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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

Edward Lear

Celebrity Chef

(p.115) 5 Edward Lear
Edward Lear and the Play of Poetry

Peter Robinson

Oxford University Press

The chapter is an exploration of the humour in Edward Lear’s references to food in his poetical writings, his letters, and especially his nonsense recipes. It traces their active ambivalences to his uncertain health, his encounters with other customs and practices, his travels to paint, and his life in exile. With reference to the writings of various cultural theorists, including Mary Douglas and Roland Barthes, it identifies analogous pattern and variety in the structures of both poems and meals, and finds in Lear’s writings on food the makings of an amateur anthropology. It concludes by drawing attention to Lear’s need to sustain life by writing and painting, and how, though his Nonsense has supported generations of readers in the anxieties about feeding, being fed, and manners at table, because he retained no copyright in them, they could not, for him, bring home the bacon.

Keywords:   Edward Lear, food, nonsense recipes, feeding customs, poetic form, structures of meals

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