Edward Lear, Thomas Woolner, and Edward Wilson

Edward Lear first met Edward Wilson in Rome in February 1860, when the latter brought him a letter from his friend and PRB fellow Thomas Woolner. That same night he wrote to Woolner, obviously in a very good mood, one of his humorous letters:

94o V. Condotti, Roma,
February 16, 1860.

My Dear Woolner,

o my deerunkel [Lear called William Holman Hunt “pa or, more often, “daddy” and Woolner “uncle”]—Mr. Edward Wilson has brought me your letter of Jany 19th this afternoon, at 4 p.m. So I walked round the Borghese villa with him, & thought him a very nice fellow;—& if he hadn’t been so, I should have seen what I could of him: for your sake unkel. I have asked him to dine tomorrow, tête-a-tête, & shall feed him with stewed beef & maccaroni & you may depend on my doing all I can for him, as far as my little possible goes. For in 10 days (his limit of time here) much cannot be done. With regard to Naples & other parts of Hitterly, I fear I can do less. . . . Tell my pa he is a nasty unnatural old brute of a parient, as lets his own flesh & blood pine & fret away in furrin parts, without his never writing nothink to them. I am immensely glad you give such a good account of dead Daddy—& long to hear of the picture being finished. I approve of both your dancings, . . . a couple of little apes as you both of you be! For all that I wish you were both of you here. I really do wish you could come before I go hence and am no more seen in Rome, for I hate the place more & more & more & more. I heard of your being at Farringford from Mrs. Tennyson. . . . Don’t you delight in Tithonus? I am glad you went over to Swainston: Sir J. Simeon has done himself & his religion credit by his good & manly letter. Thank you for what you say of my pictures: it is a really great pleasure to know that Fairbairn likes his Petra so much. . . . Dear me! I wish you could come out here for a little time . . . . you might see all Rome so quietly as you never would have another roppertunity of doing. So might Pa. I am glad to hear of your doing Sir W. Hooker & Sedgwick . . . my plans are much changed since I came here, and I find I must put off Palestine till Autumn. And thus I am going on with paintings of Palermo, Dead Sea, Parnassus. . . . Beirût, & Damascus, with some drawings,—But I also wish to paint the Seeders of Lebanon from the big Seeders at Sir J. Simeon’s before I come to town. I am convinced of this: a man cannot too perpetually & too wiggorously keep a beginning & a setting forth of new themes for work: if so be he goes on to finish them. After I’ve done all the above toppicks, I trust to go to Jerusalem & after that perhaps to the troppicle regents, & the Specific highlands and never comes a Hewropean trader & a lustrous creeper in a flag sliding over summer trailers which accounts for the same.

O my belovydunkel, my eyes are tired with the light, and my’ ed is a akin: so I can’t right any maw, beinng half asleep. Give my love to my dear pa, & to Brother Bob Martineau, & to my Grandfather Maddox Brown, which I always keep seeing his picture of “Work” before me.—(o my!) . . . Good-bye my dear boy. I am truly glad you are going on so well. Write me a line by post some day for it is a pleasure to hear of you.

And believe me,
Dear Woolner,
Yours affly.
Edward Lear.

Do write & send me the address of your Studio.—I hope though, you’ll get a block of marble for the little Fairbairns soon.

Woolner, Amy. Thomas Woolner, R.A. Sculptor and Poet. His Life in Letters. New York: E.P. Dutton, 1907. 185-6.

In the diaries Lear dates Wilson’s arrival on 17 February 1860:

At 4½ one Mr. Edward Wilson of Melbourne brought me a letter from T. Woolner, ― so I walked round the Borghese with him & asked him to dine tomorrow. Woolners letter is very nice.

Lear’s reaction to Wilson was less than enthusiastic; on 24 February he wrote:

Mr. Wilson came ― & took on hisself [sic] to lecture me for not going out, overwork, Hugh Miller &c. &c. ―: to which I thought ― o ass! ― but said nothing. ―

They saw each other sporadically in Rome, and Lear was a bit offended when, meeting Wilson in Tivoli, the Australian seemed surprised of Lear’s unwillingness to leave Giorgio, who had just heard of his little daughter’s death, alone: “Met Wilson, who seemed to think it odd I could not join his party: he is potius aper” (6 April). “Potius aper” being Lear’s way to define someone “rather a bore,” via the Latin for “rather a boar.”

At the end of the year Lear annotated in his diary while staying in Oatlands to paint the “Seeders of Lebanon:”

Edward Wilson ― a nice & kind letter, asking me to a dinner at the Crystal Palace as a farewell. I wrote an answer ― No: ― but I am sorry I can’t convey to Edward Wilson what I feel about him: a kind hearted man: ― yet we did not pull well together. ―― (2 October 1860.)

More on Edward Wilson: Australian Dictionary of Biography, Wikipedia, T. Woolner’s bust of Wilson at the State Library of Victoria and relative entry,

Wilson, Edward. Rambles at the Antipodes: A Series of Sketches of Moreton Bay, New Zealand, the Murray River and South Australia, and The Overland Route. London: W.H. Smith and Son, 1859 (Google Books).

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1 Response to Edward Lear, Thomas Woolner, and Edward Wilson

  1. Pingback: Mr Leer, Humpty Dumpty and Finnegan | A Blog of Bosh

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