Edward Lear, 1812-1888
I am afraid that I am about to dishonor my creative writing degree by inadequately expressing the extent of my love for Edward Lear. Wait, wait, I shall write a limerick in the style of Edward Lear.
There once was a girl two ears.
She used them to hear Edward Lear.
She read his poems all aloud and never once frowned.
That delighted young girl with two ears.
Slant rhyme in the third line, but I think the ghost of Edward Lear will forgive me.
If you need more whimsy in your life, and you do, I highly recommend Lear’s poetry and artwork. He titled his volumes of poetry Book of Nonsense I, II and III. And his illustrations looked like this:
That’s how silly this man was.
I first encountered Edward Lear in a survey of British Literature class freshman year of college. Of course, the Lear poem most commonly reprinted in lit anthologies is “Cold Are the Crabs,” one of his only poems with a melancholy mood. Because serious, canonical literature must be sad, right? Blerf. Nevertheless, more than any other poem from that course, the first two lines stuck in my head. They’re still mucking about in there. “Cold are the crabs that crawl on yonder hill/Colder the cucumbers that grow beneath” Silly, yes, and beautiful and evocative. I wanted more of that.
Thanks to this 450 page volume of Lear’s complete verse, I got all the Lear I need. It took me an entire year to read it, but that was a fun and whimsy filled year. Now I’m reading The Angel in the House by Coventry Patmore, which fills my brain with boredom and my heart with feminist frustration. I long for Lear.
Not everyone knows of Edward Lear, but everyone has felt his influence. He popularized the limerick. If you’ve ever heard a limerick you can thank him for that. His were not licentious or crude, by the way. He wrote the “Owl and the Pussycat.” He coined the term “runcible spoon.” Here’s a runcible spoon, if you’re wondering what one looks like.
Lear is the clear predecessor to Lewis Carroll. I just don’t think there’d be a Jabberwocky without the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo.
He was a multitalented man. He made his living doing scientific illustrations.
That’s a capercaillie, by the way.
Writing music and, of course, writing poetry.
Most of his poems have accompanying illustrations. Here’s a limerick for you.
You might like Edward Lear if:
- You like silliness, animals and whimsy.
- You like anything that is good in this world.
You might not like Edward Lear if:
- You are a broken, messed up person with a void where your soul should be.
Final thoughts: Look, Edward Lear is exactly what you need in your life. Well, he’s exactly what I need in my life. His poems will make you smile and chuckle. He’s entirely unique. Anyone who likes smiling and chuckling will like Edward Lear. You should get the book of his complete verse. It will make you happy, I guarantee.