Mr. Lear

A Life of Art and Nonsense

Jenny Uglow

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A sparkling biography of the poet and artist Edward Lear by the award-winning biographer Jenny Uglow

We know Edward Lear as a genius of nonsense, full of shocks and surprises, and as a poet of strange loves—“The Owl and the Pussy-Cat,” “The Dong with a Luminous Nose.” We may know him, too, for his paintings of parrots and owls, or for his luminous landscapes. But do we know that he taught Queen Victoria to draw, traveled alone across the wild Albanian mountains, and waded through muddy fields with Tennyson?

Lear lived all his life on the borders of rules and structures, of disciplines and desires. Children adored him and adults loved him, yet somehow he was always alone. In this beautiful volume, a fresh and joyful appreciation by the award-winning and compulsively readable Jenny Uglow, we follow Lear from his troubled childhood to his striving as an artist, tracking his swooping moods, passionate friendships, and restless travels. And, as we travel with him, his “nonsenses” are elegantly unpicked—without losing any of their fun.

Read an excerpt here.

Jenny Uglow’s books include award-winning biographies of Elizabeth Gaskell, William Hogarth, and Sarah Losh, as well as In These Times: Living in Britain Through Napoleon’s Wars, 1793–1815Nature’s Engraver: A Life of Thomas Bewick won the National Arts Writers Award, and A Gambling Man: Charles II and the Restoration was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize. She lives in Canterbury, England.