Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense


Edward Lear’s poems follow and break the rules. They abide by the logic of syntax, the linking of rhyme and the dance of rhythm, and these ‘nonsenses’ are full of joy – yet set against darkness. Where do these human-like animals and birds and these odd adventures – some gentle, some violent, some musical, some wild – come from? His many drawings that accompany his verse are almost hyper-real, as if he wants to free the creatures from the page. They exist nowhere else in literature, springing only from Lear’s imagination. Lear lived all his life on the borders of rules and structures, of disciplines and desires. He vowed to ignore politics yet trembled with passionate sympathies. He depended on patrons and moved in establishment circles, yet he never belonged among them and mocked imperial attitudes.

In stock

ISBN: 9780571269556 Category: Tag:


A Daily Telegraph, Times, Evening Standard, TLS and Spectator Book of the Year.

Winner of the Hawthornden Prize.

Edward Lear is well-loved for his ‘nonsenses’, from joyous limericks to great love songs, and for his wonderful natural history paintings, landscapes and travel writing. But although Lear belongs to the age of Darwin and Dickens, his genius for the absurd and his dazzling word-play make him a very modern spirit. He was also a man of great simplicity and charm – children loved him – yet his humour masked epilepsy, depression and loneliness. Jenny Uglow’s beautifully illustrated
biography brings us his swooping moods, passionate friendships and restless travels. Above all it shows how this uniquely gifted man lived all his life on the boundaries of disciplines and desires – an exile of the heart.

Additional information

Weight 0.55 kg
Dimensions 19.8 × 12.9 × 4 cm






ix, 643 , 24 unnumbered of plates




821.8 (edition:23)


General – Trade / Code: K