The weird and wonderful imagination of Edward Lear is encapsulated perfectly in a special item for sale at Bonhams in late March. The auction of the 'Roy Davids Collection of Papers and Portraits' features an hilarious letter written by Lear to Constance Digby Wyatt - and includes a hidden surprise.
The letter is an excellent example of Lear's 'nonsense' correspondence sent to close friends, such as Mrs Digby Wyatt - wife of architect Sir Matthew Digby Wyatt. Consisting of bizarre phonetic writing, the 1866 letter - dated '22 toothoktobr' - details various recent events in the life of the artist and author.
These include a description of an attempt to visit the couple on the previous day - explained as 'to try if Yewanddigby were aTome' - and an enquiry as to whether they would be available the next Sunday. If so, Lear states that he will "charter the Hanson of rapidity, and be driven to the haunts of hospitality in the verdant recesses of the deer frequented groves of Tavistock Park on that day...'.
Strange as this may be, the biggest surprise is left until last; Lear signs off the letter "My love to Digby and respects to", followed by what appears to be a blob. However, it is in fact a miniature portrait of the Digby Wyatts' dog. The tiny drawing was discovered over a century later by Roy Davids.
Lear's imagination and inventive nature are tempered by a somewhat melancholic side, partly due to his lifelong struggle with epilepsy, asthma and depression. In the letter, he states, "I have been having no end of despair at the darkness of late - & thort I shudavadda Phittavasmer again today as I have frequently had of late."
This unique testament to Lear's way with words - as well as his multi-faceted personality - would be a fine addition to any collection of manuscripts or books. With an estimate of £2,000-3,000 (up to $4,900), it would make a great entry-level investment for a Lear fan.
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