Peter Newell’s Jeff Pettingill at the Exposition

After the series devoted to the Johnson’s Family visit to the World’s Columbian Exposition of  1893 (now completed with the missing eighth number), Peter Newell was sent to the Exposition Universelle Internationale in Paris in 1900 and produced another picture story, whose protagonist was “Uncle Jeff Pettingill.”

Nichol Allen was so kind to send me the whole series, which appeared in Harper’s Weekly from 2 June to 15 September 1900, so here it is:

2 June

16 June

23 June

14 July

21 July

4 August

11 August (2 pictures)

18 August

25 August

1 September

15 September

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Edward Lear, Corfu

Edward Lear, Corfu.
inscribed ‘Corfu’ (lower left). Watercolour on paper. 12 x 20.5cm (4 3/4 x 8 1/16in)

The Parker Gallery, London.
Acquired from the above gallery by the present owner, c. 1971-75.


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Edward Lear in Transit (a lecture by Matt Bevis)

Matthew Bevis will be giving an online lecture on “Edward Lear in Transit” tomorrow, 12 May 2021:

This talk considers two questions: What—if anything—do Lear’s paintings and poems see in one another? And what sense (or nonsense) can be made from thinking about landscapes alongside limericks?

The event is organized by  Inventions of the Text, and you can get a free ticket to follow it at Eventbrite.

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The Significance Of Nonsense In Indian Culture

India does have its own legacy of nonsense literature. The origins of nonsense can be traced back to the great mystical texts of India, such as the Vedas, the Upanishads, and the medieval poet-saints like Kabir and Sant Namdev. Furthermore, the folk tradition had a strong influence on the formation of Indian nonsense in its oral forms. India abounds in nonsense-like folk material: lullabies, nursery rhymes, folk drama, folk tale, never-ending stories, chain verses, and so on, some being for children, some for grown-ups, others for both. Still, as a literary form, nonsense is not very popular beyond the English-influenced areas of India, namely West Bengal, Orissa, and the Maharashtra. Let us add after Heyman xxxiv) that, since the mid-nineteenth century, and perhaps even earlier English literary nonsense has found its way into these regions, especially West Bengal, the language of which has, according to Sampurna Chatterji [Sukumar Ray’s brilliant translator from Bengali into English.], a riotous caboodle of effects that can be used to create a vivid nonsense literature. Sukumar Ray and Rabindranath Tagore [Heyman states that Tagore was the first to recognize that children’s chhoda represented a separate rasa — the tenth one (in Bengali the word means “taste,” “essence” of something, an emotional effect art has on the audience). He adds that in his preface to a collection of nonsense, _Abol Tabol_ (1923), Sukumar Ray names this rasa kheyaal rasa, “the spirit of whimsy” (xl-xli). It is worth noting that kheyaal also means “play.”], the main representatives of the genre in the Indian context, grew up reading Edward Lear, who incidentally, stayed in India from 1873 to 1874, and Lewis Carroll. As Heyman says, the influence of the English on the Indian nonsense is undeniable” (xxxiv). However, Indian nonsense does have its distinct differences from English nonsense. In his introduction to The Select Nonsense of Sukumar Ray, the filmmaker Satyajit Ray, Sukumar’s son, observes that Indian nonsense places its characters much closer to real life than English nonsense, the characters of which are kept to a certain distance from the familiar world. He goes on to list the obsession with exotic food, indigenous fauna and flora, or extended families (as in Tagore’s poem “The Old Woman’s Grandma-in-Law’s Five Sisters”), among other specific themes. As Heyman suggests, Bengali nonsense was born out of the sheer delight of upturning the imposed rules, such as respect for elders or class/caste issues, and mocking the rigidity of folklore and sacred texts in order to create something that helps “live with such apparent opposing dualities, even to enjoy them” (Heyman xxxii).

Bee Formentelli, “Rabindranath Tagore’s Shey as a Playful Encounter Between a Poet and His Granddaughter.” In Justyna Deszcz-Tryhubczak (ed.), Children’s Literature and Intergenerational Relationships. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021. 95-113. 100-101.

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Edward Lear, Civita Castellana (1843)

Edward Lear, Civita Castellana, 1843.
Watercolor and graphite on paper. Titled and dated (lower left). 8 ½ x 13 ½ inches.

Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd., London
Acquired directly from the above by the present owner, 1983
Property from a Private Collection, Taos, New Mexico

Hindman, Chicago, through Liveauctioneers.

