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What Nonsense! The Extraordinary Mr Lear.

By Ashleylister @ashleylister
Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll and Dr Seuss are synonymous with the word ‘Nonsense’. They were the masters at turning the world on its head. However, my ultimate hero dubbed the Father of Nonsense by many, is Edward Lear. He has provided me with a lifetime of enjoyment and inspiration. Like a myriad of other children, I grew up with his delightful nonsensical rhymes like the Owl and the Pussycat that took me on imaginative journeys to surreal and faraway lands with conversing animals, anthropomorphic objects, funny people and other imaginary beings. My absolute favorite is the Table and the Chair. This poem has taken on new meaning as I read with fresh eyes whilst in isolation, banned from going to other people’s houses, restricted in movement and distancing whilst ‘taking the air’.

What Nonsense! The Extraordinary Mr Lear.

Table and the Chair Drawing - by Edward Lear

From A Book of Nonsense, Everyman’s Library Children’s Classics
I Said the Table to the Chair, 'You can hardly be aware, 'How I suffer from the heat, 'And from chilblains on my feet! 'If we took a little walk, 'We might have a little talk! 'Pray let us take the air!' Said the Table to the Chair.
II Said the Chair unto the Table, 'Now you know we are not able! 'How foolishly you talk, 'When you know we cannot walk!' Said the Table, with a sigh, 'It can do no harm to try, 'I've as many legs as you, Why can't we walk on two?'
III So they both went slowly down, And walked about the town With a cheerful bumpy sound, As they toddled round and round. And everybody cried, As they hastened to their side, 'See! the Table and the Chair 'Have come out to take the air!'
  IV But in going down an alley, To a castle in a valley, They completely lost their way, And wandered all the day, Till, to see them safely back, They paid a Ducky-quack, And a Beetle, and a Mouse, Who took them to their house.
V Then they whispered to each other, 'O delightful little brother! 'What a lovely walk we've taken! 'Let us dine on Beans and Bacon!' So the Ducky, and the leetle Browny-Mousy and the Beetle Dined, and danced upon their heads Till they toddled to their beds.

What Nonsense! The Extraordinary Mr Lear.

Table and the Chair and Animals Drawing - by Edward Lear

From A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear, Everyman’s Library Children’s Classics
Lear however was not only a master of nonsense poetry. This extraordinary man was a gifted writer/journalist, an illustrator, musician and art teacher (he taught Queen Victoria). He was a fine landscape painter well adept in oil painting and watercolour. Poetry inspired many of his paintings, particularly works penned by his good friend Mr Tennyson. Lear and Tennyson exchanged letters and verse for many years.

What Nonsense! The Extraordinary Mr Lear.

Venice 13 & 16 November 1865 - by Edward Lear

Pencil, Sepia Ink, Watercolour
From The Painter Edward Lear by Vivien Noakes, David & Charles
   Mr Lear was certainly clued into Victorian reality. He traveled the world and his keen observational skills and understanding of what he saw and experienced fed his imagination. He could be found sitting and drawing within the enclosures at the London Zoo and Knowsley Hall communing with parrots or riding a camel in Albania.

What Nonsense! The Extraordinary Mr Lear.

Red and Yellow Macaw, 1830

by Edward Lear
Hand-coloured lithograph. Plate 7 in Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae, Or Parrots, 1831. From The Painter Edward Lear by Vivien Noakes, David & Charles    He took what he saw and transformed reality juxtaposing elements in text and visuals. His amusing and humorous creations initially were intended to entertain the children and grandchildren of his patron, Edward Smith-Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby, President of the Zoological Society and later for a world-wide public fan base of children and adults alike.

What Nonsense! The Extraordinary Mr Lear.

Pen and Ink Drawing - by Edward Lear

 From A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear, Everyman’s Library Children’s Classics

What Nonsense! The Extraordinary Mr Lear.

There Was An Old Man - by Edward Lear

Pen and Ink From A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear, Everyman’s Library Children’s Classics
   The worlds created by people like Lear, Lewis Carroll and Dr Seuss may make no sense to some, but they make perfect sense to me. Fictional nonsense is a gift – it is entertaining.These texts have hints of our world askew with lots of ridiculous thrown in, perhaps not quite understood, but that’s okay – it’s another world, not our own.
   These alternate universes however strange they seem, are a bit of fun, they inspire me to construct my own alternative universes that welcomed relief from the often relentless, nonsensical and craziness of the outside world – and that world at the minute I’m really struggling to make sense of.
    A sampling of my own nonsensical world written 2nd May 2020
Gwinnipeg Gwinnipeg from Winnipeg a perfect penguin with an extra leg stuck out of her head between the eyes a submarine in disguise in water the foot like a periscope that can balance balls and bars of soap or do clever moves like arabesque   pointing straight up – she likes it best when swimming the leg like a handsome horn of the most magnificent unicorn and when on land she flips and flops from feet to foot she hops and hops an acrobat – she’s hard to stop flipping flopping flipping flopping flipping flopping SPLASH!
What Nonsense! The Extraordinary Mr Lear.
  Credits: Lear, E. (1846). A Book of Nonsense. Everyman’s Library A Book Of Classics. Random House. Germany.
Noakes, V. (1991). The Painter Edward Lear. David & Charles. London.
https://farringford.co.uk/news-events/tennyson-poems-blog/edward-lear-and-tennyson
http://www.prescotmuseum.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/11/Edward-Lear.pdf
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