Edward Lear's Nonsense Books

Edward Lear's nonsense books complete set - online version

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the time the verses were made. Moreover, in no portion of these Nonsense drawings have I ever allowed any caricature of private or public persons to appear, and throughout, more care than might be supposed has been given to make the subjects incapable of misinterpretation: "Nonsense," pure and absolute, having been my aim throughout.
As for the persistently absurd report of the late Earl of Derby being the author of the "First Book of Nonsense," I may relate an incident which occurred to me four summers ago, the first that gave me any insight into the origin of the rumor.
I was on my way from London to Guildford, in a railway carriage, containing, besides myself, one passenger, an elderly gentleman: presently, however, two ladies entered, accompanied by two little boys. These, who had just had a copy of the "Book of Nonsense" given them, were loud in their delight, and by degrees infected the whole party with their mirth.
"How grateful," said the old gentleman to the two ladies, "all children, and parents too, ought to be to the statesman who has given his time to composing that charming book!"
(The ladies looked puzzled, as indeed was I, the author.)
"Do you not know who is the writer of it?" asked the gentleman.
"The name is 'Edward Lear,'" said one of the ladies.
"Ah!" said the first speaker, "so it is printed; but that is only a whim of the real author, the Earl of Derby. 'Edward' is his Christian name, and, as you may see, LEAR is only EARL transposed."
"But," said the lady, doubtingly, "here is a dedication to the great-grandchildren, grand-nephews, and grand-nieces of Edward, thirteenth Earl of Derby, by the author, Edward Lear."
"That," replied the other, "is simply a piece of mystification; I am in a position to know that the whole book was composed and illustrated by Lord Derby himself. In fact, there is no such a person at all as Edward Lear."
"Yet," said the other lady, "some friends of mine tell me they know Mr. Lear."
"Quite a mistake! completely a mistake!" said the old gentleman, becoming rather angry at the contradiction; "I am well aware of what I am saying: I can inform you, no such a person as 'Edward Lear' exists!"
Hitherto I had kept silence; but as my hat was, as well as my handkerchief and stick, largely marked inside with my name, and as I happened to have in my pocket several letters addressed to me, the temptation was too great to resist; so, flashing all these articles at once on my would-be extinguisher's attention, I speedily reduced him to silence.
The second volume of Nonsense, commencing with the verses, "The Owl and the Pussy-Cat," was written at different times, and for different sets of children: the whole being collected in the course of last year, were then illustrated, and published in a single volume, by Mr. R.J. Bush, of 32 Charing Cross.