EDWARD LEAR AND HIS WORLD by John Lehmann

EDWARD LEAR AND HIS WORLD

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Perhaps he needs no intercessor, perhaps nothing should stand between Lear's nonsense verse and his troubled life-and-letters, as best presented by Angus Davidson. But Lear not only ""became a land"" himself--the phrase is Auden's, from the epigraph--he also traveled in pursuit of his calling as a ""topographical landscape painter,"" and it is this aspect of his work, less widely known, that is most handsomely and happily represented here. Lehmann relates the life and its ardent, anxious attachments with grace and tact (unlike Byrom, above) and a panoply of pictures of and by Lear and his friends. He handles the verse lightly but firmly, recognizing the emotional depths of the nonsense, the ""new mixture"" of imaginative play and heartbreak in the songs. And when, seamlessly, he reaches the landscapes, great swatches of recollections accompany them, for a quick sense of moment, a measured sense of place. By each route, we arrive at last at San Remo and the cheering news of Ruskin's accolade, the sad tidings of death after death. Overleaf from Lear's grave is his ""true epitaph,"" the verse commencing ""How pleasant to know Mr. Lear."" Those who do will be grateful for Lehmann's sensitivity, those who don't may well discover a friend.

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1977
Publisher: Scribners