Edward Lear was an English painter and poet who was born on May 12, 1812 in England. He was the 20th of 21 children, but many of them did not live past infancy. His oldest sister, Ann, acted as his mother for most of his life, and she tutored him at home because he did not have a lot of formal education.
Lear suffered from epileptic seizures and asthma during his life. The epilepsy caused a lot of guilt and loneliness because during the time he lived, seizures were associated with demonic possession.
Lear had a natural talent for drawing and painting, which his sister encouraged. In 1832 he published a volume of folio lithographic prints of parrots, Illustrations of the Family of Psittacidae. This collection caught the eye of the 13th earl of Derby, Edward Stanley. He asked Lear to draw the animals at his estate in Lancashire.
To entertain the children at the estate, Lear began writing poems. He first published these and his own illustrations under a penname in 1846 in a collection called A Book of Nonsense. The book was a compilation of nonsensical limericks. Lear helped to popularize this particular form of poetry.
The collection was expanded in 1861 under Lear's real name, and it was received well by the public. He thought he would make a name for himself as a painter, not a poet, but the success encouraged him to write more poems. During the 1870's Lear published three more volumes of poems: Nonsense Songs (1870), More Nonsense (1872), and Laughable Lyrics (1877)
His most famous individual piece is considered to be "The Owl and the Pussycat".
Edward Lear never married, but he did travel a lot. In addition to book of poetry, Lear published animal drawings and travel books.
In 1886 he contracted a severe case of bronchitis, which led to a decline in health. He passed away on January 29, 1888 in Italy.