Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Quote of the Day: How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear!

 

He has many friends, lay men and clerical,
Old Foss is the name of his cat;
His body is perfectly spherical,
He weareth a runcible hat.

One of the dearest friends of my childhood, Edward Lear, passed away 132 years ago today, on January 29, 1888. Perhaps it’s because of him that I formed the love affair with words I’ve enjoyed for almost every single one of my sixty-five years. (I told you to believe people who tell you that I’m an old hag. Even if everything else they say about me is Learworthy nonsense.) Perhaps it was through Edward Lear that I found my voice. My sense of humor. My love of nature. And my foundational belief that truth, decency, and kindness are the most important values with which we should treat each other, and which we should pass on to future generations.

Edward Lear is best known as the man who popularized the limerick, although Lear’s limericks were nothing like the bawdy, double-entendre efforts that the genre has come to be known for more recently. (“A pansy who lived in Khartoum,” etc.) Lear’s limericks appealed to the sweet, the kind, and the gentle, and were always contra the ugly “they” who sometimes appeared to wreck his lovely world. Thus:

There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, “It is just as I feared!—
Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!”

And

There was an Old Person of Dean,
Who dined on one pea and one bean;
For he said, “More than that would make me too fat,”
That cautious Old Person of Dean.

And

There was an Old Man of Whitehaven,
Who danced a quadrille with a Raven;
But they said, “It’s absurd to encourage this bird!”
So they smashed that Old Man of Whitehaven.

It was a very long time before I discovered that Edward Lear was about far more than nonsense. More than Owls and Pussycats. More than The Jumblies (who “went to sea in a sieve”).

So much more.

He was a genius. An illustrator of birds on a par with John James Audubon. A landscape painter, and a travel writer matching and, perhaps, surpassing the magnificence of (deep breath) Paddy Leigh Fermor, who had his own private collection of Lear’s writings and paintings. A musician who set to music a number of Tennyson’s works–the only one such who Tennyson found remotely supportable.

And a terribly insecure, unhappy and sad man who suffered from grand-mal epileptic seizures all his life, who found his own sexual appetites and preferences problematic, whose only forays into heterosexual commitment were two proposals to the same woman who was 49 years younger than himself (crimenutely), and whose closest friends were his cat, Fosse, and his Albanian chef Giorgis, who Lear claimed was a good friend but a terrible cook. (The fact that he stuck with him, under those circumstances, says something about the man, I think.)

For anyone interested in learning more about Edward Lear, the book Mr. Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense, by Jenny Uglow, has my highest recommendation.

Edward Lear was buried in the Cimitero Monumentale della Foce in San Remo, Liguria, Italy, following a ceremony in which none of his family was present. On his grave marker are written Tennyson’s words:

…all things fair.
With such a pencil, such a pen.
You shadow’d forth to distant men,
I read and felt that I was there.

Thanks for everything, Edward Lear. I’m sorry I wasn’t around in the mid-19th century. If I had been, I’d have tried to be there for you. Because, God knows, you’ve always been there for me. And I’m grateful.

Oh, and PS, Ricochet. If you want to turn this into a limerick thread (because we haven’t had one for a while), I’m totally OK with that. And I suspect that EL would have been, too.

There are 78 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. KentForrester Moderator

    She, this might be your best post ever: full of wonderful quotes and wise reflections — and I learned a ton from reading it.

    I might go back and read more Lear. I had no idea he was so interesting until I read your post.

    I’d give you three or four Likes if I could. 

    • #1
    • January 29, 2020, at 9:34 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  2. RightAngles Member

    I loved Lear as a child too. When my grandfather died (he had played in John Philip Sousa’s band), my mom found an old leatherbound pocket calendar with the tour dates and cities of the band, and in it Mac (we and even his children called him that) had written page after page of dirty limericks haha

    • #2
    • January 29, 2020, at 9:38 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  3. B. W. Wooster Member

    So I wondered who wrote the ‘To Sea in a Sieve” that was featured in the film, ‘1917’. Now I know!

    • #3
    • January 29, 2020, at 10:15 AM PST
    • 1 like
  4. Al French of Damascus Moderator

    She: Oh, and PS, Ricochet. If you want to turn this into a limerick thread (because we haven’t had one for a while), I’m totally OK with that. And I suspect that EL would have been, too.

    But remember the code of conduct.

    • #4
    • January 29, 2020, at 10:19 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  5. KentForrester Moderator

    Al French (View Comment):

    She: Oh, and PS, Ricochet. If you want to turn this into a limerick thread (because we haven’t had one for a while), I’m totally OK with that. And I suspect that EL would have been, too.

    But remember the code of conduct.

    To hell with the Code! Let’s have fun!

    • #5
    • January 29, 2020, at 10:21 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  6. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A Ricochet post about Lear
    Caused some members to fussle with fear.
    They hoped that they’d ducked
    The code of conduct
    So their efforts would pass without sneer.

