This blog was devoted to the publication of Edward Lear's Diaries from 1 January 1858 to 12 May 1862. From January 2009 each was posted exactly 150 years after it was written and the project came to an end on 12 May 2012, the bicentenary of Lear's birth. The text is as exact as possible a transcript of Houghton Library MS Eng. 797.3. You can keep following the diaries at the new blog.

Monday, 12 May 1862

My 50th birthday. Rose at 4.20: ― off by 5.15.

Long winding paths through olive groves: then dips & struggles with quite wild places, stuffed with all sorts of underwood, the old olives growing tangly all about. Frogs there were also, & rushes. A man passing, & asked the way to Sparterò ― said ― “διατί ἐπιθυμεῖς νὰ πηγαίνης ᾽ς το χώρι μου;1 I shall not tell you.” ―― Small miserable collection of huts are Nicori, Palaiocori, & Βαστάτινα, & I see no fun in going back by them: so having drawn the Northern distance above the last village but one ― Dragolenà, & great groups of vast olives higher up ―― we arrived at Σπαρτηρῖο, 20 little houses scattered here & there; κατσικιές,2 & rayther wretched: ― the people only half polite. Nevertheless there is superb scenery all about the place. We took a boy to guide us to Ἅ. Προκόπιος ― (the best place to pass the rest of the day in,) ―― ever winding paths, thro’ thickets, a few scared cattle. A church (in a wilderness,) & thus by 10 ― or 10.30 ― reached the groves of the Holy Προκόπιος. Lunched & drew in the wide grove till 1: nothing but a  very elaborate study of this wood ― even if that, ― could convey an idea of this beautiful place: ― the quiet, warmth, & semishade are delightful. The Elements ― trees, clouds, &c. ― silence ― ὃλη ἡ φύσις δηλαδῆ3 ― seem to have far more part with me or I with them, than mankind. After death perhaps I shall be a tree ― a cloud ― a cabbage ― or silence in the next world: but most possibly an ass. In these Προκόπιαν holy glades are but 3 very manifold colors, ― the warm pale green of the floor ― with long shades: ― the gray uniform freckly shimmer of the roof: & the dark brown gray of the supporting pillar trunx. At 1, or 1.30 ― into the Monastery, & drew till 3 ― awfully tortured by fleas, & obliged to stand in the sun all the time. As soon as I got to the sea I bathed ― killing 11 fleas first. At 6. Reached the Casa [Curì]: paid Dimitri 2 dollars []4 a shilling5 for his days work ― he merits it well.

Sate in the gallery with Dr. & Mrs. S. till dinner ― Dr. Samuello also ― 7.30 dinner ― alquanto [troppo]6, & I was horribly bored by a flea!

Bed by 10.15.

Kindly good folk[.]

X3

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

  1. Why do you want to go to my village? (NB). []
  2. Goats (NB). []
  3. All of nature, that is (NB). []
  4. A blotted word. []
  5. Continues in the previous page, for 11 May. []
  6. The second Italian word is partly blotted; the expression means: “Very much too much.” []

Sunday, 11 May 1862

Rose at 5.30. 6.30 out with G., & drew by the Ποταμὸς bridge. (Calabrians have a boat here, ― a company sent by Primo Pignatelli to search for Liquorice root.[)] Returning at 8.30 ― met Dr. Sansoni, & back with him to Ἅγιος Νάσσος ποῦ ἥτον ἐφολῆ,1 & a giving away of boiled wheat & sweetmeats, some to us. Then we went to a higher point, where I drew again ― for the views are lovely. Finally ― we returned at 11.15. At 12 ― Colazione, at the end of the long Gallery, Sig. & Sig.ra Sansoni & I: pleasant & rational. The lovely distance recalls many far away days. ― At 1. drew a “femmina,” in Λευκίμμη costume. Ἑφανήθη2 also, the Doctor’s mother; [] a pleasant old lady, [fever] suffering. After wh. ― I returned & slept till 3.30.

At 4 ― walked to the Gallery, & drew [ezidionety]3 till after sunset ―: the long brim of mountains, & 2ndly the northern view of S. Salvador &c. ―. ― Coversation for ½ an hour ― poi dinner. I wish they would not bring out various wines ― as one or two are enough: howbeit tonight there was port ― beyond all belief execrable & wholly undrinkable ― Which I said ― & did not try to drink it. These are warmhearted folk.

