Remembering Edward Lear, painter and poet

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Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense. By Jenny Uglow. Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 608 pages; $45. Faber & Faber; £25.

“PLOFFSKIN, Pluffskin, Pelican jee!” sing the birds in Edward Lear’s poem “The Pelican Chorus”. The joyful wordplay is typical of the man who created the “Yonghy-Bonghy Bò” and the “Dong with a luminous nose”, made limericks fashionable and imagined odd yet devoted pairs in his poems, most famously an owl and a pussycat. But the nonsense works for which he is best known are only part of his story. He was an artist by calling, a wanderer by habit and an outsider by nature.

Jenny Uglow’s new biography journeys with “Mr Lear” all the way “to the borderlands of self”. The biographer and historian has found a wonderful subject in the affable Edward. She masterfully shows how he became, on the one hand, a successful artist and writer, brimming with “warmth and wit” and surrounded by friends; and on…Continue reading

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