How pleasant to know Mr Lear!
Who has written such volumes of stuff!
Some think him ill-tempered and queer,
But a few think him pleasant enough.
'How Pleasant to Know Mr Lear' (1879)
Edward Lear was born in North London, on 12 May 1812, the twentieth of twenty-one children of Ann Clark Skerrett and Jeremiah Lear, a London stockbroker. Jeremiah Lear was a prosperous Freeman of the City of London and a past master of the Fruiterers' Company; in 1816, however, in the financial trouble following the Napoleonic War, he fell a defaulter on the stock exchange, owing the large sum of £2150 11s 1d. Lear always upheld the family legends that his father became bankrupt, and that he served a short sentence …