Edward Lear's Nonsense Books

Edward Lear's nonsense books complete set - online version

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Zo÷logical Gardens in Regent's Park to which Lear could point as old familiar friends that he had drawn laboriously from claw to beak fifty years before. He united with this kind of work the more unpleasant occupation of drawing the curiosities of disease or deformity in hospitals. One day, as he was busily intent on the portrait of a bird in the Zo÷logical Gardens, an old gentleman came and looked over his shoulder, entered into conversation, and finally said to him, "You must come and draw my birds at Knowsley." Lear did not know where Knowsley was, or what it meant; but the old gentleman was the thirteenth Earl of Derby. The successive Earls of Derby have been among Lear's kindest and most generous patrons. He went to Knowsley, and the drawings in the "Knowsley Menagerie" (now a rare and highly-prized work among book collectors) are by Lear's hand. At Knowsley he became a permanent favorite; and it was there that he composed in prolific succession his charming and wonderful series of utterly nonsensical rhymes and drawings. Lear had already begun seriously to study landscape. When English winters began to threaten his health, Lord Derby started a subscription which enabled him to go to Rome as a student and artist, and no doubt gave him recommendations among Anglo-Roman society which laid the foundations of a numerous clientŔle. It was in the Roman summers that Lear first began to exercise the taste for pictorial wandering which grew into a habit and a passion, to fill vivid and copious note-books as he went, and to illustrate them by spirited and accurate drawings; and his first volume of "Illustrated Excursions in Italy," published in 1846, is gratefully dedicated to his Knowsley patron.
Only those who have travelled with him could know what a delightful comrade he was to men whose tastes ran more or less parallel to his own. It was not everybody who could travel with him; for he was so irrepressibly anxious not to lose a moment of the time at his disposal for gathering into his garners the beauty and interest of the lands over which he journeyed, that he was careless of comfort and health. Calabria, Sicily, the Desert of Sinai, Egypt and Nubia, Greece and Albania, Palestine, Syria, Athos, Candia, Montenegro, Zagˇri (who knows now where Zagˇri is, or was?), were as thoroughly explored and sketched by him as the more civilized localities of Malta, Corsica, and Corfu. He read insatiably before starting all the recognized guide-books and histories of the country he intended to draw; and his published itineraries are marked by great strength and literary interest quite irrespectively of the illustrations. And he had his reward. It is not any ordinary journalist and sketcher who could have compelled from Tennyson such a tribute as lines "To E.L. on his Travels in Greece":Ś
"Illyrian woodlands, echoing falls
Of water, sheets of summer glass, The long divine Pene´an pass, The vast
Akrokeraunian walls,
"Tomohrit, Athos, all things fair,
With such a pencil, such a pen, You shadow forth to distant men, I read and felt that
I was there."
Lear was a man to whom, as to Tennyson's Ulysses,
"All experience is an arch wherethrough Gleams that untravelled world."
After settling at San Remo, and when he was nearly sixty years old, he determined to visit India and Ceylon. He started once and failed, being taken so ill at Suez that he was obliged to return. The next year he succeeded, and brought away some thousands of drawings of the most striking views from all three Presidencies and from the tropical island. His appetite for travel continued to grow with what it fed upon; and although he hated a long sea-voyage, he used seriously to contemplate as