The Complete Verse and Other Nonsense (Penguin English poets) Hardcover – 1 Nov 2001
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About the Author
Edward Lear (1812-88) originally earned his living as a commercial artist. A skilled landscape painter and ornothological illustrator, he was art master to Queen Victoria for a time. His nonsense writing began as a sideline to amuse himself and his friend's children but soon made him a household name. Vivien Noakes is the leading authority on Lear, editor of his Selected Letters (1988) and the definitive biography, she also curated the Lear exhibition at the Royal Academy in 1985.
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I was looking for a book that gave me great pleasure as a child and thought this was simply a book of Edward Lear's limericks.
Silly me, lucky teacher friend!
I know that I originally bought this book because I wanted to own a well-edited collection of Lear's complete nonsense songs. However, going beyond the nonsense songs, this compendium has many strengths in the way Noakes presents the material. It offers up all the surviving nonsense of Lear, including the limericks, nonsense songs and stories. Admittedly, this compendium omits a few things including additional alphabets in a similar format. The works are all presented chronologically. Through it all Noakes presents each work clearly and as accurately as possible, offering her annotations and textual comparisons at the end. I quietly admit that not all the works may hold an interest, especially in the early years, but through this compendium, Noakes presents a convincing portrait of Lear through his nonsense writings.
Although this book is felicitous, I note a few weak points that do not tarnish my feelings towards this book. The chronological order may not be always user-friendly to casual readers who want to read things according to themes. It is a little unhelpful for poems with follow-ons, notably the two parts of Mr and Mrs Discobbolos. These poems, as well as the two related poems about the Jumblies, are in different parts of the book, and it would be helpful if they were together. I know that I quietly wish that this book had arranged the works according to themes (e.g. Limericks, Nonsense Songs, Stories, Alphabets, Botany, etc.). Other Edward Lear collections of the past, notably the Nonsense Omnibus, arrange their material along these lines. Admittedly, this may have backfired because it would be difficult to sustain yourself through wall-to-wall limericks. Another Lear collection that I know of, A Book of Bosh, arranges the writings according to themed subjects. Otherwise, it's hard to find fault with such an excellently edited Lear compendium such as this Noakes collection.
All told, though, this is an excellent collection of Lear's nonsense and it should be a first choice for anyone who wants a superbly-edited compendium of his works.
Yet I sometimes wonder, why didn't Noakes address an issue in the last stanza of Calico Pie, and could she have considered including the Ogden Nash completion of the Scroobious Pip in this edition? I hoped to e-mail her to ask her these questions but she passed away before she could receive it.
Vivien Noakes has edited what must be the most exciting book for Learophiles since Holbrook Jackson's collection in the late 1940s. This will surely become the standard collection of Lear's Verse and Nonsense and Vivien Noakes deserves fulsome praise for her achievement in editing such a wonderful book. Although most people know 'The Owl and The Pussy-Cat', Lear deserves to be far better known than he is for everything else he did.
Unfortunately this book is too big to be stuffed into a Christmas Stocking, but should be given to anyone, adult or child, with a sense of fun. Even a child who cannot read will take delight in Lears quirky illustrations, jolly caricatures of spherical chaps with spindly legs and wonderful pointy shoes, strange creatures such as the Scroobious Pip, and people that resemble birds or beetles. If this book were upon every bookshelf along with Shakespeare the world would be a far happier place.
The content is similar to 'Over the Land and Over the Sea': Selected Travel Journals and Nonsense Writing: Selected Nonsense and Travel Writings which I recommend as an alternative (much better for kindle reading).
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