That's Just Plain Nonsense, Eddie: Complete Nonsense of Edward Lear

The Complete Nonsense of Edward Lear. by Edward Lear and edited by Holbrook Jackson Dover, 1951.

Lear was the youngest of 21 children and was brought up by his sister, who cared for him until he was nearly 50. He was an eternal child with “invincible boyishness,” according to the editor. This collection contains several works from 1846-1895.

Random thoughts:

These are so like the jokes my kids make up—so un-funny that they’re funny. A woman playing harp with her chin. Ha! They make me want to rhyme and be silly. Some have double meaning, like a person of Leeds with a head full of beads who eats gooseberry fool. And Lear uses great words like scroobious, dolorous; he embraces the absurd and violent—characters file off thumbs or kill a flea on their knee with a hatchet. Others are most un-politically correct, which I always appreciate.

For a time there’s a theme of going and not coming back (perhaps around the time of his sister’s death?). The short stories are like dreams of free association. He employs repetition like a picture book author might, but with horrendously creepy elements: story of seven young of various animals and all die awful deaths until the parents pickle themselves. Um, lovely!

The Nonsense Cookery is hysterical as are the visual puns in the Botany. He has fun rhymes for the Alphabet. I notice the limericks get more sophisticated in his later work. Rhymes are frequently brilliant, and this without the benefit of!

My favorite on p. 205: “There was an old man in a garden/who always begged every-one’s pardon;/when they asked him, “what for?” – he replied “you’re a bore!”/And I trust you’ll go out of my garden.” I can imagine Lear writing this on a particularly grumpy day.

Is Lear an influence on Dr. Seuss, I wonder? He has some critters chopping up a Sage because they need sage for a recipe. HAHAHA!

The final alphabet points to some rather obvious Father issues.