(May 12, 1812 - January 29, 1888) U.K.
Writer, illustrator, humorist, and traveller
Born in London, he was the youngest but one of 21 children of Ann and Jeremiah Lear. His father was a stockbroker. He was educated at home, mainly by his sister Ann. She also helped to coax him out of his bouts of depression. He also has attacks of epilepsy, and throughout his life he suffered from asthma, bronchitis, and poor eyesight.
By the age of 15 he was making money from drawing and painting by teaching drawing and selling sketches as well as anatomical studies to medical students. He also worked for a time as draughtsman for the Zoological Society when he illustrated a book about parrots, and he also did drawings for the British Museum.
In 1832 the 13th. Earl of Derby commissioned him to create a collection of drawings of rare birds in the menagerie at Knowsley Hall on Merseyside. The Earl's patronage allowed Edward Lear to travel widely in Italy and Greece, making collections of drawings and oil paintings which he published in several travel books including Sketches of Rome, (1842) and Illustrated Excursions in Italy, (1846). He entertained the Earl's children with nonsense limericks and other verse which he illustrated with sketches and later published in A Book of Nonsense (1846) under the pseudonym 'Derry Down Derry'.
When Edward Lear's health deteriorated the Earl of Derby arranged a subscription to pay for a trip to Rome. He stayed there for ten years with occasional visits to London. He continued to support himself by teaching drawing and selling paintings. In 1845 he met the 22-year-old Chichester Fortesque, the future Lord Carlingford, Lord Privy Seal and President of the Council. They formed a close friendship but Chichester Fortesque married. In 1846 he gave drawing lessons to Queen Victoria at Osborne House and at Buckingham Palace.
In 1848 he was in Malta and met Franklin Lushington, a young barrister and the brother of the Government Secretary in Malta. They toured southern Greece together, and Edward Lear developed an intense passion for Franklin Lushington, although it was never reciprocated. Edward Lear returned to London and studied painting at the Royal Academy Schools for a year. He went on to study under Holman Hunt with whom he developed a close friendship.
When Franklin Lushington was appointed to the Supreme Court of Justice in the Ionian Islands in 1855 Edward Lear accompanied him to Corfu and made his home there. He took on a servant, Giorgio Kokali, who originated from Albania, and who stayed with him for 27 years. For the next two decades he travelled constantly around the Mediterranean and the Middle East. In Cannes he met John Addington Symonds and composed The Owl and the Pussycat for his daughter Janet.
Edward Lear settled in San Remo and built Casa Emily, named after Emily Tennyson, the wife of the Poet Laureate. Edward Lear and Emily Tennyson formed a close friendship after the death of his sister Ann in 1861.
He made a year-long trip to India and Ceylon (later Sri Lanka) in 1873/4 as the guest of his friend Thomas George Baring (Lord Northbrook). In 1880 he made his last trip to England and stayed at Franklin Lushington's home in Norfolk Square where he put on an exhibition of his works. He returned to his villa in San Remo where he was visited by Chichester Fortesque and Franklin Lushington. His health deterioration rapidly with the onset of a severe case of bronchitis. Edward Lear died in San Remo, Italy.
His posthumous reputation as a water-colorist has risen steadily and as a writer he is remembered for his nonsense verses, with their linguistic fantasies and their occasional touches of underlying melancholy. Later volumes were Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets (1870), More Nonsense, Pictures, Rhymes, Botany etc. (1872), and Laughable Lyrics (1876).
There was an Old Man with a beard,
Who said, "It is just as I feared!
Two Owls and a Hen,
Four Larks and a Wren,
Have all built their nests in my beard!"
Source: excerpts from: The Knitting Circle, U.K. - http://www.sbu.ac.uk/stafflag/people.html