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Edward Lear

1812 – 1888

Edward Lear in 1866 (Wikipedia)

Ara macao from his first book, 1830 (Wikipedia)

Edward Lear was an artist, illustrator, musician and poet. He was born in London and had to earn a living from the age of 15 as his father was in a debtors prison. He became an accomplished artist and was employed by the Zoological Society, later sponsored by Lord Stanley, Earl of Derby, to paint the animals in his extensive menagerie at Knowsley Hall.

Aged 19 he published a book called Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, or Parrots which contained 42 plates depicting parrots from around the world. By the 1840s his eyesight was failing for close up work so he toured the world painting landscapes.

He is perhaps more famous for the books he published for the children of the Earl of Derby in 1846 and 1871 called A Book of Nonsense and Nonsense Songs. The first contained limericks, the five-lined comedic poems, which in Lears book usually repeated the first and last line. His Nonsense Songs introduced us to The Owl and the Pussycat.

Edward Lear visited Queen Victoria at Osborne House between July and August 1846. She had read his book Illustrated Excursions in Italy and wanted to improve her drawing and painting.

He gave her twelve lessons in drawing and the use of watercolours.

15th July 1846. Osborne:Had a drawing lesson with Mr Lear, who sketched before me and teaches remarkably well, in landscape painting in water colours…”

16th July:Copied one of Mr Lears drawings and had my lesson downstairs, with him. He was very pleased with my drawing and very encouraging about it…”

17th July:I had another lesson with Mr Lear, who much praised my 2nd copy. Later in the afternoon I went out and saw a beautiful sketch he has done of the new house…”

18th July:After luncheon had a drawing lesson, and am, I hope, improving…”

Lear only taught the Queen for three weeks. In 1849 another water-colourist William Leighton Leitch (1804-1883) became Victorias teacher, and the teacher of her children for 22 years.

The Owl and the Pussy-cat

The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea

    In a beautiful pea-green boat,

They took some honey, and plenty of money,

Wrapped up in a five-pound note.

The Owl looked up to the stars above,

And sang to a small guitar,

“O lovely Pussy! O Pussy, my love,

What a beautiful Pussy you are,

    You are,

    You are!

What a beautiful Pussy you are!”

Downhill to next

   Uphill to next

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East Cowes Community Partnership