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Edward Lear, Temple of Agrigento

Edward Lear, Temple of Agrigento.
Signed and indistinctly dated ‘Edwd Lear. May 28, 184…’ (lower center); inscribed ‘Agrigento’ (lower right). Oil over pencil on paper, laid on canvas. 131⁄8 x 20 in. (33.3 x 50.8 cm.)

with Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, where acquired by the present owner in 2005.


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Harriott Lear’s Death Certificate

Jo Fitz-Henry kindly sent me Harriott Lear’s death registration from the Scotland’s People website. She died of “chronic bronchitis” at Cherry Bank, Perth, on 16 July 1859 and was buried in Wellshill Cemetery in Perth.

No members of the family were present as William Newsome, Ekeanor Lear’s husband and so Harriott’s brother-in-law, is mentione as “informant, if out of the House in which he Death occurred.” William, who wrote to Edward to inform him of the death, (and Eleanor?) travelled to Perth for the funeral. Lear was was in England at the time and he also went to the funeral, as he wrote to Chichester Fortescue from 15, Stratford Place on 18 July:

I think I told you that my sister Harriett was ill, & not likely ultimately to recover. The last accounts however, were rather improved: until on Saturday Evening a telegraphic message came to my sister in Surrey, to say she was worse: ― & on the following day a second message told that she had died in the course of the night.
In any case I should not have been able to go to Lady W[aldergrave]’s but as it is I am going off to-morrow morning, to get to her funeral on the following day: ― a long journey, near Aberdeen. [Letters, p. 144.]

Harriott (or Harriett as Edward seems to have preferred) died alone as Lear writes from St. Leonards-on-Sea on 28 July:

My sister’s death was so sudden at the last, that her nearer Scotch friends did not get to see her alive, poor thing. She however wrote a note to another of my sisters, only a few hours before her death, ― merely in these words. ― “Do not be grieved that I am alone: Christ is always with me:” & there is no doubt that she died in complete calm & happiness. What a dreary life hers has been! & yet that of thousands & thousands. “There’s something in the world amiss.”

Jo also sent me a link to photos of the grave of William Newsom and his wife Eleanor, née Lear, in West Norwood Cemetery and Crematorium, West Norwood, London Borough of Lambeth, Greater London:

For more on Edward Lear’s family: “Twenty of Twenty-one”: Edward Lear and His Siblings, part 1 & part 2.

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Edward Lear, Cefalu (1847)

Edward Lear, Cefalu.
Ink and pencil on buff paper. ‘Cefalu’ inscribed and dated 8th July 1847 and numbered 226, Spink & Son Ltd label verso. 8 x 12.75in.


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New Publications on Edward Lear (and more)

It’s been a long time since I updated the bibliographies, so here are quite a lot of items.

Essays on Edward Lear:

Walchester, Kathryn. “Non vedete. È una rivoluzione: Edward Lear Landscape Painter and Italy.” Journal of Tourism Consumption and Practice 1.1 (2009): 53-73.

Firtich, Nikolai. “The Artists of Nonsense: Nikolai Gogol and Edward Lear.” Transactions of the Russian-American Scholars in the U.S.A. 38 (2013): 157-91.

Antinucci, Raffaella. “Parodic Brachyology and Semantic Density in Edward Lear’s ‘Volcanic’ Italian Limericks.” Conversations: La Revue des Etudes Bachyologiques 8 (2019): 235-44.

Nagai, Kaori. “Animal Alphabets: Chesterton’s Dog, Browning’s Rats, Lear’s Blue Baboon.” Imperial Beast Fables: Animals, Cosmopolitanism, and the British Empire. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2020. 155-87.

Marques Granato, Fernanda, and Vera Bastazin. “On the Edge of Sense: Nonsense and Paradox in Edward Lear’s and Qorpo Santo’s Selected Works.” Ilha do Desterro A Journal of English Language, Literatures in English and Cultural Studies 74.1 (2021): 82-113. [link]

Colley, Ann C. “Animals and Nonsense: Edward Lear’s Menagerie.” The Palgrave Handbook of Animals and Literature. Eds. McHugh, Susan, Robert McKay and John Miller. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021. 333-346.

Nonsense in general:

Elliott, Richard. The Sound of Nonsense. New York – London: Bloomsbury, 2018.

Lecercle, Jean-Jacques. “Syntaxe et Nonsense.” Linx 10 (1984): 146-53.

Shires, Linda M. “Fantasy, Nonsense, Parody, and the Status of the Real: The Example of Carroll.” Victorian Poetry 26.3 (1988): 267-83.

