Most people don’t know anything about Edward Lear and his life. However, just about everybody is more than familiar with what Edward Lear was best at: his limericks. Edward Lear is most famous for his incredible and his hilarious limericks, along with the extraordinary illustrations that go along with them. However, knowing a little bit more about the biography of Edward Lear can help you appreciate his writings and his illustrations even more, and his life is extremely interesting all on its own, even without the limericks.
Edward Lear was born in one of London’s many suburbs; the one that Edward Lear was born in is called Highgate. Edward Lear was born into a very large family: he was the twentieth child of Jeremiah Lear and Ann Lear. That’s right: Edward Lear was the twentieth child in his family. As you can only imagine, he was raised by his oldest sister, who was old enough to be his mother: she was twenty one years older than Edward Lear. When Edward Lear was fifteen, he and his sister actually moved out of their parents’ home and set up house. At this point in time, Edward Lear started working as a professional illustrator. When he was only nineteen years old, Edward Lear’s first work was published. His first work was in the vein of the serious nature illustrations of Audubon, and was a collection of illustrations of different types of parrots. The title of Edward Lear’s first published work was Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots, and it was published in 1830. Edward Lear’s illustrations were so well received that for a short amount of time, he was the drawing teacher of Queen Victoria. As you can well imagine, since Edward Lear was not familiar with the very, very complicated ins and outs of what was considered proper court behavior, there were a few very awkward moments during this period of time.
Unfortunately, Edward Lear never really had good health during his entire life. When he was only six years old, he developed epilepsy. From that point on, Edward Lear often suffered grand mal epileptic seizures, until the time that he died. In addition to suffering from epilepsy, he suffered from frequent bouts of bronchitis; he also suffered from asthma, and when he was older, Edward Lear developed partial blindness. Edward Lear was always embarrassed about his attacks, but he could tell when they were going to happen, so that he never had them in public.
Edward Lear published A Book of Nonsense in 1846. This book was full of the poetic form for which Edward Lear became the most famous: his limericks. Even though limericks were invented in the Middle Ages by Saint Thomas Aquinas, Edward Lear was the person who really made limericks famous and popular through his hilarious, witty and often ironic limericks.
A Book of Nonsense went through three editions very quickly. In 1865, Edward Lear published The History of Seven Families of the Lake Pipple-Popple. Then only two years later, in 1867, he published his most famous work of nonsense literature: The Owl and the Pussycat. The following is a list of all of Edward Lear’s published works:
Illustrations of the Family of the Psittacidae (1832)
Tortoises, Terrapins, and Turtles by J.E. Gray
Views in Rome and its Environs (1841)
Gleanings from the Menagerie at Knowsley Hall (1846)
Illustrated Excursions in Italy (1846)
Book of Nonsense (1846)
Journal of a Landscape Painter in Greece and Albania (1851)
Journal of a Landscape Painter in Southern Albania (1852)
Book of Nonsense and More Nonsense (1862)
Views in the Seven Ionian Isles (1863)
Journal of a Landscape Painter in Corsica (1870)
Nonsense Songs and Stories (1871)
More Nonsense Songs, Pictures, etc. (1872)
Laughable Lyrics (1877)
Nonsense Botany (1888)
Tennyson’s Poems, illustrated by Lear (1889)
Facsimile of a Nonsense Alphabet (1849)
The Scroobious Pip
The Quangle-Wangle’s Hat