Lear (1805)
Florence Lear (1807)
Edward Lear (1815)
Catherine Lear (1815)

Only Charles Lear (1808) is missing; however, he appears in the “Register of Births at Dr Williams’ Library in Red Cross Street, Cripplegate, London registered between 1820 to 1824” (RG4/4664) along with the other children: here Jane – as well as the non-surviving Sarahs – are missing while all the others are listed, nos. 2813-2823. RG4/4664 may be missing Jane and the non-surviving children either because the original parchment birth certificates which served as the basis for registration at Dr Williams’ Library were lost (these are also available at BMDregisters as RG5/095, “Protestant Dissenters’ Registry”), or more probably because only the children still alive in November 1822 were registered, and Jane died in February of that year.

The Lear children’s registration in three successive pages in the “Register of Births at Dr Williams’ Library in Red Cross Street, Cripplegate, London registered between 1820 to 1824” (RG4/4664).

The national Archives website provides a description of the procedure to be followed to register births here:

The Protestant Dissenters’ Registry at Dr Williams’ Library served the congregations of Baptists, Independents and Presbyterians in London and within a twelve-mile radius of the capital. However, parents from most parts of the British Isles and even abroad also used the registry. Almost 50,000 births were registered in it. The register was started in 1742, with retrospective entries going back to 1716, and continued to 1837. The certificates used to compile the registers also survive. Parents wishing to register a birth had to produce two parchment certificates signed by their minister and by the midwife and one or two other people present at the birth, giving the name and sex of the child, the name of the parents, the name of the mother’s father and the date and place (street, parish and county) of birth. After 1828, paper certificates were required instead, which had to be signed by the parents as well; this made them more acceptable as legal proof. On receipt of the two certificates, the registrar entered all the details, except the address of birth, in the register, filed one of the certificates and returned the other to the parents with his certificate of registration. (“General Register Office: Registers of Births, Marriages and Deaths surrendered to the Non-parochial Registers Commissions of 1837 and 1857.” The National Archives website.)

Edward’s companion silhouette to the above one of Catherine. NPG 1759.

It is easy to see that all children who reached adulthood were baptized and registered at Haberdashers Hall, the exception being the 1792 Sarah Lear, who was registered even though she died in infancy (no registration is to be found for the second non-surviving Sarah of 1793 mentioned in the list); the Lears evidently decided to wait a bit longer before baptizing their children: in the cases of Edward and Catharine, they waited almost three years, both being baptized together on 5 January 1815. When they decided to register the children with Dr Williams’ Library, in November 1822, considering that a “small fee” was required, they evidently opted for only presenting the parchment certificates for the surviving children.

Edward and Catharine’s baptisms are registered on the same day, 5 January 1815, three and two years after they were born. RG4 4243 12-13.

So, what happened? How did the idea that the Lear siblings were 21 come to be? I would suggest that the main culprit is Edward himself with his statement in the letter to Fortescue; Lilly Bowen mentions the Lear correspondence that appeared at the beginning of the XX century several times in her letters to Angus Davidson and perhaps she was the one who tried to adjust the documents she had at her disposal so that they coincided with Edward’s statements: all the documents with 21 names which have come down to us passed through her hands.

On Dr. Williams’s Library: A Short Account of the Charity & Library Established under the Will of the Late Rev. Daniel Williams, D.D. London, 1917. (

On Haberdashers’ Hall: Walter Wilson, The History and Antiquities of Dissenting Churches and Meeting Houses in London, Westminster, and Southwark. London: privately printed, 181o, vol. 3, pp. 148-183. (

On the Rev. Joseph Brooksbank: John Morison, The Fathers and Founders of the London Missionary Society. London: Fisher, Son, & Co., pp. 495-498. (

On the Lear family and religion: Sara Lodge, “Edward Lear and Dissent.” James Williams and matthew Bevis (eds.), Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry. Oxford: Oxford University press, 2016, pp. 70-88.

[Part 1] [Part 2]

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“Twentieth of Twenty-one”: Edward Lear and his Siblings (2)

[Part 1] [Part 3]

Ann Lear (Edward’s favourite sister) by Unknown artist. Watercolour and bodycolour on ivory, circa 1830s. Given by Francis Adeney Allen, 1915. NPG 1759a.

A second group of family documents is located at the National Art Library in London, “Papers of Ellen Newsom (Née Lear) and her family, 1795-1884,” (Manuscript MSL/1985/3) which includes several items relating to the family, among them four different lists of the Lear siblings, all agreeing on the fact that there were seventeen rather than twenty-one. The first document (item 36) is a list written in black ink with marriage and death dates added at a later date in {red ink} and still later annotations in {{black ink}}, apparently written at different times; it reads:

Photograph of a much-older Ann. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

Jeremiah Lear. born 6th May 1767 [should be 1757]
Ann. Clarke Skerrett. (his Wife.) born 5th of August. 1769. was married at Wansted Church. Essex. 24 Aug.t 1788 & had Issue as [illegible]
Ann       born    17 Jany            1791
Sarah    ――    11 May           1792    {died 26 Sept. 1792}
Sarah    ――    28 Augt          1793    {Died 12 Sept. 1793}
Sarah    ――    21 Dec.r          1794    {Married to [C. Street] 25 Jany 1822}
Mary     ――    1 May             1796    {Married R. Boswell 13 Dec. 1821}
Henry   ――    26 June           1797    {Died 9 July 1797}
Henry               25 Aug.t         1798
Eleanor 29 Nov.r         1799    {Married Wm. Newsom 16 Dec. 1823}
Jane       ――    10 June           1801    {Died 5 Feb.ry 1822}
Harriott.           13        1802
Cordelia           21 Nov.r         1803    {{Died 2 April 1834}}
Frederick         1          1805
Florance [sic]  3 June             1806    {{died 21 March 1838}}
Charles             30        1808
Catherine―     17 Octo.r        1810    {Died 11 mar. 1811}
Edward            13 May           1812
Catherine         24 Nov.r         1813    {{Died 24 January 1837}}

The verso contains dates for Sarah Street’s two sons.

