Edward Lear (English, 1812–1888) was a highly respected painter by trade, but today he is perhaps best known for his nonsense poems. His “The Jumblies” had great appeal for Edward Gorey, because, as Gorey said, it “was taught to me by my grandfather when I was four or five, and it has always been one of my favorites. Since Lear himself made only one small drawing for it, it occurred to me that I might illustrate the whole poem.” Gorey was so taken with Lear’s words that he dedicated his drawings to Foss, Mr. Lear’s cat.
The crux of the tale is this: the infinitely endearing and always happy Jumblies decide to set sail over rough seas in a sieve, and so they go, despite concerns from their kin who elect to stay home. Are they brave or ridiculous? Perhaps neither; Lear’s poem makes a good case for the saying, “Ignorance is bliss.”
It’s impossible not to love Edward Gorey’s interpretation of the wee Jumblies, exquisitely rendered in his signature pen-and-ink crosshatching. His twenty pristine drawings combined with Lear’s fanciful verse make The Jumblies
a perfect delight, and one to revisit, again and again. But don’t stop here: you’ll want to learn more about the Jumblies’ saga in The Dong with a Luminous Nose
, another Lear/Gorey masterpiece, also published by Pomegranate.About the ARTIST
Edward St. John Gorey was a Harvard grad, a brilliant artist, a celebrated set and costume designer (his costumes for a Broadway production of Dracula
earned him a Tony Award), a lover of animals (particularly cats) and the arts (he seldom missed a performance of the New York City Ballet), and an avid deltiologist—an obscure word so Gorey—like you might think he invented it himself (it means “a collector of postcards”). His humorously unsettling drawings of vaguely Victorian innocents often facing unfortunate ends became familiar to a wide audience after appearing in the opening credits of the PBS television series Mystery