Edward Lear in Southwold

A new edition of Geoffrey Munn’s Southwold: An Earthly Paradise is now available, though Amazon will be selling it starting on 14 July, and it includes an all-new chapter on Edward Lear’s stay there in 1869 with an interesting interpretation of Lear’s poem “The Daddy Long-Legs and the Fly,” which he wrote while staying there. This is absolutely not the only interesting chapter of this richly-illustrated book; among others I found those on the “Dark Side” and “Pirates and Marauders” very enjoyable, not to mention those on Turner and Henry Davy, while “Happy Holidays” is my favourite.

Here is a letter Lear wrote to Lady Wyatt while staying in Southwold, from which Munn takes a few extracts:

Southwold. Suffolk. 8 Sept. / 69

My dear Lady Wyatt,

I have 2 names to thank you for, but you must not judge my thanks by the strictness of my notes. My friend F. Lushington was dreadfully ill when I came – but thank God he is recovering.

I go tomorrow by the upsetting Omnibus to Darsham, & so for a fortnight or more to 10 Duchess Street. This place is peculiar, from the house I live in you can get away ^[from] in 4 directions only: straight forward – a space of 8 feet you fall over a cliff [into the sea]: [on] the other way 12 miles to rail – by the Bus which always upsets. Right hand – to the marsh out of which a flight of Bulls rush out at you. Left to another marsh where there are only two bulls, but they toss you all about the place.

I hope you will hear from Spanish Digby soon: please let me know: –  did you sew, – (or [sore], – or so, – or soe, or sough), the coloured bows all over his clothes?

The List goes on gradually, & is [up] at 455: but with the help of friends I trust in its increase. I send 2 of the last lot of names. Also I disclose some crests. Did I not send a better one of Mrs. Fergusons, – (this one is blackened by axident.) I’ve written a new child poem here, the daddy-long-legs & the Fly – but have no time to copy it out, or Mrs. Nicholas’ little girl should have it.

My friend here has a regular duck of a little girl too, who keeps me in fits of laughter: – she is 6 & a half. I asked her today to name some mi[nerals] & she said, “Gold sovereigns, Slate pencils, bricks sand, mustard, & plums with stones in.” And her definition of animals was, “Pappy & Mummy, Aunty & you, the cow, ^[& chickens] & shrimps.”

Your 2nd letter came this morning

Fancy view – Cow Bridge. The weather {here is rather squally & squashdomphious – but on the whole it is fine.

My kind remembrances to all my friends (& enemies if there are any) & believe me your’s sincerely Edward Lear.

Don’t forget to let me hear about Digby.

Miss Rooke, Mrs H. [Mastrand]}[1]

[1] The part in braces is written in the front page of the letter next to the sender’s address and interspersed with the beginning of the letter, which is therefore complete in two pages.

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