Sarah Street, née Lear. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

MS L. 3/37-1985 is Florence Lear’s death certificate confirming the date given above; Florence, a “spinster,” died of “consumption.”

Item 38 contains a dateless family tree starting with “Alice Brignall of Durham” which simply confirms the order and names of Jeremiah and Ann’s children; “Catherine” is here spelt “Catharine.” Item 39, entitled “Family Tree of Brignall of Durham” is very similar to the one bound with the Ann letters, and states:

Ann Clarke (Skerritt)
Jeremiah Lear
of Holloway Middlesex Esqr.
and had 17 Children [Notice that here no “said to be 21” appears.]
of whom

Then only the children who got married are listed with their issue.

Eleanor “Ellen” Newsom, née Lear.

The back of the picture above, with a note by Lillie Bowen identifying the person as Ellen rather than Ann

Item 40 is a list in formal handwriting, presumably a fair copy summarizing the data in the other documents; here is a full transcript:

Jeremiah Lear Born May 6th 1757
Ann Clarke Skerrett Born Augt 5th 1769
The above were married at Wansted Church in Essex August 24th 1788.
Had children as follows ―

Ann ― born Janry 17 ― 1791. Registered at Haberdashers Hall, Meeting House and at the Library Red Cross Street.

Sarah ― born May 11 ― 1792 Registered as above. Died Sept 26th 1792.

Sarah born August 28th Registered as above, 1793. Died Sept 12th 1793.

Sarah born Decr 21st 1794. Baptized and Regis. by the Revd J. Brooksbank. Married to Chas Street of Arundel, June 25th 1822. Died at Dunedin. New Scotland Decr 10th 1873.

Mary born May 1st 1796. Regisd and Baptized by th eRevd J. Brooksbank. Married to Richd Shuters Boswell, Decr 13th 1821. Died at Sea ― on her passage from N. Zealand April 25th 1861.

Henry, born June 26th 1797 Died July 9th 1797. Buried at Pentonville.

Henry Born Augt 25th 1798 Registered and Baptised by the Revd J. Brooksbank Haberdasher’s Meeting House, and and Library Red Cross Street.

Eleanor Born Novr 29th 1799. Regisd and Baptised by the Revd J. Brooksbank. Married to Willm Newsom Decr 16th 1823.

Jane, Born June 16th 1801 Registered and Baptised by Revd J. Brooksbank. Died Febry 5th 1822. Buried at Westham Church.

Harriet [Or “Harriot,” the e/o having been corrected, but I can’t decide which way.] Born Sepr 13. 1802. Registered and Baptised as above. Died at Perth. Scotland. Augt 1859.

Cordelia ― born Novr 21. 1803. Registered and Baptised by Revd J. Brooksbank. Died April 2nd 1834. Buried at Milton, Gravesend.

Frederick ― Born March 1st 1805. Registered and Baptised as above. Married May 17th 1830 to Rosa Smith of Stepney.

Florence. Born June 3rd 1806. Registered and Baptised by Revd J. Brooksbank, and at the Library Red Cross Street.

Charles Born Novr 30th 1808 Registered and Baptised as above.

Catherine born Novr Octr 17. 1810. Died March 11th 1811. Buried at Pentonville.

Edward. Born May 13th 1812. Baptised and Registered by the Revd J. Brooksbank.

Catherine Born Novr 24th 1813 Regisd and Baptised as above. Died 1837. Florence died ^[March] 1838 ― Both were buried at Milton, Gravesend.

Jeremiah Lear died Augt 30th 1833.
Ann Clarke Lear died               1844 and was buried at Dover. The former was buried at Gravesend.
Ann Lear died March 11th 1861. Buried at Highgate Cemetery.

Mary Boswell (née Lear), by Unknown artist. Watercolour and bodycolour on ivory, circa 1830s. Given by Francis Adeney Allen, 1915. NPG 1759b.

Again, seventeen children are listed, most with exact dates of birth, marriage and death; this was clearly written out after Sarah’s death in 1873, but does not include the deaths of Edward or Eleanor (“Ellen,” probably the one who compiled the list) and the two “American” brothers. However, item 41 preserves a note on Henry’s fate dated 18 October 1877:

Henry Lear, died March 31st, 1877 in the 79th year of his life. Leaving one daughter & 2 sons

Ann Clarke Titus.
George Edward Lear.
Washington Usher Lear.

Mr John Titus and family living at

170 Union Avenue
Brooklyn ED
New York

This is as far as documents in the family take us, but further information can be obtained from documentation in institutional archives, which will be presented in part 3.

An older Mary. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

[Part 1] [Part 3]

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