In 1832 Edward Lear was employed by the Earl of Derby to make coloured drawings of the rare birds and
animals in the menagerie at Knowsley Hall. The Earl also allowed Lear the means to travel widely. He published
accounts of his trips to Italy (1846), Albania and Illyria (1851), Calabria (1852),
and Corsica (1870). The artist also visited the Holy Land and Greece.
Edward Lear is chiefly remembered for his nonsense poetry, the first volume of which was written for his patron's grandchildren in
1846 and was simply entitled A Book of Nonsense. It contained his favourite poetic format, the limerick, and was
illustrated throughout. His poetry was henceforth marked by an air of ludicrous fantasy, as well as a unique inventiveness.
A deep sense of sadness can also be traced in Edward Lear's nonsense verse. This melancholy was a reflection of the life of the writer, who, despite the support
of friends such as Tennyson's wife Emily, suffered from depression and loneliness.
Since the death of Edward Lear, appreciation of his artistic painting, the water-colours in particular, has risen. His real fame,
however, was secured by poems from Nonsense Songs (1871) such as 'The Owl and the Pussycat'.
Edward Lear was born in Highgate, 12 May. He was the twentieth child of Jeremiah Lear, a
London stockbroker, and his wife Ann.
Four years after his birth, Jeremiah fell a defaulter in the Stock Exchange and the family had to abandon the fashionable life
to which they were accustomed. His upbringing was entrusted to his sister Ann, twenty-one years his senior, and Mrs Lear
had nothing more to do with it. Young Edward certainly resented his mother's rejection, but found all the love Edward Lear needed in Ann.
He was first attacked by what he called 'the Demon', epilepsy, when he was five or six, and a few years later 'the Morbids',
sudden changes of mood with bouts of acute depression, began.
His early education was completely left to Ann and Sarah, another sister: beside the typical tuition books of the age they read
to Edward Lear classical tales and modern poetry (the Romantic poets), and taught him to draw, especially natural subjects.
His father retires and as the painter cannot provide for his children, Edward, who still
lives with Ann, begins to earn his living as an artist.
Edward Lear Starts work on Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots in June. The first two folios are published in November
and immediately give him a reputation as an ornithological draughtsman; he is nominated as an Associate of the Linnean Society. Lear
He interrupts the series about the Psittacidae and begins a collaboration with John Gould (The Birds of Europe).
In October Edward Lear wrote in a letter to Charles Empson also containing a sketch of himself:
This is amazingly like; add only - that both my knees are fractured from being run over which has made them very peculiarly crooked - that my neck is
singularly long, a most elephantine nose - & a disposition to tumble here & there - owing to being half blind, & you may very well imagine my tout ensemble.
1831 or 1832
Edward Lear Visits Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Berne, and Berlin with Gould.
He starts drawing the animals in the menagerie of Knowsley Hall for Lord Stanley.
Edward Lear Travels to Ireland with Edward Stanley, Bishop of Norwich, and his son Arthur
Penrhyn Stanley, July-August. His interst turns to landscape painting.
Edward Lear Walking tour in the Lake District, August-October. His eyesight and general
Sets out for Rome travelling via Belgium, Luxenburg, Germany, and Switzerland, July.
Reaches Rome, December.
Travels to southern Italy, May-August. Earliest Edward Lear oil painting, June.
Walking tour towards Florence, May-October.
Returns to England, spring. Publication of Views in Rome and its environs. Visits Scotland, September. Returns to Rome, December.
Edward Lear Visits Sicily, April-May, and the Abruzzi, July-October.
Returns to the Abruzzi, September-October.
Meets Chichester Fortescue, April. Returns to England, May.
Publication of Illustrated Excursions in Italy (2 vols.). Publication of first edition of A Book of Nonsense, using the
pseudonym Derry Down Derry. Publication of Gleanings from the Menagerie and Aviary at Knowsley Hall. Gives a series of
twelve drawing lessons to Queen Victoria. Edward Lear returned to Rome, December.
He Visits Sicily and southern Calabria and witnesses outbursts of revolution, May-October.
Edward Lear Meets Thomas Baring, later Lord Northbrook, February. The state of Italy becomes more
unsettled, and Lear leaves Rome, April. Travels via Malta to Corfu and the Ionian Islands, April-May. Visits Athens, Marathon,
Thermophylae, and Thebes, where he is taken ill, June-July. Arrives in Costantinople, August. Travels across Greece and into
Albania, September-December. Returns to Malta, and meets Fraanklin Lushington, December.
Edward Lear travels to Cairo, Suez, and Sinai, January-February. Returns to Malta, then sets out for southern Greece with F. Lushington, March. Travels in the Morea and visits Janina, Vale of Tempe, and Mount Olympus, March-July. Returns to England,
July. Attends Sass's School of Art to prepare drawings for entrance to the Royal Academy Schools, November-December.
Edward Lear accepted as a probationer, January, and as a full student, April. First picture accepted
by the Royal Academy. By November he is working on his own again.
Edward Lear Publication of Journals of a Landscape Painter in Albania, & c. Meets Alfred and
Introduced to Holman Hunt, who supplies to teach him his own methods of painting, early
summer. Lives with Hunt at Clive Vale, Hastings, and meets other members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, July-December.
Edward Lear begins to gain confidence in oil painting, and conceives the plan of illustrating Tennyson's poems. Publication
of Journals of a Landscape Painter in Southern Calabria.
Edward Lear Publication of the first of his musical settings of Tennyson's poems. Unable to cope
any longer with the damp Englsh weather, he leaves to spend the winter in Egypt, December.
Edward Lear Travels up the Nile as far as the first cataract, January-March. Returns to England, then visits Switzerland, August-October.
Publication of the second edition of A Book of Nonsense. Accompanies Lushington to Corfu for the winter. Spending most of his time
alone, he becomes lonely and depressed.
Edward Lear Employs Giorgio Cocali, April. Travels via Albania and Greece to Mount Athos and Troy, August-October.
Visits Albania, April. Returns to London for the summer, May, and to Corfu for the winter, November.
Edward Lear Travels to Bethlehem, hebron, Petra, the Dead SEa, Jerusalem and Lebanon, March-June.
Returns to England, August. Decides to winter in Rome.
Edward Lear Returns to England in May, and spends most of the summer at St Leonards. Returns to
To England, May. Begins work on large Edward Lear paintings of the Cedars of Lebanon and Masada at Oatlands Park Hotel, October.
His sister Ann becomes ill, and dies 11 March. Visits Florence, May-August. Cedars of Lebanon exhibited in Liverpool and
receives favourable reviews, September. Returns to winter again in Corfu, November. Publication of third edition of A Book of
Nonsense under his own name, December.
Edward Lear Cedars of Lebanon exhibited in the Great International Exhibition, March, but hung very high and not well received. Returns to
England, May. leaves England for Corfu, November. Despite the increasing sales of the last ten years, he now realizes that his
chances of becoming established are diminishing, and Edward Lear paintings on his first group of Tyrants.
Visits the other Ionian Islands, April-May. Returns to England, June. Publication of Views in the Seven Ionian Islands, December.
Edward Lear Returns to Corfu, January. The island is ceded to the Greeks and he leaves for Athens and Crete, April. In London, June-November. Decides to winter in
southern France and leaves England. Finds rooms in Nice, November.
Edward Lear Writes the first of his Nonsense stories, The History of the Seven Families of the Lake Pipple-Popple, February.. Returns to
England, April. Lady Waldergrave commissions a Edward Lear painting of Venice, and he travels there, November. Decides to winter in Malta, December.