Edward Lear's lines of flight

by Matthew Bevis

14 Apr 2016

Full text of article by Matthew Bevis posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 1, pp. 31-69.

Abstract: ‘Verily I am an odd bird’, Edward Lear wrote in his diary in 1860. This article examines a range of odd encounters between birds and people in Lear’s paintings, illustrations, and poems. It considers how his interest in birds – an interest at once scientific and aesthetic – helped to shape his nonsense writings. I suggest that poetic and pictorial lines of flight became, for Lear, a means of exploring the claims that art might make on our attention.

Keywords: Edward Lear, poetry, painting, flight, birds, Charles Darwin, nonsense, evolution, Alfred Tennyson.

Lower resolution version (PDF file - 4.6 MB)

Chatterton Lecture on Poetry, read 1 November 2012 (video recording)

Text printed 2014 in British Academy Lectures 2012-13

Version of article available in British Academy Scholarship Online (HTML)

Sign up to our email newsletters