A nod to nonsense.

Poor Edward Lear. Like other humourists, this beguiling man, with his affinity for childhood and genius for nonsense, was never completely happy. Blame the parenting. Married to a rackety stockbroker, his mother gave him to be brought up by his eldest sister, Ann. Lear’s later relationships with women were dogged by the fear of disappointment; his loves went unrequited. On top of this, he was epileptic and, as a self-taught artist, not greatly lionised at the Royal Academy. Now, however, a society has been formed to remember him. I think that the artist, traveller and capricious versifier would have been pleased.

For its inaugural meeting, the Edward Lear Society (www.edwardlearsociety.org) chose Knowsley Hall in Merseyside. The 13th Earl of Derby, who had a passion for natural history, first invited Lear there to illustrate his menagerie, initially housing him with the servants. But Lear’s wit and charm were soon noticed and he became a family friend. On one occasion, he arrived in a coach and four with Lord Derby, accompanied by postillions, domestics, ‘one Jerboa—3 pigeons— 20 or 30 books—some bread & biscuits,—a roast fowl & a bottle of wine’. The Edward Lear Society was accompanied by its patron Nicholas Parsons: just as good, if not better.

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