Bardin, Gay. “The Poetics of Nullity: “Nonsense” Verses of William of Aquitaine, Jaufre Rudel, and Raimbaut D’Orange.” Comitatus: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 34 (2003): 1-23.

Lushetich, Natasha. “‘Ludus Populi’: The Practice of Nonsense.” Theatre Journal 63.1 (2011): 23-41

Celotto, Vittorio. “Tra nonsense e folklore: Niccolò Povero e la medicina alla rovescia.” Recipe… Pratiche mediche, cosmetiche e culinarie attraverso i testi (secc. XIV-XVI). Eds. Treccani, E. and M. Zaccarello. Vrona: Cierre, 2012. 115-54.

Stanev, Hristomir A. “Ben Jonson’s Eloquent Nonsense: The Noisy Ordeals of Heard Meanings on the Jacobean.” Early Theatre: A Journal Associated with the Records of Early English Drama 17.2 (2014): 95-117.

Tomarken, Annette. “Borrowed Nonsense: The ‘Nugae venales’ and the Prologues of Bruscambille.” Humanistica Lovaniensia 64 (2015): 321-37.

Satpathy, Sumanyu. “The Illogic of Fantasy and Nonsense: The Indian Context.” Indian Literature 59.1 (2015): 165-78.

Giammei, Alessandro. “Nonsense-verse Made in Italy.” il verri 60 (2016): 1-13.

Fall, Rebecca L. “Popular Nonsense According to John Taylor and Ben Jonson.” SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 57.1 (2017): 87-110.

Chrzanowska-Kluczewska, Elżbieta. “Humorous Nonsense and Multimin British and American Children’s Poetry.” European Journal of Humour Research 3.3 (2017): 25-42

Peterman, Emily. “The Child’s Death as Punishment or Nonsense? Edward Gorey’s ‘The Gashlycrum Tinies’ (1963) and the Cautionary Verse Tradition.” Bookbird: A Journal of International Children’s Literature 56.4 (2018): 22-30.

Petermann, Emily. “Sounds Like Nonsense: Elements of Orality in American Nonsense Literature.” Cahier voor Literatuurwetenschap 10 (2018): 47-64.

Wong, Mou-Lan. “The Congruity of Incongruity: Victorian Intermedial Humour.” Humour in the Arts: New Perspectives. Eds. Westbrook, Vivienne and Shun-liang Chao. New York – Abingdon: Routledge, 2019. 167-93.

Semenenko, Aleksei. “Semiotics of Nonsense and Non-sense: A Lotmanian Perspective.” Bakhtiniana 14.4 (2019): 152-62.

Celotto, Vittorio. “Problemi filologici della poesia del nonsense. Il caso delle ‘Mattane’ di Niccolò Povero.” La critica del testo. Problemi di metodo ed esperienze di lavoro. Trent’anni dopo. Eds. Malato, E. and A. Mazzucchi. Roma: Salerno Editrice, 2019. 553-570.

Kharlamova, S. A. “Transformation of English Victorian Nonsense in the 20th Century: Lewis Carroll and John Lennon.” Philological Class 1 (2019): 165-69.

Lehman, Robert S. “Original Nonsense: James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, and Modernism’s Genius.” Modernism / modernity 27.2 (2020): 339-60.

The limerick:

Khairy, Nadya, Muhamed Said, and Amani Mehdi Hussein. “Thematization Peculiarities and Prosodic Feature of British Limericks.” Multicultural Education 6.5 (2020): 137-57.

Piat, Èmilie. “Rime vs rythme: traduire les limericks.” Déverbaliser – reverbaliser: la traduction comme acte de violence ou comme manipulation du sens? Eds. Vogeleer, Svetlana and Laurent Béghin. Bruxelles: Université Saint-Louis, 2020. 199-220.

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The Harbury Cutting, Warwickshire (Attrib. Edward Lear

Attributed to Edward Lear (1812-1888) British. “The Harbury Cutting, Warwickshire”, with a Steam Train and Figures in the Foreground, Pencil, Inscribed on mount, Mounted, Unframed, 5.75” x 9.5” (14.7 x 24.2cm).

This is, in my opinion, highly unlikely as a Lear picture, though I would very much like it to be.

Here is a photo that is very similar to the drawing. Several more phots of the famous cutting. And here is its history. Also, information on how Isambard Kingdom Brunel “dug” the cutting: Lear mentions Brunel in an entry in his diary for 9 September 1859, when the Harbury cutting had already been finished.

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