Edward Lear 1812-1888

Those with a fondness for limericks (and they are Legion on this board!) should take a moment today to thank Edward Lear, who was born on this date (May 12th) in 1812.

He didn’t invent the limerick but he certainly added to its popularity.

A couple of fun facts from a biographical introduction I found in The Nonsense Verse of Edward Lear: He was the twentieth(!) of twenty-one children and was largely raised by his sister. He thought the title “Grand Peripatetic Ass and Boshproducing Luminary” ought to be conferred upon him by Gladstone. (If that position is still open I nominate Ukulele Ike.)

Finally I’m including one of his limericks and one of my favorites, which is not by Lear but does mention the city where I live, Kent. (All right it’s referring to Kent in England, not Washington. But I still like it.)

There was a Young Lady of Clare,
Who was sadly pursued by a bear;
When she found she was tired,
She abruptly expired,
That unfortunate lady of Clare.

There was a young lady from Kent,
Who said that she knew what it meant
When men asked her to dine
And served cocktails and wine.
She knew, oh she knew, but she went!

p.s. There is no foundation whatsoever to the rumor that the young lady mentioned in the second limerick was named Flora McFlimsey.

Happy birthday, Eddie, wherever you are.

I was always partial to his Alphabets, myself…

*A was once an Apple Pie.
Piedy, Wiedy, Tiedy, Niedy,
Nice Insidey
Apple Pie.

E was once a little Egg
Upon the breakfast table.
Papa he came and ate it up
As fast as he was able.

J was once a jar of Jam
Papa he ate a part.
The rest of it he took away
And stuffed into a tart.*

Hmm. Those are the only parts I can remember. The last two are from the deathless “Papa Alphabet,” which Lear wrote in tribute to his favorite composer, Franz Joseph “Papa” Haydn, and the then-youthful blues violinist “Papa John” Creech and author “Papa” Hemingway, of whom Lear expected great things.

“E” is for the Enthusiastic Elephant, who ferried himself across the water with the kitchen poker and a New pair of earrings.

“F” is for the Fizzgiggious Fish, who always walked upon Stilts, because he had no legs.

“S” is for the Scroobius Snake, who always wore a hat on his head, for fear he should bite anybody.

“U” is for the Umbrageous Umbrella-maker, whose face nobody ever saw, because it was always covered by his umbrella.

“Y” is for the Yonghy-Bonghy-BO, whose head was ever so much bigger than his body, and whose hat was rather small.

These were the “hosts” of the cartoon “Tomfoolery,” which aired in 1970, which brought the poems of Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll to life.