    I know. Some of you were ready to hit the panic button, there between lines three and four.

    No need.

    • #6
    • January 29, 2020, at 10:32 AM PST
    • 16 likes
  7. JoelB Member

    The good Reverend Henry Ward Beecher

    Called the hen a most elegant creature

    The hen pleased with that, laid an egg in his hat.

    And thus did the hen reward Beecher.

    • #7
    • January 29, 2020, at 10:40 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  8. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White MaleJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    How pleasant to know Mr. Lear
    How pleasant to know at the end of the day he’s near
    With a portfolio that daily features diverse creatures

    You open the book and it’s true
    The world is a lot more mysterious than we knew
    Round every corner unusual things are prone to wander

    When I was a young man I was oft-times at the zoo
    To trace the visages and forms of parrots and cockatoos

    It’s over the hill now he goes
    Pausing a while with the Pobble who has no toes
    For your perusal, Victorian days are so unsual

    Oh my aged Uncle Arly, sitting on a heap of barley
    On his nosehis faithful cricket
    In his hat a railway ticket
    But his shoes were far too tight
    How pleasant to know Mr. Lear

    In Egypt, the first day of spring
    You’re painting a watercolor,hoping the light will bring
    Guided by pens and inks, the pyramids and palms and sphinx

    When I was an old man, I had a cat named Foss
    Now he’s gone I wander on
    With this unbearable sense of loss

    How pleasant to know Mr. Lear
    How pleasant to know at the end of the day he’s near
    And if you should find him
    His world is dancing close behind him

    • #8
    • January 29, 2020, at 10:44 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  9. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    ‘Round Ricochet we quarrel and squabble
    ’bout rarities impenetrable,
    and the occasional guest, unwitting target of jest,
    blows his top and can’t make sense of the babble.

    • #9
    • January 29, 2020, at 10:51 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  10. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A limerick contest she pronounced,
    while work pressed in all abouts,
    so I frittered away the best part of the day,
    and all the desk work I heartily renounced!

    • #10
    • January 29, 2020, at 10:55 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  11. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    But a poesy throwdown attracts
    certain others here to grind their axe,
    and when @arahant discovers he’s behind all the others,
    the comment count suddenly’s jam-packed.

    • #11
    • January 29, 2020, at 10:59 AM PST
    • 7 likes
  12. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A few of Mr. Lear’s paintings:

    File:Common Pheasant.jpg

    Illustration for Tennyson’s “You Ask Me Why

    File:Edward Lear - Illustration to Tennyson's "You Ask Me Why"- Areka Palms, Ratanapooru, Ceylon - `I will see before I... - Google Art Project.jpg

    All from Wikimedia Commons.

     

    • #12
    • January 29, 2020, at 11:06 AM PST
    • 10 likes
  13. GLDIII Temporarily Essential Reagan
    GLDIII Temporarily EssentialJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Al French (View Comment):

    She: Oh, and PS, Ricochet. If you want to turn this into a limerick thread (because we haven’t had one for a while), I’m totally OK with that. And I suspect that EL would have been, too.

    But remember the code of conduct.

    To hell with the Code! Let’s have fun!

    The code is the law!

    • #13
    • January 29, 2020, at 11:10 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  14. Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker Moderator

    There once was a man
    From Cork who got limericks
    And haikus confused.

    • #14
    • January 29, 2020, at 11:15 AM PST
    • 19 likes
  15. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    One of my favorite limericks when I was a kid (not one of Edward Lear’s):

    A tutor who tooted the flute,
    Tried to tutor two tooters to toot.
    Said the two to the tutor,
    “Is it harder to toot or
    To tutor two tooters to toot?”

    And

    A flea and a fly in a flue
    Were imprisoned so what could the do?
    Said the flea, “let us fly”
    Said the fly, “let us flee”
    So they flew through a flaw in the flue. (Ogden Nash, I think)

    And perhaps my favorite (courtesy, of course, of my mother)

    There was a young fellow from Twickenham
    Who bought some new shoes and walked quick in ’em.
    He walked half a mile
    Till he came to a stile
    Then he took off his shoes and was sick in ’em.

    More later. Your turn.

    • #15
    • January 29, 2020, at 11:21 AM PST
    • 8 likes
  16. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSulJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Amy Schley, Longcat Shrinker (View Comment):

    There once was a man
    From Cork who got limericks
    And haikus confused.

    Old silly one (not mine)

    There once was a man from Japan
    Whose limericks just wouldn’t scan
    When asked why this was, he replied “it’s because,
    I keep putting too many words into the last line and they don’t all fit.”

    • #16
    • January 29, 2020, at 11:25 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  17. Cryptonym: ltpwfdcm Coolidge

    There once was a runner named Dwight

    Who could speed even faster than light. 

