Edward Lear’s Copy of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King

Tennyson, Alfred, Lord

8vo (7 x 4 1/4 ins.; 171 x 109 mm). Eight-page publisher’s catalogue dated July 1859 bound  before front free endpaper; some minor spotting, few leaves creased. Publisher’s blind-paneled green cloth; rubbed, slightly shaken.

Edward Lear (inscription on title “Edward Lear. July 12./59” with presentation inscription in Tennyson’s hand “from Alfred Tennyson” — (Christie’s London, 19 November 2003, lot 110).

Purchased at the foregoing sale through Bernard Quaritch.

First edition, first issue, presentation copy to Edward Lear from Tennyson and with the artist’s notes for an unrealized project.

Lear met Tennyson through Franklin Lushington, likely the artist’s closest friend. In 1852, Lear began the massive endeavor of  illustrating Tennyson’s poems, but it was an undertaking that remained unfinished at his death. This copy was probably inscribed to Lear by Tennyson shortly after two had met in early June 1859, and is inscribed in both their hands on the title.

Lear’s penciled notes in the margins of pp.13-14, 52, 56, 101, 105, 108, 155, 168, 221, 229, 239 and 256, presumably to identify the lines that he wished to illustrate; comparison with Lear’s final set of 200 illustrations for the work show that the line on p.221 corresponds to no. 194, that on p.229 to nos 196-9, and that on p.239 to no. 195. (cf. R. Pitman [ed.] Edward Lear’s Tennyson, Manchester, 1988).


Mentioned in Jenny Uglow’s new Lear biography, to be published shortly.

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The Fizzgiggious Fish’s Ancestor

British Library, Harley MS 624:

From Edward Lear, More Nonsense Pictures, Rhymes Botany &c. (1872), “Twenty-Six Nonsense Rhymes and Pictures:”

The fizzgiggious Fish,
who always walked about upon Stilts,
because he had no legs.

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Learical Tennysons

LINCS to the Past, a project “focused on giving access to cultural heritage collections,” and the Arts and Humanities Research Council sponsor a new website, Learical Tennysons, dedicated to Edward Lear’s relationship to Alfred Tennyson and his family. It has been designed and curated by Jasmine Jagger and is co-curated by Matthew Bevis, who are working “on an AHRC Leadership project called ‘Knowing Edward Lear’, examining Lear’s nonsense poetry alongside his natural-history drawings, landscape paintings, travel writings, correspondence, and diaries.”

The very well organized pages present pictures and letters, many never seen before, that Lear sent to Alfred Tennyson, his wife Emily, and their children over the years. I particularly enjoyed a sketch of the Tennysons’ house at Faringford with a huge bug in the garden and a letter with two self caricatures requesting “a ‘nautograph.”

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September Readings

Edward Lear, Self caricature from a letter to Henry Richards Luard. Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas at Austin. Manuscript Collection MS-2415.

The Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin has digitized its Edward Lear collection, which consists mostly of letters: 11 to William Holman Hunt, 2 to Luard and one to his sister Ellen from India, among others.

You can now download Edward Lear’s Indian Journal, edited by Ray Murphy, from Archive.org.

The Art Newspaper has a review of Robert Peck’s The Natural History of Edward Lear: “The parrot point of view: on Edward Lear’s natural history studies.”

One of the delights of Peck’s authoritative and sharp-eyed study is that, while it fleshes out Lear’s early career in unprecedented detail, it also demonstrates how much natural history Lear carried with him into his later work both as a landscape painter and as a writer of nonsense. The Natural History of Edward Lear will immediately become the standard work on Lear’s relationships with Gould, William Jardine, Prideaux John Selby and others, on his role documenting voyages of British colonial exploration, and on his technique and craft as an illustrator and lithographer. But it is also full of aperçus about the animals in his landscapes, about his less familiar botanical drawings, and about the overlap between Lear’s scientific work and his poetry.

Robert says that the book is now out of print, but there might be another edition next spring. The Washington Post also reviews the book.

Blog “Art & Artists” has completed a 21-part biography of Edward Lear with a large number of illustrations: here for Part 1, then you’ll have to use the right-hand bar to move forward.

The Wordsworth Trust page on Edward Lear, with a few pictures he drew in the area in 1836.

John Ashbery died recently at age 90, you may want to read again his cento, The Dong with the Luminous Nose, or Tuesday Evening.

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Edward Lear, Two Owls

Edward Lear, Study of an Eagle Owl, 1846.
Signed and dated on branch: “E. Lear del. 1846.” Pen and brown ink on paper; paper dimensions: 8 ¾ by 6 ½ inches.

George and Fanny Coombe (née Drewitt), Peppering House, Sussex.

Edward Lear, Ye Owly Pusseycatte, a new Beast found in ye Island of New South Wales.
Watercolor on laid paper; paper dimensions: 5 ¼ by 3 ½ inches. Inscribed with title lower left.
I already posted this one with very different colours, this one looks better: see description.

George and Fanny Coombe (née Drewitt), Peppering House, Sussex.

Arader Galleries: 1 & 2.

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Edward Lear’s Dedication of His Ionian Islands Book to Evelyn Baring

If you have 3,000 – 4,000 GBP to spend you might be interested in this The Saleroom lot:

Greece.- Lear (Edward) Views in the Seven Ionian Islands, signed presentation copy from Lear to Evelyn Baring inscribed “Corfu March 1864” fly-leaf, tinted lithographed title and 20 tinted lithographed plates, plate guards, each plate with accompanying leaf of text, list of subscribers, some scattered foxing mostly in margins, bound in handsome contemporary green morocco, gilt, g.e.,by Bickers & Son London, housed in a modern slip-case, [Blackmer 987], folio, 1863.

⁂ Evelyn Baring, first Earl of Cromer (1841-1917), diplomatist and proconsul.

Or you can get Vews of Rome and Its Environs for a little less here:

Italy.- Lear (Edward) Views in Rome and its Environs, lithographed vignette title and 25 plates after Lear, tissue-guards, some occasional marginal soiling but a very good, clean copy overall, gutta percha perished with plates loose or becoming so, prospectus loosely inserted, original morocco-backed cloth, a little rubbed, [Abbey, Travel 183], folio, 1841.

Or even this, for a lousy 70-100 GBP, if you feel sure it is by Lear:

EDWARD LEAR pen & ink – small sketch of Italian village, possibly preliminary sketch for a larger work, pencil notations, 5.5 x 13cms

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Edward Lear, Congo Finches

Edward Lear, Congo Finches, Africa.
Pencil sketch,  heightened with watercolour, on paper. Signed, 235 x 189mm., [c.1825-30].


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