Some total nonsense: Russell Ash celebrates Edward Lear

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The Independent Culture
ON 12 May 1812, Edward Lear, master of nonsense and limericks, was born. We mark this anniversary with the publication of a hitherto lost document relating to a serious incident chronicled by Lear in Pobble II: The Lawyers Strike Back.

To: Messrs Olde, Mann and Beard, Solicitors, The Chambers, Bristol

Dear Sirs,

My client, a well-known children's book character called 'The Pobble', acting on the direct instructions of your client (known to us only as 'Aunt Jobiska'), recently went for a swim in the Bristol Channel, with the lamentable outcome being that his toes disappeared. A detailed investigation of the circumstances of this tragedy have revealed the incident in question occurred as a result of Aunt Jobiska's negligence in:

1) Persuading my client that drinking 'lavender water tinged with pink' was a prophylactic, effective in situations of this kind.

2) Encouraging him to believe that a nasal 'wrapper of scarlet flannel' was further protection against the risk of appendage loss. The fact that the absurd garment was removed without difficulty by a sea-green porpoise only emphasises the ineffectual nature of this rudimentary security measure in the tragic circumstances that followed.

3) Urging him to set across the Bristol Channel with such basic precautions, for no more compelling reason than to obtain fish for your client's runcible cat with crimson whiskers - an undertaking that could have been conducted in complete safety by a visit to your client's local supermarket.

You can well imagine my client's distress upon ascertaining that his toes had disappeared. 'His face at once became forlorn/On perceiving that all his toes were gone,' (as his biographer, Edward Lear, describes the incident) barely does justice to his dismay, while a meal comprising eggs and buttercups fried with fish offered as compensation upon his return to Aunt Jobiska's park was scarcely adequate - indeed caused him to become quite ill.

The fact that it was prepared 'at his earnest wish' testifies to the post-traumatic shock syndrome from which my client was undoubtedly suffering at the time, and for which a long period of counselling and expensive therapy may prove necessary.

It was during this incident that Aunt Jobiska attempted to mitigate the incident by alleging that 'Pobbles are happier without their toes.' I put it to you that nothing could be calculated to cause more distress at this time than such a specious argument, coming as it did so soon after Aunt Jobiska's urging of a range of ludicrous preventative folk measures upon my client to protect his toes.

As Mr Lear rather quaintly assures us, in the toe department the Pobble 'had once as many as we,' but consequent to the above incident, my client has been left hideously disfigured and traumatised.

We understand that an inquiry held into the circumstances of the loss have failed to reveal whether it was the crawfish grey or the mermaids who robbed my client of his 'twice five' toes, but we take the view that the ultimate culprit is irrelevant when all the evidence points toward Aunt Jobiska as the sole instigator of the lamentable affair.

While it is invariably grieving when any individual seeks redress against a member of his own family, under the especial circumstances pertaining in this case my client feels he has no alternative and has instructed us that he wishes to institute proceedings against his Aunt Jobiska for compensation.

The Pobble assures us that a proportion of his award will be wrapped in a pounds 5 note and donated to the Trust for Distressed Owls married to Pussycats.

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