Edward Lear's Nonsense Books

Edward Lear's nonsense books complete set - online version

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great Gulf-Stream running about all over it, so that it was perfectly beautiful, and contained only a single tree, five hundred and three feet high." In a later passage, we read how "by-and-by the children came to a country where there were no houses, but only an incredibly innumerable number of large bottles without corks, and of a dazzling and sweetly susceptible blue color. Each of these blue bottles contained a bluebottlefly, and all these interesting animals live continually together in the most copious and rural harmony, nor perhaps in many parts of the world is such perfect and abject happiness to be found." Our last quotation from this inimitable recital shall be from the description of their adventure on a great plain where they espied an object which "on a nearer approach and on an accurately cutaneous inspection, seemed to be somebody in a large white wig sitting on an arm-chair made of sponge-cake and oyster-shells." This turned out to be the "Co-operative Cauliflower," who, "while the whole party from the boat was gazing at him with mingled affection and disgust ... suddenly arose, and in a somewhat plumdomphious manner hurried off towards the setting sun, his steps supported by two superincumbent confidential cucumbers ... till he finally disappeared on the brink of the western sky in a crystal cloud of sudorific sand. So remarkable a sight of course impressed the four children very deeply; and they returned immediately to their boat with a strong sense of undeveloped asthma and a great appetite."
In his third book, Mr. Lear takes occasion in an entertaining preface to repudiate the charge of harboring any ulterior motive beyond that of "Nonsense pure and absolute" in any of his verses or pictures, and tells a delightful anecdote illustrative of the "persistently absurd report" that the Earl of Derby was the author of the first book of "Nonsense." In this volume he reverts once more to the familiar form adopted in his original efforts, and with little falling off. It is to be remarked that the third division is styled "Twenty-Six Nonsense Rhymes and Pictures," although there is no more rhyme than reason in any of the set. Our favorite illustrations are those of the "Scroobious Snake who always wore a Hat on his Head, for fear he should bite anybody," and the "Visibly Vicious Vulture who wrote some Verses to a Veal-cutlet in a Volume bound in Vellum." In the fourth and last of Mr. Lear's books, we meet not only with familiar words, but personages and places,—old friends like the Jumblies, the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo, the Quangle Wangle, the hills of the Chankly Bore, and the great Gromboolian plain, as well as new creations, such as the Dong with a luminous Nose, whose story is a sort of nonsense version of the love of Nausicaa for Ulysses, only that the sexes are inverted. In these verses, graceful fancy is so subtly interwoven with nonsense as almost to beguile us into feeling a real interest in Mr. Lear's absurd creations. So again in the Pelican chorus there are some charming lines:—
"By day we fish, and at eve we stand
On long bare islands of yellow sand.
And when the sun sinks slowly down,
And the great rock-walls grow dark and brown,
When the purple river rolls fast and dim,
And the ivory Ibis starlike skim,
Wing to wing we dance around," etc.
The other nonsense-poems are all good, but we have no space for further quotation, and will take leave of our subject by propounding the following set of examination questions which a friend who is deeply versed in Mr. Lear's books has drawn up for us:—
1. What do you gather from a study of Mr. Lear's works to have been the prevalent characteristics of the inhabitants of Gretna, Prague, Thermopylae, Wick, and Hong Kong?