Town mouse visits the Edward Lear Society

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 ( 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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