Irish Literary ‘Learics’

I have long thought that the word “learic” was an invention of modrn limerick scholars desperate to find a way to justify the word “limerick,” whose origin as it is applied to Edward Lear’s nonsenses is mysterious, but here is a section from an 1899 book,  Idyls of Killowen: A Soggarth’s Secular Verses (London: James Bowden, 1899), by Matthew Russell, S.J.

Thanks to Doug Harris for sending me the link.

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An Exile in Paradise: The Adventures of Edward Lear

Derek Smith recently uploaded the three episodes of An Exile in Paradise: The Adventures of Edward Lear to YouTube.

A three part series
In 1848 Edward Lear, writer and illustrator of nonsense verse, set out on an epic journey through Greece and Albania. But Lear was more than just a humorist, he was an excellent landscape artist, traveller and writer of travel books. With Lear’s writings and drawings as a guide, presenter Robert Horne followed Lear’s journey through the awe-inspiring scenery of the southern Balkans, where he encountered fascinating reminders of a turbulent past and the warmth of the modern inhabitants: the inspiration for all travellers.

Producer: Dr Quentin Russell
Director: Derek Smith
Executive Producer: Finian O’Sullivan

Programme 1: Into Ottoman Lands
In the attractive setting of Corfu, Robert Horne outlines Lear’s background and some surprising connections with Greece and Athens before embarking on the journey proper from Thessaloniki to the Albanian border, taking in the breathtaking beauty of the mountain lakes, Prespa and Ochrid.

Programme 2: The Devil Draws
As an artist Lear was attacked as Satan throughout Muslim lands, something that would not happen in modern Albania. Whilst exploring the remains of Albania’s rich heritage and the Ottoman past Robert Horne is intrigued by Albania’s recent history and how the eccentric rule of the communist dictator Enver Hoxha casts its shadow over the present.

Programme 3: Greece Coast to Coast
Lear was impressed by the legacy of the struggle of the local people against Ottoman oppression. Nowhere was this more exemplified than in the mountains of northern Greece. Robert finds that stories of those times are still celebrated, and Lear himself remembered, but the traditional way of life pursued in this breathtaking landscape is fighting to survive against encroaching modernity.

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Edward Lear, Fomm Ir-Rih, Malta (1866)

Edward Lear, Fomm Ir-Rih, Malta.
Pen and brown ink and watercolour; inscribed, lower right: Fommer Rih / 2 P.M /  March 1 1866 / 79, further inscribed with colour notes, unframed. 153 by 253 mm.

Provenance
Sale, London, Bonham’s, 16 September 2009, lot 163;
bt. by the present owner.

According to Lear’s inscription, this plein air drawing was executed at 2 o’clock in the afternoon on 1st March 1866. Lear has depicted the dramatic and geologically diverse landscape of Fomm Ir-Rih, which is located on the west coast of Malta.
Having left England for Venice in September of 1865, Lear then travelled south to Malta. Renting lodgings situated three miles from the port of Valetta, he remained on the island for almost three months, before travelling on to Corfu, via Dalmatia and Montenegro.

Sotheby’s.

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Edward Lear, Ascalon, Palestine

Edward Lear, Ascalon, Palestine.
Watercolour over pencil, heightened with touches of bodycolour; signed with monogram lower right. 105 by 205 mm.

Provenance
John, Lord D’Ayton (1922-2003);
thence by descent to the present owners.

The sculptor Thomas Woolner (1825-1892) believed that Lear’s Holy Land drawings were ‘the most beautiful things he has ever done…not only for the mystery and history attached to the places themselves but also for the excessive fineness, tenderness and beauty of the art displayed in them.’1
Lear visited Palestine after leaving Cairo in the spring of 1867. He spent several days sketching at Memphis before travelling on to Jerusalem. On the way he stopped at Ascalon, where he executed the present work.

1. V. Noakes, Edward Lear 1812-1888, London 1985, p. 112.

Sotheby’s.

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Edward Lear, The River Nile at Abou Seir, the Second Cataract (1867)

Edward Lear, The River Nile at Abou Seir, the Second Cataract, Egypt.
Pen and brown and grey ink with watercolour over pencil, heightened with white on buff-coloured paper; inscribed in ink and in pencil, lower left: Abou Seir / 2d Cataract / 9-9.30. AM. / Feby 4.1867, numbered, lower right: (341), and further inscribed with colour notes. 280 by 535 mm.

Provenance
With Spink’s, London;
by whom sold to John, Lord D’Ayton (1922-2003);
thence by descent to the present owners.

Exhibied
London, Sotheby’s, Edward Lear, An Exhibition of Works by Edward Lear from the D’Ayton International Collection, assembled by John D’Ayton, 2004, no. 21.

