Lear, Edward

BORN 12 May 1812, London: Holloway - DIED 30 Jan 1888, Sanremo, Liguria
GRAVE LOCATION Sanremo, Liguria: Cimitero Monumentale della Foce, Via San Rocco 8

Edward Lear was one of the twenty-one children of Jeremiah Lear and Ann Clark Skerrett. His eldest sister Ann raised him and was like a mother to him until she died on 11 March, 1861. Edward's health as a child was weak and their finances were often difficult, but by the time he was sixteen his drawings earned them money. He was soon employed by the Zoological Society of London for ornithological drawings and from 1832 to 1836 he worked for the Earl of Derby who had a private zoo. In 1846 he gave a series of twelve drawing lessons to Queen Victoria. Also in 1846 his "A Book of Nonsense" was published. It contained limericks and was very successful. Many other nonsense books followed with equal success. Some people thought that Edward Lear was a pseudonym and that the Earl of Derby was the real author because Lear was an anagram of Earl and both men were named Edward.

He also developed his painting skills and learned to play several musical instruments. In the 1850s and in 1860 he set some of Tennyson's poetry to music.

He travelled widely and visited Greece and Egypt (1848-1849), India and Ceylon (1873-1875) and many other countries. In 1849 he travelled in Greece with Franklin Lushington, whom he had met in Malta. Lear loved him in a homosexual way, but although they remained friends for forty years these feelings weren't mutual. Other relationships with men failed. Later in life he proposed twice to the same woman 46 years his junior, but she turned him down. In 1866 he was considering to propose marriage to Augusta Bethell (1838-1931), whom he had met in 1840s when she was still a child. But he asked her sister Emma for advice and she discouraged him and he never asked Gussie to marry him.

He settled in 1871 San Remo at the Villa Emily. In 1876 he published his last book of nonsense, "Laughable Lyrics". After a hotel took away his view he had a the Villa Tennyson built. It was said that he instructed the builder that the villa should be an exact copy of the Villa Emily so that his dear cat Foss would feel at home immediately. Foss had been with him October, 1872 and when he died in November, 1887 he was buried under a large tombstone in his Italian garden. Lear himself died only two months later.

Related persons
• was a friend of Collins, Wilkie
• was a friend of Hunt, William Holman


The grave of Edward Lear at the Cimitero monumentale della Foce, Sanremo.
Picture by Androom (08 Mar 2014)


• Uglow, Jenny, Mr Lear, A Life of Art and Nonsense, Faber & Faber, London, 2017
Full text of "Letters of Edward Lear : to Chichester Fortescue, Lord Carlingford, and Frances Countess Waldegrave"
Edward Lear - Wikipedia

Lebrun, Charles François, 1st Duc de Piacenza

Published: 19 Sep 2015
Last update: 29 Mar 2022