Edward Lear’s Copy of Tennyson’s Idylls of the King

Tennyson, Alfred, Lord

8vo (7 x 4 1/4 ins.; 171 x 109 mm). Eight-page publisher’s catalogue dated July 1859 bound  before front free endpaper; some minor spotting, few leaves creased. Publisher’s blind-paneled green cloth; rubbed, slightly shaken.

Edward Lear (inscription on title “Edward Lear. July 12./59” with presentation inscription in Tennyson’s hand “from Alfred Tennyson” — (Christie’s London, 19 November 2003, lot 110).

Purchased at the foregoing sale through Bernard Quaritch.

First edition, first issue, presentation copy to Edward Lear from Tennyson and with the artist’s notes for an unrealized project.

Lear met Tennyson through Franklin Lushington, likely the artist’s closest friend. In 1852, Lear began the massive endeavor of  illustrating Tennyson’s poems, but it was an undertaking that remained unfinished at his death. This copy was probably inscribed to Lear by Tennyson shortly after two had met in early June 1859, and is inscribed in both their hands on the title.

Lear’s penciled notes in the margins of pp.13-14, 52, 56, 101, 105, 108, 155, 168, 221, 229, 239 and 256, presumably to identify the lines that he wished to illustrate; comparison with Lear’s final set of 200 illustrations for the work show that the line on p.221 corresponds to no. 194, that on p.229 to nos 196-9, and that on p.239 to no. 195. (cf. R. Pitman [ed.] Edward Lear’s Tennyson, Manchester, 1988).


Mentioned in Jenny Uglow’s new Lear biography, to be published shortly.

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