Edward Lear (1812-1888) is one of the best-loved of English poets. His comic invention and unconstrained sense of the absurd have been enjoyed by generations of children, and treasured by adults conscious of the subtle melancholy that underlies the fun. This collection includes all the favourite nonsense poems. Peter Swaab sets them alongside a generous selection from Lear's six travel books (including his three Journals of a Landscape Painter), first published between 1841 and 1870, and long out of print. For the first time Lear is presented as an adventurer, not only in the fabled lands of the Jumblies and the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo, but also in nineteenth-century Albania, Greece, Calabria and Corsica, where his encounters with the people and customs of these sometimes equally strange and challenging cultures are recorded with the same acute and rueful comic imagination.
Edward Lear was born in London in 1812. the youngest of a family of twenty children, he was largely brought up by his sister Ann. His first commission as a young artist, to make drawings of the parrots in the London Zoo, established his reputation as an ornithological illustrator and led to him being taken on by the Earl of Derby to produce illustrations of his menagerie at Knowsley Hall, near Liverpool. It was whilst working at Knowsley that Lear began to write nonsense verse, to entertain the Earl's children. In 1846 he was engaged to give a series of drawing lessons to Queen Victoria. Lear became a successful artist, an associate of the Pre-Raphaelite circle, and with work accepted by the Royal Academy, but his health was poor, and he was prone to depression; the death of Ann in 1861 was particularly distressing to him, Throughout his life he travelled widely in Southern Europe and further afield in Egypt, the Holy Land and India, writing and painting. In 1870 Lear built a house in San Remo, where he died in 1888.