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Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry$
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James Williams and Matthew Bevis

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198708568

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198708568.001.0001

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Edward Lear and Dissent

Edward Lear and Dissent

(p.70) 3 Edward Lear and Dissent
Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry

Sara Lodge

Oxford University Press

Edward Lear was born into a family of independent dissenters and developed his own nonconformist religious views, informed by his reading of Darwin, Deutsch and other contemporary theorists. Reading and interpreting for oneself is essential to Lear’s religious outlook–he invented his own creed–as it is also to his literary oeuvre. He perceived parts of the Old Testament as ‘bosh’ and was delighted by how biblical language and story could be rendered nonsensical through mishearing. He engaged deeply as a liberal thinker with the religious and political debates of the mid-century. His angry disaffection with aspects of Anglicanism energizes his prose and poetry, while his emphasis on tolerance, liberality, universal salvation, and interest in metempsychosis all inflect the world of his nonsense, which resists moral ends.

Keywords:   Edward Lear, dissent, religion, nonconformity, liberal, tolerance

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