    He set out one day, 

    In a relative way

    And returned on the previous night.

    • #17
    • January 29, 2020, at 11:26 AM PST
    • 11 likes
  18. Arahant Member

    A lady named She was profound
    In fêting a dead man’s renown.
    She took to the writing
    of forms good for flyting
    But found herself CoC bound.

    • #18
    • January 29, 2020, at 11:31 AM PST
    • 14 likes
  19. Arahant Member

    There was an old woman, Louise,
    Who always was eager to please.
    She’d boil a pudding
    Awaiting the good ding
    of the timer, her cloth to release.

    • #19
    • January 29, 2020, at 11:36 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  20. Arahant Member

    There once was a fellow named James,
    Who was Patrick, or so he made claims,
    But nobody called him,
    And it really galled him,
    By any or all of his names.

    • #20
    • January 29, 2020, at 11:40 AM PST
    • 9 likes
  21. Vectorman Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    There was an old woman, Louise,
    Who always was eager to please.
    She’d boil a pudding
    Awaiting the good ding
    of the timer, her cloth to release.

    I can’t top any of these limericks.


    Join other Ricochet members by submitting a Quote of the Day post, the easiest way to start a fun conversation. There are many days available on the February Signup Sheet,including 2 next week. We even include tips for finding great quotes, so choose your favorite quote and sign up today!

    • #21
    • January 29, 2020, at 1:11 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  22. Arahant Member

    Vectorman (View Comment):
    I can’t top any of these limericks.

    You could at least try. 😉

    • #22
    • January 29, 2020, at 1:15 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  23. JoelB Member

    There’s a notable family named Stein,
    There’s Gert and there’s Ep and there’s Ein.
    Gert’s prose is all bunk,
    Ep’s sculpture’s just junk
    And nobody understands Ein.

    I always liked the line “There’s Gert and there’s Ep and there’s Ein.

    • #23
    • January 29, 2020, at 1:54 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  24. Judge Mental Member

    JoelB (View Comment):

    There’s a notable family named Stein,
    There’s Gert and there’s Ep and there’s Ein.
    Gert’s prose is all bunk,
    Ep’s sculpture’s just junk
    And nobody understands Ein.

    I always liked the line “There’s Gert and there’s Ep and there’s Ein.

    There’s a notable family named Stein,
    There’s Gert and there’s Ep and there’s Ein.
    Gert’s prose is all bunk,
    Ein’s theories just junk
    And Epstein didn’t kill himself.

    FIFY

    • #24
    • January 29, 2020, at 1:57 PM PST
    • 10 likes
  25. Arahant Member

    There once was a fellow named Scott
    Whose inventions were pretty darned hot.
    He made up a thing
    That would whizz and then bang
    And bring beers where you sleep in your cot.

    • #25
    • January 29, 2020, at 2:43 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  26. Arahant Member

    There was a young fellow named Dan
    Who had a spectacular plan.
    He’d make lots of money
    And find a hot honey
    To retire where they do the Cancan.

    • #26
    • January 29, 2020, at 2:45 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  27. WillowSpring Member
    WillowSpringJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    She (View Comment):
    A flea and a fly in a flue
    Were imprisoned so what could the do?
    Said the flea, “let us fly”
    Said the fly, “let us flee”
    So they flew through a flaw in the flue. (Ogden Nash, I think)

    For the first 15 or so years of my life, I thought my father had written this. He loved puns and limericks and would often quote this.

    • #27
    • January 29, 2020, at 2:53 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  28. tigerlily Member

    Vectorman (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    There was an old woman, Louise,
    Who always was eager to please.
    She’d boil a pudding
    Awaiting the good ding
    of the timer, her cloth to release.

    I can’t top any of these limericks.

    Yeah, me neither but I’m enjoying this so keep ’em comin’!

    • #28
    • January 29, 2020, at 3:08 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  29. Arahant Member

    tigerlily (View Comment):
    Yeah, me neither but I’m enjoying this so keep ’em comin’!

    You can’t get better if you don’t try,
    Like taking out an infield fly
    The more that you practice
    …uh…
    The less that you cactus
    Or make rhymes to toss in the sty.

    • #29
    • January 29, 2020, at 3:14 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  30. KentForrester Moderator

    Arahant (View Comment):

    tigerlily (View Comment):
    Yeah, me neither but I’m enjoying this so keep ’em comin’!

    You can’t get better if you don’t try,
    Like taking out an infield fly
    The more that you practice
    …uh…
    The less that you cactus
    Or make rhymes to toss in the sty.

    Arahant, you’re trying too hard now. 

    • #30
    • January 29, 2020, at 3:20 PM PST
    • 5 likes

Comments are closed because this post is more than six months old. Please write a new post if you would like to continue this conversation.