Northrop Frye on Edward Lear’s Last Lines

July 23, 1932

I read in a book on the limerick the other day by some supercilious ass who
talked about Edward Lear as a pioneer but a childish and inane primitive because his first and last lines ended with the same word, venturing to “improve”
some by rewriting their final lines. This latter method is all right for sillycleverness or obscenity,—or anything which makes the limerick do slave-labor
for some non-literary purpose,—but the gentle echolalic of Lear, the last line as a
reflective comment, establishes the limerick as art, modern smartness ruining its
delicacy by rushing the meter and clinching and compressing the theme. Lear is
the unchallenged and supreme master of the limerick, and almost the only one
who brought it definitely within the pale of literature. This person is an ass, as I
said before.

Northrop Frye’s Uncollected Prose. ed. Robert D. Denham. University of Toronto Press (2015). 39.

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2 Responses to Northrop Frye on Edward Lear’s Last Lines

  1. Peter Byrne says:

    How right! “… the gentle echolalic of Lear, the last line as a reflective comment, ….” also lifts the limerick to a dimension of where musing is truth.

  2. mbheyman says:

    Beautiful!

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