More Nonsense Pictures, Rhymes, Botany, etc.
MORE NONSENSE PICTURES, RHYMES, BOTANY, &c.
Printed by Watson & Mazell, London and Aylesbury.
In offering this little Book—the third of its kind—to the Public, I am glad to take the opportunity of recording the pleasure I have received at the appreciation its predecessors have met with, as attested by their wide circulation, and by the universally kind notices of them from the Press. To have been the means of administering innocent mirth to thousands, may surely be a just motive for satisfaction, and an excuse for grateful expression.
At the same time, I am desirous of adding a few words as to the history of the two previously published volumes, and more particularly of the first or original ‘‘Book of Nonsense,” relating to which many absurd reports have crept into circulation, such as that it was the composition of the late Lord Brougham, the late Earl of Derby, &c.; that the rhymes and pictures are by different persons; or that the whole have a symbolical meaning, &c., &c.; whereas, every one of the Rhymes was composed by myself, and every one of the Illustrations drawn by my own hand at the time the verses were made. Moreover, in no portion of these Nonsense drawings have I ever allowed any caricature of private or public persons to appear, and throughout, more care than might be supposed has been given to make the subjects incapable of misinterpretation: ‘‘Nonsense,’’ pure and absolute, having been my aim throughout.
As for the persistently absurd report of the late Earl of Derby being the author of the ‘‘First Book of Nonsense,’’ I may relate an incident which occurred to me four summers ago, the first that gave me any insight into the origin of the rumour.
I was on my way from London to Guildford, in a railway carriage, containing, besides myself, one passenger, an elderly gentleman:—presently, however, two ladies entered, accompanied by two little boys. These, who had just had a copy of the ‘‘Book of Nonsense’’ given them, were loud in their delight, and by degrees infected the whole party with their mirth
“How grateful,’’ said the old gentleman to the two ladies, “all children and parents too ought to be to the statesman who has given his time to composing that charming book!”
(The ladies looked puzzled, as indeed was I, the Author.)
“Do you not know who is the writer of it?’’ asked the gentleman.
‘‘The name is ‘Edward Lear,’” said one of the ladies.
“Ah!” said the first-speaker; ‘‘so it is printed, but that is only a whim of the real author, the Earl of Derby. ‘Edward’ is his christian name, and, as you may see, Lear is only Earl transposed.”
‘‘But,’’ said the lady, doubtingly, ‘‘here is a dedication to the great-grand-children, grand-nephews, and grand-nieces of Edward, thirteenth Earl of Derby, by the author, Edward Lear.”
‘‘That,” replied the other, ‘‘is simply a piece of mystification; I am in a position to know that the whole book was composed and illustrated by Lord Derby himself. In fact, there is no such a person at all as Edward Lear.”
“Yet,’’ said the other lady, ‘‘some friends of mine tell me they know Mr. Lear.”
‘‘Quite a mistake! completely a mistake!” said the old gentleman, becoming rather angry at the contradiction, ‘‘I am well aware of what I am saying: I can inform you, no such a person as ‘Edward Lear’ exists!”
Hitherto I had kept silence, but as my hat was, as well as my handkerchief and stick, largely marked inside with my name, and, as I happened to have in my pocket several letters addressed to me, the temptation was too great to resist, so, flashing all these articles at once on my would-be extinguisher’s attention, I speedily reduced him to silence.
The second volume of Nonsense, commencing with the verses, “The Owl and the Pussy Cat,’’ was written at different times; and for different sets of children: the whole being collected in the course of last year, were then illustrated, and published in a single volume, by Mr. R. J. Bush, of 32, Charing Cross.
The contents of the third or present volume were made also at different intervals in the last two years.
Long years ago, in days when much of my time was passed in a Country House, where children and mirth abounded, the lines beginning, ‘‘There was an old man of Tobago,’’ were suggested to me by a valued friend, as a form of verse lending itself to limitless variety for Rhymes and Pictures; and thenceforth the greater part of the original drawings and verses for the first “Book of Nonsense” were struck off with a pen, no assistance ever having been given me in any way but that of uproarious delight and welcome at the appearance of every new absurdity.
Most of these Drawings and Rhymes were transferred to lithographic stones in the year 1846, and were then first published by Mr. Thomas McLean, of the Haymarket. But that edition having been soon exhausted, and the call for the “Book of Nonsense” continuing, I added a considerable number of subjects to those previously published, and having caused the whole to be carefully reproduced in woodcuts, by Messrs. Dalzell, I disposed of the Copyright to Messrs. Routledge and Warne, by whom the volume was published in 1843.
San Remo, August, 1871.