Uglow has something interesting to say on almost every facet of Lear’s life and work, taken individually. When she gets off the chronological treadmill her gift as a storyteller is evident, and her assessments of character and motive are almost always sensible and convincing. As a critic she is lucid, clever, conversable; she doesn’t talk down, and her readings are excellent, the heart of the book.
he seems to consider Uglow’s chronological approach “wearisome,” in large part because of a redundant focus on Lear’s travels, an impression I did not have while reading the book, which on the contrary I think managed to avoid this pitfall of many other biographical sketches. On the other hand, a little contradictorily, he complains that the book “would need to be three, four, ten times as long to do this [i.e. provide an ‘immersive experience of such a life’] propertly.”
In the same issue Thomas Dilworth launches in one of his readings of an Edward Lear limerick, “There was an Old Man of the Hague,” which is fun to read but does not really say much about Lear himself.
I have added to the critical bibliography the following items:
Uglow, Jenny. Mr. Lear: A Life of Art and Nonsense. London: Faber and Faber, 2017.
Westwood, Benjamin. “Edward Lear’s Dancing Lines.” Essays in Criticism 67.4 (2017): 367-91.