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Edward Lear – Biography

Below is the detailed biography of Edward Lear – an English Poet in the Victorian Era who was also known for his works as an author, an artist, an illustrator and a musician. He was someone of an all-rounder in the field of art. Let’s discuss more below.

Early Life of Edward Lear

A portrait of Edward Lear

Edward Lear was born on 12th of May 1812, in the town of Holloway in Middlesex, London to Jeremiah Lear, a stockbroker in London and his wife Ann Skerrett. Together, they had 21 children and Edward was the youngest of all of them to survive. He was raised by his eldest sister who was 21 years older to him – Ann. Ann played the role of his mother and took him to live with her when he was 4 years old.

His father’s financial condition became bad when he defaulted the London Stock Exchange which is why Ann along with Edward was made to move out of the family home.

During his childhood, he often remained sick due to developing asthma and bronchitis at an early age. This led him to show symptoms of depression only when he was seven years old. Therefore, as a child, he could not make much progress. He was also a victim of seizure and had his first one in a gathering of people where he accompanied his father. This remained the most embarrassing moment for him all his life.

Art Career of Edward Lear

Edward was employed as a zookeeper in 1828 when he was only 16 years old. Thereon in 1832, he became the ‘Ornithological Draughtsman’ which in simple terms means ‘a checker in the zoo’. He observed the birds and the animals and started putting them on paper. He specialized in drawing live birds while other artists in his time would only draw the skins.

He became one of the greatest bird painters of his time. His paintings were used as study materials by naturalists like John James Audubon, a British Naturalist that specialized in American birds. Edward Lear’s collection of Illustration of the Family of Parrots came out in 1830 when he was only 19 years old.

Due to his deteriorating eyesight, he had to stop fine detailing and focused on his travel to Greece, Egypt, and India. He spent two years in India in the late 18th century.

In 1842, he traveled to Italy and was highly influenced by the folk traditions, the beauty of ancient monuments, the food and the Italian way of life. He lived in the south of Italy and was very influenced by the medieval monuments there. His paintings – ‘Painting of Celano’ and ‘The Temple of Venus’ in Rome are well known to be inspired by the Roman Medieval era.

Music Career of Edward Lear

Edward Lear was not only a music producer but also a music composer. He composed Roman styled music for many Victorian poems. He was highly known for his composition for the Tennyson’s poetry.

He played the piano, flute and also the guitar.

His publications came out in 1859 and 1860. He made up his own lyrics and sang non professionally, for his family and friends. Those songs were popularly called ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’ and the ‘Pelican Chorus’.

Career as an Author – Edward Lear

Edward Lear published many poems that were meaningful and some that were absolute without any meaning. There was a combination of limericks that he came up with which was called ‘A Book of Nonsense’. These publications were very popular in his time as they were a major means of entertainment and were also easy on the pocket for everyone in London.

‘A Book of Nonsense’ by Edward Lear

Significant Works of Edward Lear

‘Depiction of Colours in a Bird’ by Edward Lear
Random Sketch by Edward Lear
‘Watercolour Drawings’ by Edward Lear
View of Jerusalem 1858 by Edward Lear 1812-1888
‘View of Jerusalem’ by Edward Lear in 1858

Personal Life of Edward Lear

Lear developed an infatuation for his friend and travel partner – Franklin Lushington with who he traveled all Greece and remained friends with for more than 40 years of his life. However, when Lear confessed his feelings, Lushington did not reciprocate well. They still remained friends after that but there was always the grief of being unaccepted in the heart of Lear.

He fell in love with a woman who was 46 years younger to him, but she did not accept the proposal both times he asked her to marry him. He was very friendly and close to his cat – Foss and to a chef in Albania.

Death of Edward Lear

A portrait of Edward Lear

Lear spent his later life in San Remo, a township in the Southern coast of Italy close to the Mediterranean Sea. He owned a house there called the ‘Villa Tennyson’.

In the year of 1870, he fell prey to a heart disease which he suffered for at least 15 years. He died in his Villa on the 29th of January, 1888. His funeral was not attended by many of his friends but was quite a lonely affair. His physician – Dr. Hassall and his wife arranged for the funeral ceremony and buried him in the Cemetery Foce in San Remo.

Facts about Edward Lear

Whenever Lear was asked to introduce himself, he would call himself ‘Mr. Abebika kratoponoko Prizzikalo Kattefello Ablegorabalus Ableborinto phashyph’ and some more interesting pseudonyms.

The International Owl, and Pussy Cat Day are celebrated across the world on his birthday.

In 2012, his birthday was a fest in London with a combination of exhibitions, events, and lectures in his birthplace area called Bowman’s Mews.