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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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‘Some Think Him…Queer’

‘Some Think Him…Queer’

Loners and Love in Edward Lear

(p.89) 4 ‘Some Think Him…Queer’
Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry

Peter Swaab

Oxford University Press

Starting from an account of the continuing biographical disputes over Lear’s homosexuality, this essay explores the ramifications of sexuality and love in his work, focusing on singleness, secrets, families, marriage, and romantic love. It argues that many of the nonsense selves are loners, not lovers, in ways dramatized both as a fascinating plight and a perverse triumph. Nonsense figures are eccentric and enigmatic; their oddities are on display but their secrets are beyond unlocking. Sometimes they find love against the odds, whether in a couple or a group. Lear’s stories generally give us not standard familial structures but extended family-like ensembles, often with a single figure sheltering a vast array. Marriage in Lear is usually a mystery, displaying concords and discords unintelligible to the wider world. His nonsense is full of maladjustment and unrequited affection but also has a rhapsodic vein, bringing to life a world where extraordinary intimacies flourish.

Keywords:   Edward Lear, nonsense poetry, Victorian poetry, biography, homosexuality, queer, solitude, secrets, utopia, marriage

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