Jenny Uglow’s books include prize-winning biographies of Elizabeth Gaskell, William Hogarth and Sarah Losh. The Lunar Men, published in 2002, was described by Richard Holmes as ‘an extraordinarily gripping account’, while Nature’s Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick, won the National Arts Writers Award, and A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration was shortlisted for the Samuel Johnson Prize. Her most recent book is In These Times: Living in Britain through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793-1815. She lives in Canterbury.
Mr Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense
Published by Faber & Faber
We know Edward Lear as a genius of nonsense, full of shocks and surprises, and as a poet of strange loves – ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’, ‘The Dong with a Luminous Nose’. We may know him, too, for his superb paintings of birds and animals – he is still regarded as one of the finest natural history painters – or for his luminous landscapes. But do we know that he taught Queen Victoria to draw, travelled alone across the wild Albanian mountains, or waded through muddy fields with Tennyson?
Lear lived all his life on the borders of rules and structures, of disciplines and desire. Children adored him and adults loved him, yet somehow he was always alone. This beautifully illustrated volume, a fresh, joyful and moving appreciation, follows Lear from his troubled childhood to his striving as an artist, tracking his swooping moods, passionate friendships and restless travels. And as we travel with him, his ‘nonsenses’ are elegantly unpicked – without losing any of their fun – and his complex poetic genius is revealed.