Mr. Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense, by Jenny Uglow
Edward Lear, the renowned English artist, musician, author, and poet, lived a vivid, fascinating life, but confessed, “I hardly enjoy any one thing on earth while it is present.” He was a man in a hurry, “running about on railroads” from London to country estates and boarding steamships to Italy, Corfu, India, and Palestine.
He is still loved for his “nonsenses,” from startling, joyous limericks to great love poems like “The Owl and the Pussy Cat” and “The Dong with a Luminous Nose,” and he is famous, too, for his brilliant natural history paintings, landscapes, and travel writing.
But although Lear belongs solidly to the age of Darwin and Dickens - he gave Queen Victoria drawing lessons, and his many friends included Tennyson and the Pre-Raphaelite painters - his genius for the absurd and his dazzling wordplay make him a very modern spirit. He speaks to us today.
Lear was a man of great simplicity and charm - children adored him - yet his humour masked epilepsy, depression, and loneliness. Jenny Uglow’s beautifully illustrated biography, full of the colour of the age, brings us his swooping moods, passionate friendships, and restless travels. Above all, Mr. Lear shows how this uniquely gifted man lived all his life on the boundaries of rules and structures, disciplines and desires - an exile of the heart.
“Uglow’s book is the best biography of Lear yet written, not because it avoids the boring, but because it finds ways to let boredom shed light on - and provide opportunity for - other things.” - London Review of Books
“Crammed with Lear’s delicate drawings and paintings, this must be one of the most beautifully produced books of the year.” - Financial Times