1812-08-12

EDWARD LEAR, British poet, born (d: 1888); Whether Lear was Gay or not is of little consequence. His nonsense poetry has never been equaled, nor have his whimsical illustrations. No one who reads his limericks, a form that he virtually perfected, can doubt that he was anything other than a comic genius on the order of Lewis Carroll, his contemporary.

Still, all the signs of probable queerness are present. What he called his “natural affinity for children” went well beyond garden-variety naturalness and beyond mere affinity. His entire life is characterized by close friendships with handsome young men many years his junior, by dozens of reasons – from poor eye sight to a big nose – found or invented for never marrying, and by references in his journal to intense suffering each time one of his pretty young men married.

If you weren’t brought up on Lear, you’ve missed one of the joys of childhood; if you still don’t know his as an adult, get out there and start reading “How pleasant to know Mr. Lear! / Who has written such volumes of stuff: / Some think him ill-tempered and queer, / But few think him pleasant enough.

That’s Lear to a T. Queer, pleasant and very funny. One more…

There was an old man with a beard/Who said “It is just as I feared!”/Two owls and a hen, four larks and a wren/Have all built their nests in my beard!