Edward Lear: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Edward Lear.

  • Edward Lear was born on 12 May 1812 in Holloway in Middlesex, England.

  • He was the youngest surviving child of the 21 children of Ann and Jeremiah Lear (his parents).
  • He was raised by his sister, Ann, who was 21 years older than him.
  • When he was four years old, he left the family home and lived with his sister.
  • Edward Lear was often unwell. From the age of six he suffered from asthma and epileptic seizures.
  • Later in life, he became partially blind, and battled severe depression.

Edward Lear

  • In his teens, Edward Lear was becoming an accomplished artist. He got a job as a draughtsman by the Zoological Society.
  • In the early 1830s he was employed by the Earl of Derby to produce drawings of the birds and animals in his private menagerie.
  • When he was 19 his Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots was published in 1830.
  • He became one of the best ornithological (bird) artists of his generation.
  • He also painted landscapes, especially during his travels. He visited Italy, Greece and Egypt, and he often spent his summers on Monte Generoso on the Swiss / Italian border.
  • Lear was an excellent musician. He played flute, accordion, guitar and the piano. He composed music for poems – his own, and for the works of famous Victorian poets.
  • In 1846 Lear’s A Book of Nonsense was published.
  • In 1871 his Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets was published. This book included his most famous work, The Owl and the Pussycat.

The Owl and the Pussycat

  • Edward Lear is often credited with popularising the limerick.
  • He craeted the word ‘runcible’, but nobody is sure what it means!
  • He started to write a follow-up to The Owl and the Pussycat, called The Children of the Owl and the Pussycat, but he didn’t get to complete it before his death.
  • He was friends with Alfred Lord Tennyson, and set some of his poems to music.
  • Towards the end of his life, Edward Lear settled in San Remo, in Italy. In 1888 he died of heart disease at his villa. He is buried in the Cemetery Foce in San Remo.
  • In 1988, to mark the centenary of Edward Lear’s death, the Royal Mail produced a set of commemorative stamps in the UK.
  • Both Andrew Sachs and Derek Jacobi have played Edward Lear in radio productions.

What next? Check out some facts about Lewis Carroll (the author of Jabberwocky, another nonsense poem), or discover some more facts about other famous writers.