“How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!”
Who has written such volumes of stuff!
Some think him ill-tempered and queer,
But a few think him pleasant enough.
His mind is concrete and fastidious,
His nose is remarkably big;
His visage is more or less hideous,
His beard it resembles a wig.
He has ears, and two eyes, and ten fingers,
Leastways if you reckon two thumbs;
Long ago he was one of the singers,
But now he is one of the dumbs.
He sits in a beautiful parlour,
With hundreds of books on the wall;
He drinks a great deal of Marsala,
But never gets tipsy at all.
He has many friends, lay men and clerical,
Old Foss is the name of his cat;
His body is perfectly spherical,
He weareth a runcible hat.
When he walks in waterproof white,
The children run after him so!
Calling out, “He’s gone out in his night-
Gown, that crazy old Englishman, oh!”
He weeps by the side of the ocean,
He weeps on the top of the hill;
He purchases pancakes and lotion,
And chocolate shrimps from the mill.
He reads, but he cannot speak, Spanish,
He cannot abide ginger beer:
Ere the days of his pilgrimage vanish,
How pleasant to know Mr. Lear!
During his lifetime, Edward Lear (1812–1888) was a well-established artist and illustrator who did colored drawings of birds and animals, beginning his career as an ornithological draftsman for the British Zoological Society and then working as an artist for the British Museum. Although his artistic work is still well regarded, his fame rests with the nonsense poems that he wrote for children. In 1846, Lear published A Book of Nonsense, a volume of limericks that is largely responsible for popularizing the form. In 1867, he published his most famous nonsense poem, “The Owl and the Pussycat,” which he wrote for the children of his friend Edward Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby. Lear, who suffered from epilepsy and severe bouts of depression all his life, never married.