I Edward Lear is justly famous for his nonsense verse — is there anyone with English as their mother tongue who isn’t familiar with ‘The Owl and the Pussy Cat’? This poem, however, is one of his longer nonsense verses, along with other magnificent examples such as ‘The Pobble Who Has No Toes’. But Lear had other claims to fame, although not in his own lifetime. Most of his life was spent as a landscape painter and traveller throughout what was then known as the ‘Levant’ and in recent times his watercolour landscapes have changed hands at enormous prices — but not, as he had hoped, his oils. Lear first came to prominence as an illustrator of birds, and this essay will concentrate on this aspect of his work. It is possible, as I will argue, that his interest in birds continued to preoccupy him throughout his life and may even be used as a useful indicator of his personal and emotional life.
Sellick, Rob, The birds of Edward Lear, Kunapipi, 34(2), 2012.