Lear Illustrated in America

Someone made curious by the announcement in the inside front cover of the January 1870 issue of Our Young Folks (number 61) that “another new contributor, a distinguished English artist, will furnish some laughable verses” would have been happy to find more details in the last page (72):

We shall give, in the February number, a capital specimen of nonsense-poetry, by Edward Lear, an English artist. It will be followed by others from the same hand. The author is one of Tennyson’s intimate friends, and the fact that these verses have been read and laughed over by the poet and his children, adds to their interest.

It takes a genius to write real nonsense. Few besides the immortal “Mother Goose” have ever had the gift of doing so, in a manner acceptable to children. These will be acknowledged genuine by all who can appreciate the ludicrous.

Lear had agreed to let Fields, Osgood, & Co. print some of his as-yet-unpublished nonsense songs in November 1869, after sending copies of his poems to the publisher’s wife, Mrs. Fields, on 14 October 1868 (The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense, edited by V. Noakes, London, Penguin, 2001, pp. 500, 506 and 510). The time of the anonymous publication of the Book of Nonsense was long gone:

You will I know kindly print my name in full “Edward Lear,” wh. will, when I get the Magazine, delight my feeble mind, & console me for remaining in this cold foggy place. After all, small as it may be, one does some good by contributing to the laughter of little children, if it is a harmless laughter.

(Edward Lear to James Fields, 18 November 1869; Vivien Noakes, Edward Lear: The Life of a Wanderer, revised edition,Stroud, Sutton, 2004, p. 203.)

Our Young Folks would publish three of Lear’s most famous songs, with nice original illustrations by J.H. Howard. The first to appear was The Owl and the Pussy-Cat (number 62, February 1870, pp. 111-2):

The Owl and the Pussy-Cat

The March issue (number 63, pp. 146-7) presented The Duck and the Kangaroo:

The sad tale of The Daddy-Long-Legs and the Fly would close the series in April (number 64, pp. 209-12):

Lear received his copies of the magazine in May 1870 and in August he wrote to Fields: “I thought the 3 poems very nicely printed, and capitally illustrated.” (The Complete Nonsense, p. 501.)

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1 Response to Lear Illustrated in America

  1. Pingback: A Blog of Bosh - » The Complete American Owl and Pussy-cat

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