Monthly Archives: August 2008

Sunday, 3 January 1858

Rose at 5½. Διδάσκαλος came, instead of yesterday. After breakfast, wrote to HuseyHunt & C.Church, & C. Fortescue & by this time it was three o’clock ― Then came a note from Lushington ―― Mrs. Cortazzi is dead. She died in Paris.

I went out alone & walked round by the marshes & back thro’ Potamó. It rained a little & was very cold. Thousands of Turkies going in to be eaten.

At 6½ went to Lushington’s & dined. Nothing more is known of Mrs. C.’s death than the fact, & that she did not live to see her son.

Poor afflicted Helena & Madeleine! & the poor old father!

By very hard talking I kept myself alive, ― but later the miserable self-wrapped manner of Lushington & his dead silence irritated me too much to bear well ― not the less so, that, going into his room I saw V.’s portrait there.[1] So I came away at 10 ― & I really think it would be far better to avoid meeting so frequently. ― I was going to ask him to dine tomorrow, his birthday, but in some parenthesis, he said he was going to shoot in Albania.

Poor Helena!

[1] George Stovin Venables. Lear and Venables did not like each other, as they were in competition for the Lushington family’s affection; in 1855, while waiting at Park House for the terminally ill Harry Lushington’s return, the latter wrote in his diary: “In the evening, while the others were out and I was in the schoolroom with the children, I heard that Lear was here, and to my great disgust he is settled here” (Chitty 1989: 148). In a letter to Emily Tennyson of 28 October 1855, Lear complained that Venables was circulating the story that Lear’s insistence on Franklin Lushington’s return to Corfu with him was motivated by a desire “to benefit myself by Frank’s position and increased income” (Chitty 1989: 150).

[Transcribed by Marco Graziosi from Houghton Library, Harvard University, MS Eng. 797.3. Image.]

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Saturday, 2 January 1858

Rose at 5¼ ― but at 6 ― ό διδάσκαλος[1] didn’t come, ― so, after having looked into a lot of words ― I grew uneasy. ― After breakfast & hearing Giorgio read, ― pasting the “cartoon (!)” of the Corfu picture. But I had somehow resolved to go to Sta Deca[2] to draw a bit of rock with Mt. S. Giorgio beyond, so at 11½ ― I could not get out before ― off I set. ― What lots of Turkeys come in at this time. There were some clouds today ― but it was very bright, ― & ice was in all the ditches. A pull up to Sta Deca, & after that I lost my way & had a particularly tough haul up to the place I was bound to. ― There, coming about 1½ ― or 2 ― I drew about 2 or 2½  hours ― when it grew cold, & I came down, walking hard & stoplessly to town ― by 6½ ― or so. Bright stars. Dinner, & Melchisedek’s pipe. I read a great deal of Grote[3] ― about Socrates & some Plato ―.


[1] The teacher.

[2] Aghii Deka.

[3] Grote, George. A history of Greece; from the earliest period to the close of the generation contemporary with Alexander the Great (1846-1856). 12 vols.

[Transcribed by Marco Graziosi from Houghton Library, Harvard University, MS Eng. 797.3. Image.]

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Friday, 1 January 1858

The same perfectly clear & very cold weather. Rose at 5½ & Παπαδόπουλος came at 6 ― so ― Ollendorf & Plutarch till 8. ― Then breakfast, & outrageous Sir J. Maundeville. ― Pasting together the bits of the “big” Corfu picture, ― writing exercises, & doing somewhat to another Athos drawing ― till 12. Lushington came in for a moment. ― A little later came a ‘wholesome’ & delightful letter from C. 40scue[1] ― a vast & unexpected comfort. Then, working at Lord Clermont’s Athos, till 3½ or 4. Campbell came then, whom glad to see: he went to change dress, & at 4¼ returned, & we walked by the new Parguenote[2] road, by Conde’s,[3] & round to the Potamó road home. I back home, & wrote a world of Gk. exercises till 7 or so ―. Dinner. Smoke Melchisedek’s pipe[4] ― & wrote to Ann.


The Henderson’s above have a party ― & now there is music ― cheerful & not too loud. It is a great bit of good fortune that they are so quiet. Bedtime ― sleepy: ― perhaps the happiest New Year’s day passed for a long time. The more every moment can be occupied the better. ― The Henderson’s above me had a dance, but I was not much annoyed by it: only a sort of earthquaky bustling movement one was sensible of till sleep came.


[1] Chichester Fortescue.

[2] “Manduchio [one of Corfu’ suburbs] is much larger than Castrades… It is chiefly occupied by the lower classes, but among them is a colony of Parguinotes, the former Christian inhabitants of Parga, a small territory opposite the island of Paxo, given up to the Porte after the settlement of the Ionian Islands under British protection.” D.T. Ansted, The Ionian Islands in the Year 1863 (London: W.H. Allen & Co., 1863), 28.

[3] Lear moved to the Condi Terrace flat in October 1856, after finding his old one damaged. Though he considered it quite expensive, it had the advantage of being next door to F. Lushington’s. Lear tells the whole story in a letter to Ann of 13 October 1856 (Sherrard 1988, 90-2).

[4] While on Mt.Athos waiting for Giorgio to recover, Lear spent his time with bad-smelling monks, “Melchisedek & Anthemos ― smoking 5 pipes a day” (Lear to Ann, 8 October 1856; Noakes 2004: 123; Chitty 1988: 168).

[Transcribed by Marco Graziosi from Houghton Library, Harvard University, MS Eng. 797.3. Image.]

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Edward Lear, The Citadel at Corfu (1848)

Edward Lear, The Citadel at Corfu (1848), detail

At the beginning of 1858 Edward Lear had been in Corfu for about a month, after spending the spring and summer of 1857 in England, visiting acquaintances, and Ireland, where he had a very pleasant stay at Redhouse, Ardee, with Chichester Fortescue. The main events of the return voyage are told in a letter to Fortescue of 6 December 1857, which ― together with the next one, of 27 December ― also clearly expresses his feelings of restlessness and loneliness on his getting back “home.”

Corfu had been his winter base since 1855, when he moved there to follow Franklin Lushington, who had been appointed Judge of the Supreme Court of the Ionian Islands. As several letters and diary entries make clear, the friendship with Lushington was becoming unsatisfactory.

The indispensable source for Lear’s periods in Corfu remains Philip Sherrard’s edition of The Corfu Years (Lear 1988) which, in addition to extracts from the journals, includes several unpublished letters to his sister Ann, Emily Tennyson, William Holman Hunt and others.

For a brief summary of Lear’s life before the beginning of the diaries, see the Chronology or the first eight chapters of Angus Davidson’s 1838 biography from the forthcoming version of the Edward Lear Home Page.

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