Edward Lear, The Monastery of Koutloumousiou, Mount Athos

Edward Lear, The Monastery of Koutloumousiou, Mount Athos.
signed with monogram, indistinctly inscribed in Greek and dated ‘Sept.1.1856.’ (lower right) and dated again ‘1.Sept’ (lower left, in pencil). Pencil, pen and brown ink and watercolour. 9 1/8 x 12 ½ in. (23.1 x 31.7 cm.).

The monastery was built on the north east side of Mount Athos and was first documented in 1169. It ranks 6th in the hierarchy of Mount Athos.


Anonymous sale; Sotheby’s, London, 12 March 1987, lot 116.
with Agnew’s, London, where purchased by the present owner.


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Gromboolia: Nonsense Art and Literature

Michael Heyman, one of the leading experts on world nonsense literature, has created a new website: Gromboolia: The Nonsense Art and Literature Site. It includes an anthology linking to several examples of nonsense literature, music, comics and so on, as well as a new blog and information on Michael’s creative and academic publications.

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Edward Lear in Spanish

A new translation of Edward Lear’s limericks, by Herrín Hidalgo, has just been published in Spain by Media Vaca:

You can see some of the colorful pages here, read a short biography of Lear, and a special preface for children under 170 years.

Another Spanish translation was published a few years ago, simply titled Nonsense.

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Edward Lear & Friends in Corfu

Houghton Library owns an album of photographs from Franklin Lushington’s family, and its website includes a finding aid linking to a couple of digitized photographs. The one above is of particular interest as it shows some of the people Edward Lear met almost daily while staying in Corfu in 1857-58.

The photograph was probably taken with Lear’s own camera, though probably — if the photographs are arranged in chronological order — after he had sold it, on 1 February 1858, to Major Shakespear, who also appears with his wife, as well as Franklin Lushington, Edward Lear himself, and Rev. Sydney Clark, one of the few church people Lear appears to have appreciated.

The other digitized photograph is of Gertrude Lushington, for whom Lear worte “The owl and the Pussy-cat:”

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Edward Lear in Southwold

A new edition of Geoffrey Munn’s Southwold: An Earthly Paradise is now available, though Amazon will be selling it starting on 14 July, and it includes an all-new chapter on Edward Lear’s stay there in 1869 with an interesting interpretation of Lear’s poem “The Daddy Long-Legs and the Fly,” which he wrote while staying there. This is absolutely not the only interesting chapter of this richly-illustrated book; among others I found those on the “Dark Side” and “Pirates and Marauders” very enjoyable, not to mention those on Turner and Henry Davy, while “Happy Holidays” is my favourite.

Here is a letter Lear wrote to Lady Wyatt while staying in Southwold, from which Munn takes a few extracts:

Southwold. Suffolk. 8 Sept. / 69

My dear Lady Wyatt,

I have 2 names to thank you for, but you must not judge my thanks by the strictness of my notes. My friend F. Lushington was dreadfully ill when I came – but thank God he is recovering.

I go tomorrow by the upsetting Omnibus to Darsham, & so for a fortnight or more to 10 Duchess Street. This place is peculiar, from the house I live in you can get away ^[from] in 4 directions only: straight forward – a space of 8 feet you fall over a cliff [into the sea]: [on] the other way 12 miles to rail – by the Bus which always upsets. Right hand – to the marsh out of which a flight of Bulls rush out at you. Left to another marsh where there are only two bulls, but they toss you all about the place.

I hope you will hear from Spanish Digby soon: please let me know: –  did you sew, – (or [sore], – or so, – or soe, or sough), the coloured bows all over his clothes?

The List goes on gradually, & is [up] at 455: but with the help of friends I trust in its increase. I send 2 of the last lot of names. Also I disclose some crests. Did I not send a better one of Mrs. Fergusons, – (this one is blackened by axident.) I’ve written a new child poem here, the daddy-long-legs & the Fly – but have no time to copy it out, or Mrs. Nicholas’ little girl should have it.

My friend here has a regular duck of a little girl too, who keeps me in fits of laughter: – she is 6 & a half. I asked her today to name some mi[nerals] & she said, “Gold sovereigns, Slate pencils, bricks sand, mustard, & plums with stones in.” And her definition of animals was, “Pappy & Mummy, Aunty & you, the cow, ^[& chickens] & shrimps.”

Your 2nd letter came this morning

Fancy view – Cow Bridge. The weather {here is rather squally & squashdomphious – but on the whole it is fine.

My kind remembrances to all my friends (& enemies if there are any) & believe me your’s sincerely Edward Lear.

Don’t forget to let me hear about Digby.

Miss Rooke, Mrs H. [Mastrand]}[1]

[1] The part in braces is written in the front page of the letter next to the sender’s address and interspersed with the beginning of the letter, which is therefore complete in two pages.

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A Note to Miss Cobden

Edward Lear appears to have met “a Rev. Mr. & Miss Cobden” at Emma Parkyns’s in 1859. 

Villa Emily
San Remo


Dear Miss Cobden,

I had to send an answer to your note very hurriedly, – not wishing to keep your Messengers, – & yet having (as I am leaving this house,) some things to attend to – about which (having made other appointments – I could not put aside.)

So I write again to say that a visit from you, as well as from any of your friends – will give me pleasure at – at any hour tomorrow between 11. AM. & 3. P;. There are some Greek views belonging to Earl Derby shortly going away – which I should like to shew you, as well as 2 others of Athens & various other Geographies or Topographies.

Believe me,
Yours very truly,
Edward Lear


The Saleroom. International Autograph Auctions.

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Easter Reading Suggestions

Several articles on Edward Lear and Nonsense literature from Conceição Pereira:

Pereira, Conceição. “Nonsense e Literatura Infantil: os Limericks de Edward Lear.” A Criança, a Língua, o Imaginário e o Texto Literário. Actas do II Congresso Internacional. Universidade do Minho – Instituto de Estudos da Criança, 2006. (Academia.edu)

Pereira, Conceição. “Os limericks de Edward Lear: a idiotice ao serviço do nonsense.” Figuras do idiota, Literatura, Cinema e Banda Desenhada. Eds. Álvares, Cristina, Ana Lúcia Curado and Sérgio Guimarães de Sousa. Vila Nova de Famalicão: Húmus, 2015. 133-141. (Academia.edu)

Pereira, Conceição. “Nonsense em português.” De Lisboa para o mundo: ensaios sobre o humor luso-hispânico. Eds. Areias, Laura  and Luís da Cunha Pinheiro. Lisboa: CLEPUL, 2013. 129-44. (Academia.edu)

Christopher Richardson has published a pair of long posts on Edward Lear:

Edward Lear: an artist who wrote one of the sweetest love stories, a review of Peck’s The Natural History of Edward Lear from the Financial Review.

Gillian Beer’s Alice in Space: The Sideways Victorian World of Lewis Carroll, a review of Beer’s latest book fro the Times Higher Education.

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