Jean Harrowven’s The Limerick Makers, originally published in 1976 has now been reissued by Borrowdale Press. The book, little more than a small anthology tracing the origins of the form as far back as possible and supporting the Maigue Poets’ hypothesis, was not really convincing or original. The TLS reviewer (28 May 2004) however has been impressed by such “curiosities” as the Latin passage from St. Thomas Aquinas, whose discovery, however, according to A.N. Wilkins, dates back to 1925 and should be attributed to Ronald A. Knox.
What I appreciated in the first edition was the full text of two pre-Lear limerick books, The History of Sixteen Wonderful Old Women (b/w facsimile at Hockliffe) and Anecdotes and Adventures of Fifteen Gentlemen (local colour edition). A third similar book, Anecdotes and Adventures of Fifteen Young Ladies (b/w facsimile at Hockliffe), is also available.
Vivien Noakes’s Edward Lear. The Life of a Wanderer (Collins, 1968) has also been reprinted in a “revised and enlarged” edition (Sutton Publishing, 2004): this is the standard biography and is indispensable for anyone interested in Lear; I’ll be reading it in the next weeks and report if I find any relevant new information.