More Aspects of Edward Lear

The third part of Matthew Bevis’s series on Edward Lear  for the Houghton Library Blog is now online and discusses Lear’s relationship with birds, pelicans in particular. Please note there are TWO pages, the main text is in the sefcond one!

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Edward Lear, El Tainel (1854)

Edward Lear, El Tainel, a view on the Lower Nile.
Dated 4 p.m. Janr. 5. 1854, numbered 38 and inscribed with colour notes. Pencil, pen and brown ink with watercolour on buff paper 9 x 35.5cm; 3½ x 14in.

Lear left Cairo after Christmas 1853 with a large party of English, some twelve boats in all. They travelled up the Nile at a leisurely pace, dropping anchor every night. They started their return journey from Philae on February 8th, 1854 (see Edward Lear, Vivian Noakes, London 1985, p.97)

Woolley & Wallis.

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Edward Lear Learns to Ride a Horse

The British Museum’s curator comments for no. 1970,0411 reads:

The following text is from the label for the display at the British Museum ‘Watercolours and Drawings by Edward Lear: a Bicentennial Celebration’:
In 1842 Lear made a tour of the Abruzzi, a region of central Italy, with his friend Charles Knight. Knight had given Lear riding lessons ‘round the walls of Rome’, and lent the artist one of his horses for the journey. In these drawings the artist makes fun of his poor horsemanship, with typical self-deprecating humour. They are part of a larger series that records the pair’s adventures in comic form.

The Museum’s acquisition note adds:

This item has an uncertain or incomplete provenance for the years 1933-45. The British Museum welcomes information and assistance in the investigation and clarification of the provenance of all works during that era. From an album from the Hornby family sold at Christie’s, and subsequently broken up. The Department purchased 21 drawings.

So the missing pictures were perhaps still around in the 1930s and 1940s and may be in a private collection. This would have probably been the longest of Edward Lear’s picture stories recording a journey, though rather than on the journey, it concentrates on Lear’s own misadventures while learning to ride. The picture story has first been published in full in The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense, edited by Vivien Noakes, pp. 63-70; also see the note at pp. 479-480.

1. L. & K. leave Frascati — July 28.. 1842. — Villa Taverna
L. contemplates a ferocious horse with feelings of distrust

2. Frascati. V. Taverna.
L. declares that he considers his horse far from tame.

3. Frascati. V. Taverna.
L. casually seats himself on the wrong side of his saddle.

4. V. Taverna. Frascati.
L. changes position for the sake of variety.

5. — V. Mondragone. Frascati.
L. perceives he has not seated himself properly

6. — K. & L. Comence their journey.
L. is advised by K. to hold the reins short.

7. Frascati.Villa Mondragone.
L. is politely requested by K. to stop his horse.

8. M. Porzio.
K. enquires amiably of L. if his stirrups are sufficiently short.

9. — M. Porzio.
K. & L are pusued by6 an irascible ox. —

10. K. & L. pass M. Porzio & M. Compatri.
L. is requested by K. not to rise so exceedingly high from the saddle.

11. Monte Compatri.
L. descends an unsatisfactory hill in a pensive manner.

12. K. & L. pass Colonna.
L. is besought by K. to sit back on his saddle.

13. — Near Gallicano.
L. is immersed in an indefinite quigmire.

14. K. & L. arrive at Gallicano.
L. is informed by K that he had better put his feet nearer to his horse’s sides.

15. Ponte Lups: — near Gallicano.
K. entreats L. to observe a large vridge called Ponte Loophole.
[I read “Lups” but it must be “Ponte Lupo,” the most massive Roman aqueduct in the world (18m thick).]

[Five pictures missing.]

21. K. & L. proceed to Tivoli.
L. become suddenlyand imperceptibly entangled in an obtrusive Olive=tree.

[One picture missing.]

23. K. & L. visit the temple by Moonlight.
K. & L. discern a predominant Ghost.

[One picture missing.]

25. — Tivoli. — K. & L. commence their journey back to Frascati.
L. is confidentially assured by by the groom that he has mounted his horse incorrectly.

26. K. & L- pass through San Gregorio.
K. affectionately induces L. to perceive that a thorn-bush has attached itself to his repugnant horse.

27. K. & L. pass Casape & Poli returning by Gallicano to Zagarolo.
L. is much disturbed by several large flies.

[Five pictures missing.]

33. K. & L. proceed from Zagarolo to Frascati.
K. & L. are attacked by several very venomous Dogs in the vicinity of Colonna.

[More pictures missing?]

All images are ©Trustees of the British Museum and can be dowloaded at higher resolution from the Museum’s Online Collection.

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Edward Lear Mixes Painting and Nonsense

Matt Bevis has recently brought to my attention the above drawing by Edward Lear in which landscape and nonsense get in some way mixed. The picture is at Tate and the text reads:

I Galli
The Sirens isles. 12. June. 1844
1. [Referring to the swimming figure] A blind Doge — a bathing
2. [The mermaid at the top left] A Siren —- a singing to the ‘Arp.

The painting is numbered 42 and was drawin in S. Pietro in Crapolla (where now there is a place called “Il covo delle Sirene” – “The Mermaids’ den”), near Positano, presumably one of the supposed locations of Ulysses’s Sirens.

This reminded me of another watercolour containing nonsense elements that was part of Stephen Duckworth’s presentation I saw in 2012 and is mentioned in his article on Edward Lear’s Cretan Drawings (in New Griffon 12, 2011, website):


This drawing was made “outside Hania,” the detail above contains the beginning of a famous limerick: “The was a young person of Crete | Whose toilet was far from complete,” which I suppose refers to the “young person” marked with an “x.” The limerick had appeared in the 1861 edition of the Book of Nonsense (the picture is dated 1864, I think):

There was a Young Person of Crete,
Whose toilette was far from complete;
She dressed in a sack,
Spickle-speckled with black,
That ombliferous person of Crete.

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Edward Lear, El Karnak (1854)

Edward Lear, El Karnak, Thebes.
Inscribed and dated ‘El Koornek/Thebes 7:00 on/19.Feb.1854’ (lower left) and annotated throughout. Pencil and watercolour. 28 x 48.9cm (11 x 19 1/4in).


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Edward Lear’s Diaries & More Reading Material

The Houghton Library blog has posted the second part of Matt Bevis’s series on Edward Lear devoted to the importance of the diaries which, as I’m sure most of you know, are available online as images and partial transcripts.

It seems that multimodality is now all the rage. In a previous post I mentioned Constance W. Hassett’s “‘Does It Buzz?’: Image and Text in Edward Lear’s Limericks.” “Humorous Nonsense and multimodality in British and American Children’s Poetry,” by Elżbieta Chrzanowska-Kluczewska appears in the issue of the European Journal of Humour Research I mentioned in the same post: the article contains some interesting observations on Edward Lear.

Meanwhile a full-length book by Richard Elliott has appeared, which discusses The Sound of Nonsense: it starts with Lear and Carroll and then moves on to modernism and the avant-gardes.

And, of course, there are still at least three books on Edward Lear forthcoming!

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Edward Lear, Potamos (1863)

Edward Lear, Potamos.
Inscribed (in ink over pencil) in Greek, dated 21. May. 5.P.M. 1863 and numbered 189. 32 x 48cm.


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