Book Review:Mr Lear: A Life Of Art And Nonsense by Jenny Uglow (Faber, £25)

(3) View gallery Mr Lear: A Life Of Art Nonsense by Jenny Uglow (Faber, £25) AT 3.40pm on December 18 1867, in Cannes, Edward Lear walked to the house of his English friends the Symonds to present to their Janet one of his “nonsenses” – in this case a picture poem about a bizarre sea voyage which, as always, indulged his long-standing love of wordplay fantasy, animals birds. He noted the time date in his diary. We ’t know what Janet made of The Owl The Pussycat, with its talk of moonlight five pound notes eating quince slices from a runcible spoon. But generations of children since have enjoyed the poem, its proliferation influence ( to mention its odd, unsettling imagery) have made it the best known work by Lear, the so-called “nonsense poet”, put him the pantheon of children’s literary greats alongside such names as Lewis Carroll AA Milne. Jenny Uglow’s biography of Lear is weighty in every sense (not much 2kg on my kitchen scales) beautifully lavishly illustrated. But the second of her title is telling because Uglow does as […]

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