In 1854 Lear had travelled up the Nile as far as Philae, but in 1867 he decided to explore further south and to make drawings of the Upper Nile and Nubia, as far as the Second Cataract. All the way up the Nile he was busy sketching, making new drawings of Philae and Denderah and many other places he had visited thirteen years earlier, but it was the new country above the First Cataract which was of greatest interest. He informed Lady Waldegrave by letter that the Nubian desert was ‘a sad, stern, uncompromising landscape, dark ashy purple lines of hills, piles of granite rocks, fringes of palm, and ever and anon astonishing ruins of the oldest temples’.1 The great expanses of sand and long lines of hills were a complete contrast to the lush green landscape of the First Cataract, but Lear was amazed by the harsh beauty of the landscape and delighted by the magnificence of the temples, particularly Abou Simbel which he reached on 8th February. By early March, Lear had returned to Cairo.

1. V. Noakes, Edward Lear Selected Letters, Oxford 1988, p. 216.

Sotheby’s.

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Edward Lear, Baalbek, Lebanon (1858 / 1862)

Edward Lear, Baalbek, Lebanon.
Watercolour over pencil heightened with touches of bodycolour; signed with monogram and dated twice, lower left: 1858 / 1862. 180 by 370 mm.

Provenance
Mrs Ashton;
Miss Lupton, Leeds;
thence by family descent, until 1992;
with Agnew’s, London, until 1995;
by whom sold to John, Lord D’Ayton (1922-2003);
thence by descent to the present owners.

Exhibited
London, Sotheby’s, Edward Lear, An Exhibition of Works by Edward Lear from the D’Ayton International Collection, assembled by John D’Ayton, 2004, no. 15.

On his way back from Egypt in the Spring of 1858 Lear spent several days by the Dead Sea and in the neighbourhood of Jerusalem before catching the boat from Jaffa to Beirut. From there he made an expedition into Lebanon, stopping at Damascus and, on the 23rd May, the ruins of Baalbek. Lear was not in good spirits when he arrived as the site was crowded with English travellers. He also complained of ‘a ropedancer from Cairo – with consequent attendant crowds – and a village full of tiresome begging impical Heliopolitans’.1 As a result of these irritations he was not able to fully appreciate his surroundings and wrote: ‘I can by no means endorse the enthusiasm of travellers regarding those very grand ruins. Their immense size, their proportions, – the inimitable labour and exquisite workmanship of their sculptured details, none can fail to be struck with, nor to delight in contemplating. But all the florid ornaments of architecture cannot fill up the place of simplicity, nor to me is it possible to see hideous forms of Saracentic walls around and mixed with such remains as those of Baalbec without a feeling of confused dislike of the whole scene – so incomplete and so unimpressive’.2

1. Ed. Lady Strachey, Letters of Edward Lear…to Chichester Fortescue…and Frances, Countess Waldegrave, London 1907, p. 109.
2. Ed. Lady Strachey, Letters of Edward Lear…to Chichester Fortescue…and Frances, Countess Waldegrave, London 1907, p. 109.

Sotheby’s.

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Edward Lear, The Gorge at Wady Barada, Lebanon (1858)

Edward Lear, The Gorge at Wady Barada, Lebanon.
Pen and brown ink and watercolour over pencil, on grey paper; inscribed, lower right: Suk Wady Barada / 25 May 1858 / (215), and further inscribed with colour notes. 365 by 525 mm.

Provenance
Sir Wyndham Dunstan (1861-1949);
John, Lord D’Ayton (1922-2003);
thence by descent to the present owners.

Exhibited
London, Agnew’s, 100th Annual Exhibition of Watercolours and Drawings, 1973, no. 155;
London, Sotheby’s, Edward Lear, An Exhibition of Works by Edward Lear from the D’Ayton International Collection, assembled by John D’Ayton, 2004, no. 16.

On 23rd May 1858, whilst spending time at Baalbek during his tour of the interior of Lebanon, Lear visited the gorge at Suk Wady Barada and made the present drawingAt the end of the month he left Baalbek and travelled to Damascus. The journey took only a day and, in a letter to his friend Lady Waldegrave, he expressed regret at not being able to spend longer over it: ‘The day’s journey thence half way over Anti Lebanon, and the following journey down hither would be of great interest could more time be spent on the way’.1 He spent only a few days in Damascus, delighting in the ‘glittering city’,2 before leaving for Corfu.

1. V. Noakes, Edward Lear Selected Letters, Oxford 1988, p. 159.
2. V. Noakes, Edward Lear Selected Letters, Oxford 1988, p. 159.

Sotheby’s.

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Edward Lear, Gebel Serbal (1849)

Edward Lear, Gebel Serbal, Egypt.
Pen and brown ink and watercolour over pencil; inscribed, lower right: Gebel Serbal / 30 Jany.1849 / 1 P.M., numbered, lower left: 179., and further inscribed with colour notes.  130 by 225 mm.

