We have based this web edition of “Edward Lear’s Grecian Travels” on a typescript in the Archive of Westminster School. Sometime after 1907 and before his death in 1915 Charles Church wrote (or perhaps dictated) a book-length account of his travels sixty years earlier, with the title:
- “WITH EDWARD LEAR IN GREECE: Being recollections of travel in Hellenic lands two generations ago, with extracts from his Journals and Letters, and illustrated by his sketches”.
Church selects and condenses passages from Lear’s diary, sometimes quoting directly, sometimes paraphrasing, and interpolates his own commentary. Nevertheless, since Lear’s original diary for 1848 is now lost and only a few letters from this first visit to Greece survive, the Westminster typescript provides a valuable “surrogate” text. The styles and interests of the two men are easily distinguished: we know from Lear’s other diaries and letters, and from his published travel books, that he liked to comment on people, customs, food and everyday incidents; Church himself is more narrowly concerned with landscape, and particularly with identifying ancient sites from modern topography.
Church may have been hoping to publish his material as he had previously, as chapters in a periodical such as Blackwood’s Magazine, but there is no record of its having found a publisher. The typescript has his handwritten corrections and annotations and later revisions by another hand; the (unknown) typist contributes further textual uncertainties. Our web edition transcribes Church’s text, following his punctuation and his spelling of Greek place names but correcting obvious errors. We have added footnotes and where possible linked the text to Lear’s own numbered series of pictures.
Charles Marcus Church (1823-1915), first met Lear in Rome in 1837. Having graduated from Oxford, Church was making a long tour of Europe. The two men met up again in Athens in 1848 and planned to travel round Greece, where Church had introductions to local families. Lear, who had not yet learned Modern Greek, found Church’s antiquarian interests and knowledge of Classical Greek helpful but the real bonus was his cheerful and practical disposition. When Lear became seriously ill en route Church took good care of him and managed to get him back to Athens “by 4 horses on an Indiarrubber bed”. Lear and Church continued to meet and correspond throughout their lives, though their paths diverged. Church became Sub-Principal of Wells Theological College and later Sub-Dean of Wells: Lear found him generous and warm, if a trifle parsonical: “he is ever the same good Charles Church”.
Dr Rowena Fowler and Elizabeth Wells would like to thank the following individuals and organisations for their help with this project:
The Ashmolean Museum, Oxford; Dr Alan Borg; Bonhams; The British School at Athens; Mr Stephen Duckworth; The Graves Gallery, Museums Sheffield; Houghton Library, Harvard University; Mr Nicholas Kenny; Mr Charles Lewsen; The Noel-Baker Family; Rhode Island School of Design; Dr Stephen Spurr; Yale Center for British Art.
Lear’s Other Travels
This website is one of a number of initiatives which seek to draw together Lear’s pictures and writings from various parts of his travels. You might also be interested in the following:
Edward Lear: The Life of a Wanderer by Vivien Noakes
Edward Lear: The Cretan Journal edited by Rowena Fowler
Edward Lear in the Levant: Travels in Albania, Greece and Turkey in Europe, 1848-49 edited by Susan Hyman
Edward Lear in Albania: Journals of a Landscape Painter in the Balkans edited by Bejtullah Destani and Robert Elsie