“Inventing Edward Lear is an exceptional, valuable, original study, presenting new materials on aspects of Lear’s life and work.”
—Jenny Uglow, author of Mr. Lear and The Lunar Men
Edward Lear wrote some of the best-loved poems in English, including “The Owl and the Pussycat,” but the father of nonsense was far more than a poet. He was a naturalist, a brilliant landscape painter, an experimental travel writer, and an accomplished composer. Sara Lodge presents the fullest account yet of Lear’s passionate engagement in the intellectual, social, and cultural life of his times.
Lear had a difficult start in life. He was epileptic, asthmatic, and depressive, but even as a child a consummate performer who projected himself into others’ affections. He became, by John James Audubon’s estimate, one of the greatest ornithological artists of the age. Queen Victoria—an admirer—chose him to be her painting teacher. He popularized the limerick, set Tennyson’s verse to music, and opened fresh doors for children and adults to share fantasies of magical escape. Lodge draws on diaries, letters, and new archival sources to paint a vivid picture of Lear that explores his musical influences, his religious nonconformity, his relationship with the Pre-Raphaelite movement, and the connections between his scientific and artistic work. He invented himself as a character: awkward but funny, absurdly sympathetic. In Lodge’s hands, Lear emerges as a dynamic and irreverent polymath whose conversation continues to draw us in.
Inventing Edward Lear is an original and moving account of one of the most intriguing and creative of all Victorians.
Inventing Edward Lear is an exceptional, valuable, original study, presenting new materials on aspects of Lear’s life and work.
Sets the standard for future work. This is criticism that, far from smashing its subject into submission, brings Lear’s poetry, art and music to life, lighting up the imagination and inviting us to revisit the songs and limericks we think we know from childhood.
Deeply knowledgeable and sharply written…Lodge has not written a biography of Lear, though her book is full of biographical information. It is more a study in contexts, returning Lear to the local sources from which his apparently autonomous imaginative world originally gathered its strength…[A] rich and sympathetic book.
This is a dazzling book, certainly the best study of Lear yet written.
Brilliantly original and deeply researched, Sara Lodge’s account of Lear’s tragicomic life and work will confirm his standing among the greatest of the Victorians.
Edward Lear is one of those figures that everyone knows but few know much about. Lodge’s book represents a delightfully crisp and engaging introduction to Lear’s whole artistic career without losing sight of the humour and zest that keep him close to the hearts of adults and children alike. Never did nonsense make so much sense.
Seeks to capture the multiple facets of Lear’s talent…The great achievement of Lodge’s richly illustrated and carefully researched and referenced work is to convey the reach and rigor of Lear’s ‘concrete and fastidious’ mind alongside his discomfiting combination of dazzling self-confidence and intense self-loathing.
An elegant, well-considered romp.
Lodge brings to this wide-ranging study of Edward Lear (1812–88) a combination of erudition and enthusiasm.
- 448 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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