Provenance
Sale, London, Sotheby’s, 16 July 1987, lot 205;
with Spink’s, London, by 1991;
by whom sold to John, Lord D’Ayton (1922-2003);
thence by descent to the present owners.

Exhibited
London, Sotheby’s, Edward Lear, An Exhibition of Works by Edward Lear from the D’Ayton International Collection, assembled by John D’Ayton, 2004, no. 17.

Lear made his first visit to Egypt in January 1849 and spent a week in Cairo before setting off on an expedition to Mount Sinai. He was accompanied by his friend John Cross, and together they travelled by camel along the overland route from Cairo to Suez. From there they followed the west coast of the Sinai Peninsula before turning inland towards the mountains. On the 20th January Lear caught his first glimpse of Gebel Serbal and recorded ‘the magnificence of the mountains…and…the great Gebel Serbal, which some supposed Mt. Sinai for no good reason that I can find’.1 On this occasion, however, Lear did not stop to sketch the mountains and instead, the party continued towards Mount Sinai. They reached St. Catherine’s Monastery on the 27th and spent three days there before Lear caught a cold and decided to turn back, leaving his friend to continue on to Palestine without him. He left on the 30th and began his return journey northwards, passing Gebel Serbal on the way and making the present drawing. By the time he reached Suez he had caught a fever and spent some time recovering before travelling back to Cairo and then on to Malta.

1. Ed. V. Noakes, Edward Lear Selected Letters, Oxford 1988, p. 104.

Also see.

Sotheby’s.

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Edward Lear, Nubians at the First Cataract on the Nile at Philae (1867)

Edward Lear, Nubians at the First Cataract on the Nile at Philae, Egypt.
Pen and grey ink and watercolour over pencil; inscribed in ink and pencil, lower left: Cataract 1st / 11. A.M. / Jany 30. 1867, further inscribed, lower centre: Nubians mostly white, some pale blue and lower right: A Suleiman (267), also inscribed with colour notes. 170 by 250 mm.

Provenance
With Spink’s, London;
sale, London, Sotheby’s, 9 March 1989, lot 157,
bt. John, Lord D’Ayton (1922-2003);
thence by descent to the present owners

Lear first visited the Nile in 1854, but the present study dates from his second trip to the great river in the winter of 1866-1867. He was in the company of his Canadian cousin, Archie Jones, whom he met at Luxor and travelled with to Esneh, Edfu and then Philae, which they reached at the end of January 1867. Unfortunately, Archie was a difficult travelling companion and Lear found himself irritated by his lack of enthusiasm for the temples and habit of whistling in the evenings.  Furthermore, Archie ‘finished Philae in three hours, which Lear found sorrowfully unbelievable’1

1. V. Noakes, Edward Lear Selected Letters, Oxford 1988, p. 216.

Sotheby’s.

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Edward Lear, The Grand Canal looking towards the Rialto Bridge, Venice (1865)

Edward Lear, The Grand Canal looking towards the Rialto Bridge, Venice.
Pen and brown ink and watercolor over pencil; dated lower right: 13 November 1865 (2.pm), extensively inscribed with the artist’s color notes. 352 by 504 mm; 13 7/8 by 19 7/8 in.

Provenance
The Charles & Barbara Robertson Collection,
their sale, London, Sotheby’s, 16 December 2002, lot 72,
where acquired by the present owner.

The present watercolor was drawn during Lear’s second trip to Venice in 1865. He first visited the city in 1857 and was not particularly impressed. In a letter to his sister, Ann, he complained greatly of the ‘stinking canals’ and revealed that ‘Cooke’s and Canalette’s [sic] pictures please me far better than the actual appearance of the city.’1His return in 1865 was prompted by a commission from Lady Waldegrave to make an oil painting. During this trip he was far more impressed, particularly by the architecture and abundance of color. On 13th November, the day he drew the present watercolor, he rose early, ‘had a cup of cafe noir in the hotel – and then got a gondola for the day. First drew S(anta)-M(aria) de S(alute) by [the] Doge’s Palace – then from the Iron Bridge… but it was very cold.’2 The cold weather also brought with it a number of days of bright sunshine which reflected off the water in the canals and changed the character of the city, causing Lear to exclaim ‘anything so indescribably beautiful as the colour [sic] of the place I never saw’.3
This watercolor was once owned by Charles and Barbara Robertson who married in 1935. They were both heirs to confectionary fortunes. He was the great-grandson of James Robertson, the Scottish founder of the jam firm and she was descended from Dr Joseph Fry, who is credited with selling the world’s first chocolate bar in 1847.

1. V. Noakes, Edward Lear, London, 1985, p. 152
2. Ibid, p. 116
3. Ibid, p. 116

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