Edward Lear 1812-1888

It is not just Dickens who would have been 200 years old this year. Edward Lear, the grandfather of nonsense verse also shared his birth year, being born on May 12, 1812.

To celebrate this important bicentenary, from Monday May 7 to Friday June 8th 2012,  a new exhibition will open up at the Poetry CafĂ© in Covent Garden, in which over forty leading illustrators will be contributing pictures that represent his work.

There will be exhibits from John Vernon Lord, who illustrated Lear's entire Collected Verse in 1984 (which will be re-issued by Cape in October), as well as Glen Baxter, Peter Blegvad, and Phil Shaw.

The images are in a variety of styles, and in many cases they are heartfelt tributes to an exceptional artist, poet and man whose work is still known and loved today, a sense that is perfectly expressed in this quote from Phil Shaw:

The remarkable thing for me about Lear is that  he manages somehow to combine mirth with melancholy, innocent optimism with sad reality. Even as a child I recognised that 'The Dong with the Luminous Nose' was the story of a real  man's lost love...At the age of thirteen I developed epilepsy and Lear, who suffered from the condition all his life, gave me something extra, a sense that despite everything, life was fun.'

And, in the words of the Poetry Society's president, Roger McGough: 

'Any journey with Lear is a pea-green delight.'

An illustration by Peter Bailey

The Poetry Cafe is situated at 22 Betterton Street, London, WC2H 9BX. Telephone 0207 420 9880.


  1. wonderful to know about, thanks for posting - love the illustration of Lear dancing with his cat! Can't wait for the collected Lear. In this house, Calico Pie is a favourite, thanks to the Simon Sisters musical version of it.

  2. Wonderful. Thanks for letting me know. I wish I were in London to attend it.

  3. Thanks for this, very interesting and may try to get to Covent Garden for the Exhibition.