Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Edward Lear and Limericks




Apart from the widely known example of Charles Dickens this year also marked the 200th anniversary of another literary giant

Also born in 1812 was Edward Lear the developer of the limerick, he was in addition an outstandingly good artist and a travel writer with a particular love of the Mediterranean. The limerick is of course a witty poem especially one in five-line meter with a strict rhythm. It is quite an exercise to produce work to this scrupulous metre. Although he did not invent the form Lear certainly did a great deal to popularise limericks. Lear had a troubled life. From childhood he endured ill health, including epilepsy, of which he was ashamed, and was effected by depressive illness. He never managed to marry, but he had good friends and doted on his cat Foss.

 He was a wandering artist, travelling, despite his paranoia, to wild parts of Europe to make exquisite watercolours. Some of these journeys were risky. Corsica, for instance, was infested with brigands who made a habit of kidnapping solitary travellers. He wrote accounts of these journeys, sketching wherever he went, grumbling  about miserable accommodation, boring encounters with German travellers, and also about the monks he found everywhere and detested.

Lear did have North Staffordshire connections. He did the rounds of the aristocratic homes of the area such as Trentham where he was appalled by the smoky atmosphere from nearby Stoke.

Simon Daniel a fellow scribbler in Leek and I believe we should not allow this anniversary to pass unnoticed in the Moorlands. Earlier this year we produced a few local examples.

A farmer who lived outside Leek
Had a prize Dexter bull that could speak
He taught it good diction
And fed it pulp fiction,
The classics, pig Latin and Greek


A vicious young thug from Brown Edge
Tipped young birds out before they could fledge
But one day they fought back, with a vicious attack
And pecked him to death on a ledge

A Teutonic zealot from Flash
In the First War sprouted a ‘tasche
He looked like the Kaiser
He should have been wiser
And he wouldn’t have been run out of Flash.

We did write a limerick regarding a wayward young woman from Tean, but judged it too lewd for the readership of the Post and Times.