LOVE OF THE LAUREATE

In December 1851, Lear admitted to Emily Tennyson that ‘[t]here have been but few weeks or days within the last 8 years, that I have not been more or less in the habit of remembering or reading Tennyson’s poetry, & the amount of pleasure derived by me from them has been quite beyond reckoning'. 

Lear's admiration of Tennyson proved lifelong. During his visits to the family, he and Alfred would go out walking while the latter read his verse aloud. Lear also spent time at the piano with Emily, and entertained the children with his nonsenses.

In 1853, Lear and Alfred jointly published Lear's musical settings for four of Alfred’s poems, inscribed to Emily. These settings can be found in the Tennyson Research Centre, along with two special editions of Lear's nonsense limericks, which the poet personally bound and gifted to Alfred and Hallam.  

 

Edward Lear, letter to Hallam Tennyson, 8 Sept 1885 (object 5559) including an autobiographical poem about trying to stuff three large volumes into his travelling trunks: the Complete Works of Shakespeare, the Holy Bible, and the Poems of Tennyson. Transcription.

Edward Lear, letter to Emily Tennyson, 8 Oct 1853 (object 5405), including a printed advertisement for the publication of Lear's musical settings of Alfred’s poems, inscribed to Emily. Transcription.

Edward Lear, letter to Alfred Tennyson, 27 June 1864 (object 5504) writing to request a ‘nautograph’ for a friend. The letter concludes with two self-caricatures by Lear. Transcription.

Edward Lear, letter to Alfred Tennyson, 6 June 1855 (object 5413), describing a slapstick scene in which ‘my monstrous act of indecorum, in letting you sit on the back seat of the Cab – was speedily avenged by Destiny’. Transcription.