Book of the Week, October 14th 2017


Mr Lear

Jenny Uglow

‘The Owl and the Pussycat’ has been voted the country’s favourite poem. But what kind of person was this man who wrote such wonderfully eccentric verses?

Born in 1812, the same year as Charles Dickens, Edward Lear had 17 brothers and sisters yet grew up as a loner who never seemed to fit in. Suffering from epilepsy and with terrible eyesight he struggled to feel at ease.  And as he grew up the realisation that he was gay in a world where that was not accepted, added to his retreat into secrecy.

But Lear also developed into an exceptionally talented artist, particularly of animals, birds and nature and it was whilst employed to paint Lord Denby’s animal collection that he began to compose limericks and nonsense verse for the many children of the household.

So, while Lear developed an outer life as an artist and a cheerful, funny plump man, his tormented inner life was filled with deep sadness.

Marvellously illustrated with Lear’s paintings and sketches, this books really gets under the skin of this supremely gifted but troubled artist and writer.