Thursday 12 May 2011


...Who was born at this time of the year.
This was the day
When friends would say
"Happy Birthday" to old Edward Lear.

To celebrate that old Derry down Derry and great panjandrum of nonsense (who was born in London on this day in 1812), I'd like to share a cartoon I came across recently on the entertaining blog by my pink half of the drainpipe...

I have long held Edward Lear in great affection and from childhood have had many of his verses by heart. As I grew older I discovered that these tales about owls and pussycats, jumblies, pobbles and a dong with a luminous nose were far more than just exercises in humorous rhyming. Beneath the apparent silliness and delightful word-invention, lay a deep and troubled sea of emotions: loneliness, despair, self-loathing and unrequited love.

It was that gradual realisation, followed by some research into the troubled life of a man who was not only a great nonsense poet but also a brilliant landscape painter, that led me, many years ago now, to collaborate with my composer friend, David Hewson, in writing To Sea in a Sieve, a musical exploration of Lear's life which was staged at the Edinburgh fringe and, subsequently, in London at the late Westminster Theatre.

I appeared in the role of the poet and Miss Polly March played everyone else in Lear's life (well, all the women anyway, from his mother to Queen Victoria whom Lear taught drawing) as well as being the Lady Jingly Jones to his Yonghy-Bonghy-Bo and, obviously, the Pussy Cat to his Owl – as well transforming herself into one of those spectacular parrots that he painted so gloriously.

Time for a revival, I think!

Meanwhile, I'm raising a glass of Marsala (Mr Lear's favourite tipple) to the man who wrote...

How pleasant to know Mr Lear,
Who has written such volumes of stuff.
Some think him ill-tempered and queer,

But a few find him pleasant enough.

DON'T FORGET: The CAPTION COMPETITION closes tomorrow at midnight!


Boll Weavil said...

I love your 'To Sea in a Sieve'
Its the best thing you ever did give !
And whilst I'm in good health
It stays top of my shelf
And will do as long as I live

Boll Weavil said...

We treat limerick writers so cruelly
Yet their rhymes are just lyrical jewellery
Except Mr Lear
Whose output, I fear
Is little more than tomfoolery

Lo said...

Thank you for reminding me of Lear. I love his work.......I must look up your book.

Love, Lo