Definitions

Lear

Lear

[leer]
Lear, legendary English king, supposed descendant, through Locrine and Brut, of Aeneas of Troy. The story of Lear and his three daughters probably originated in early Celtic mythology. Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed to have translated the story from old English records, and succeeding historians and authors, including Holinshed and Spenser, perpetuated the legend. It is best known as the subject of one of Shakespeare's greatest tragedies, King Lear.
Lear, Edward, 1812-88, English humorist and artist. At 19 he was employed as a draftsman by the London Zoological Society; the paintings of parrots that he produced for The Family of the Psittacidae (1832) were among the first color plates of animals ever published in Great Britain. Lear is best known for his illustrated limericks and nonsense verse, which were collected in A Book of Nonsense (1846), Nonsense Songs (1871), Laughable Lyrics (1877), and others. He spent most of his adult life abroad, and wrote several illustrated journals of his European travels, e.g., Journals of a Landscape Painter in the Balkans.

See biographies by A. Davidson (1938, repr. 1968), V. Noakes (1969), and P. Levi (1995); V. Noakes, ed., The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense (2001); studies by V. Dehejia (1989) and J. Wullschläger (1995).

Edward Lear, drawing by William Holman Hunt, 1857; in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

(born May 12, 1812, Highgate, near London, Eng.—died Jan. 29, 1888, San Remo, Italy) English painter and comic poet. From age 15 he earned his living by drawing. Employed to illustrate the earl of Derby's private menagerie in the 1830s, he later produced Book of Nonsense (1846) for the earl's grandchildren. His other works include Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets (1871), containing “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat,” and Laughable Lyrics (1877). He is best known for popularizing the limerick. He also published volumes of bird and animal drawings and seven illustrated travel books. Epileptic and depressive, he lived mainly abroad after 1837.

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Edward Lear, drawing by William Holman Hunt, 1857; in the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool

(born May 12, 1812, Highgate, near London, Eng.—died Jan. 29, 1888, San Remo, Italy) English painter and comic poet. From age 15 he earned his living by drawing. Employed to illustrate the earl of Derby's private menagerie in the 1830s, he later produced Book of Nonsense (1846) for the earl's grandchildren. His other works include Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets (1871), containing “The Owl and the Pussy-Cat,” and Laughable Lyrics (1877). He is best known for popularizing the limerick. He also published volumes of bird and animal drawings and seven illustrated travel books. Epileptic and depressive, he lived mainly abroad after 1837.

Learn more about Lear, Edward with a free trial on Britannica.com.

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