Nonsense Limericks (Faber Children's Classics) by Edward Lear and Arthur Robins (illustrator)

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Nonsense Limericks (Faber Children's Classics) by Edward Lear and Arthur Robins (illustrator)

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Category: Children's Rhymes and Verse
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: John Lloyd
Reviewed by John Lloyd
Summary: Often imitated, never bettered – this corpus of fine five-liners is a classic, and is preserved for many a future generation in this pleasant, fully-illustrated copy.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 224 Date: November 2014
Publisher: Faber and Faber
ISBN: 9780571302260

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There was a young man whose critique
Of this book was submitted one week
When they asked 'Was it fine?'
He said 'No denyin' –
'There's very little here they could tweak!'

Alright, I only gave myself five minutes, OK? And the paltry effort above does illustrate several of my points about the Edward Lear limericks (previously available in, ooh, about a hundred different amalgamations and compendia). The first line always defines someone either as old or young (and I know I was cheeky to call myself the latter), and nine times out of ten the last line in Lear's limericks uses the exact same word (location, descriptive) as the first, thus negating the brilliant simplicity of the limerick's rhyme scheme somewhat by being even more simple and slightly less brilliant. But seeing as Edward did so much to advance the artform it's probably wrong to try and go against that as I did, and only fair to say that he knew what he was doing – these hundreds of little poems do make up a classic of all-ages literature after all.

Only in Lear limericks do you get Lear's nonsense words, so that the young person of Crete is ombliferous. Only in Lear do you get the sense that however he scoured the maps – Scottish places, Italian towns and a whole lot more feature in the geography of his old and young people – he was probably able to come up with a poem willy-nilly. I give you the old man of th' Abruzzi, so blind that he couldn't his foot see. Only in Lear do you get people getting stoned, cooking mice for dinner and entrapping their wife in a box and have both children and their adults enjoy the prospect.

This book then is all the Lear verses, and they're presented very finely indeed. The original spelling (from a time when people sate on things and not just sat) and I guess the layout is kept, so many are only four lines long, not five, else the fourth line is indented. This faithful treatment is kept in tribute to a man who, I say, was well aware of what he was doing – providing flippant little whimsies of verse for the entertainment of friends and relatives as much as his huge audience. The fact they've stood the test of time is as much in honour of what he did as what came next – we all know many other limericks have been written since him, some of a less than child-friendly nature (the woman who went back to Dorking here is not a double entendre, and it's a place not a verb, if you weren't sure).

This may well be the first time all the verses have been presented with their own illustration (I'm not aware that even Lear himself did a picture for each and every one), but Robins does very well with following in his footsteps. The woman who wore a particularly frilly frock and looked like a fish as a result certainly does on these pages, and how he never fails to come up with a new look considering how many old people he has to draw is a marvel. What doesn't feature in the pictures much is the mystical, mythical they of the limericks – it's amazing that reading these poems en masse for probably the first time in decades you pick up routine things like that, when all they really were designed for was a frivolous, momentary delight. Those moments have lasted centuries, and with books like this will only be sustained further. I'm very grateful I was given a review copy.

You'll get a great collection of poems of all kinds for the young, with Over the Hills and Far Away by Elizabeth Hammill (Editor).

Buy Nonsense Limericks (Faber Children's Classics) by Edward Lear and Arthur Robins (illustrator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nonsense Limericks (Faber Children's Classics) by Edward Lear and Arthur Robins (illustrator) at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Nonsense Limericks (Faber Children's Classics) by Edward Lear and Arthur Robins (illustrator) at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nonsense Limericks (Faber Children's Classics) by Edward Lear and Arthur Robins (illustrator) at Amazon.com.

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