At the bottom of page 3 (right), Lear asks: ‘Ask anybody – in what country are the Ears of Donkeys most brittle? ————— give it up? —— ’; over the page (above) he delivers: ‘In Switzerland, for there they have Glaciers – (Glassears.)’
Edward Lear, letter to Alfred Lord Tennyson, 28 November 1880
My dear Alfred,
Just as I had written the envellope of this, to thank you for the Volume of Poems, (which came yesterday,) there arrived a delightful letter from Hallam, who is a very tiptoppious cove.
Many of the poems in the New Volume I had already known – especially the “Revenge”, which you read to me 2 years ago. The new ones I have not yet had time to read, except the Dedication to little Ally – which is perfectly lovely; and the Voyage of Maeldune, as pleaseth me hugely. I shouldn’t mind living on the “Silent Isle” – or on the “Isle of Flowers” – ; but the noisy birds are abominable, & I hope I may never go to that Island.
Many thanks for sending me the poems: – two of them, “Lucknow” & “Montenegro” are places I have made views of, & will go to swell the A.T. list of illustrations, –– a pleasant dream of 300 memories tied to 300 poetries, – & one I see no harm in trying to carry out, albeit I may never live to do so. Nevertheless, to anyone who knows how forward –– during some 30 years of more or less study on the subjects, – a great number of these drawings have come to be – (–through their egg, caterpillar, & Chrysalis state, –) the possibility of my achieving such a gallery is not so inconceivable as it must needs be to those who know little of the matter.
At present “the Cataract”
A pillar of white light upon the wall
of Purple Cliffs,”
is what takes most of my attention, & the one that seems to me the most difficult to conclude. If a man has but one eye, & that one weak: – & no proper thumbs to hold pencils, & if all his working light is spoiled by a diametrical damnable blazing 5 Story Hotel, verily his work – or his attempts to work, – is or are not easy.
Thank Hallam with my love for his letter. I am so glad the Lugano Mountain is liked. I take it it is Mte. San Salvadore. You may see it from close by the Hotel of Mte. Generoso, which I wish you could one day come to, – stopping here on the way.
Anyhow – in the new Villa Tennyson, there will be no fleas; nor indeed are there any in this.
Ask anybody – in what country are the Ears of Donkeys most brittle? ————— give it up? ––
In Switzerland, for there they have Glaciers – (Glass ears.)
Give my love to Mrs. Tennyson, and to Lionel and Co. – You seem all badly off for weather: – we have perfect summer here as yet – tho’ of course some winter will come later.
Please give the enclosed illustration to Hallam. No – I tried and failed: I couldn’t draw the 5 tutors or the 5 sons so as to distinguish them from the 5 Donkeys.