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

  1. Agios Nassos (St. Athanasius) where there was a feast (NB). []
  2. Came (NB). []
  3. This, or “ezidiomty,” is the word Lear wrote: it is not Italian or Greek. []
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Saturday, 10 May 1862

Slept well, yet I think some heaviness proceeds from the air. At 5.30 ― (why do they put cinnamon in their coffe? ―) G. & I & Dimitri ― a well-behaved obliging χωριάτης1 ― went out. Lovely bits of green sward or fern ― with beautiful olives ― characteristic bits of Lefchimo scenery, we passed, ―― & so reached the cypress tuffy hill of Ἄγιος Ταξιάρχης, by 7, or 6.30: where I drew 3 or 4 times. The “cypress tree” is here smisuratamente2 existing: & thousands of tiny little cypress treelets pick up everywhere. At 9.30 we went “cross country” ― to Ἄ. Νικόλα, where we lunched ― but Χωρὶς νερὸ.3 So I remain under the shade of a giant Εχινάρι a Lentish tree. There is everywhere a flood of gold & green & blue. This, & the breeze, blowing freshly now & then, remind me of days in many lands before that knowledge came which tells us we have so little, & so much conjecture. On Swiss, & Como hills in 1837 ― in the first years of Rome & Amalfi life /38,/9 ― the long Civitella sojourns ― 1839-40 ―  Abruzzo 43-44 ― Sicily & Greece,ˇ[47] 48/49. ― I do not now suppose that kind of happiness can ever come back but by unexpected & unsought snatches; so I do not strive after it, nor mourn that I cannot have it. Only now & then, the whole long stream of bright ˇ[past] life glitters before me as it was in a distant valley, & I can seem to mark all its windings & shallows, & the lights & shadows on its far distant shores. Just now the lilac range of Albanian mountains with the few pale but defined clouds above, the blue sky & far deeper blue sea: the long ― almost blue plain of [distant] Ilias, & the still dark heavy full cypresses close by  ― all bring back old memories. ― (What excessive contrast there is between the bloo-blooness of the sea & lilac hills, & the rich raw Sienna green of those Cypresses! ―) afterwards ― drew twice, & then to the hill of Ἀνάλειψις, & drew till 6: after which fogs begin & out of door life is fever. This Ἀνάλειψις view is the most pleasing hereabouts, & were there well-drawn figures, it would be beautiful, ― at sunset especially ― when the mountains, by means of many detail=shadows, lose much of their wall-like form.

“Home” at 6.20; Ἔφθασε ὁ Ιἀτρὸς:4 to whom, & the [sost] ιἀτρόσ,5 ― showed all my sketches. Dr. Samuello theological, (οὐ ἂντι-theological)6 discussions were a wee-violent. The small boy Spiro’s queer ways were taking & amusing. It seems I stay here tomorrow ― en famille: ― Sparterò on Monday. Clomò Tuesday.

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

  1. Peasant (NB). []
  2. Immeasurably, excessively. []
  3. Without water (NB). []
  4. The Doctor came (NB). []
  5. Continues in the previous page, for 9 May. []
  6. Not anti-theological (NB). []
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Friday, 9 May 1862

Slept well. No fleas. G. is in anteroom. Rose at 4.30 coffee. Off 5.30 ― with G. & a guide, Dimitri. Heavy mist on all places ― plain & hills: wild paths, & flat desert-like spots: sandy walk by seaside.

Inland to S. Procopius ― a picturesque little monastery. beautiful olives. Hills near Sea, Capo Bianco[.] Solitary. Goats & dogs ― capo bianco ― drew. Mantis. fine ravine. ― At monastery of Ἀκροδείλιον by 9.30. Wonderful grove of Cypresses: drew a good deal: lovely day. Lunch. & drew ―. At 2 ― after various sketches began to go homeward. Walked down the hill, []1. By beautiful []2 ― to Ἄ Προκόπιος ― a wonderfully pretty specimen of rural Gk. Monastery. To the sea thence, & bathed, & so by sand & hilly undulations ― back to Μελίχια to the Casa Κυροῦ by 6. This house & family reminds me of Abruzzi days. Dr. Samuelli dined, & nothing could be more pleasant than the whole matter ― save that they asked me to eat too much.

However I was too tired to be as polite as I ought to be. Bed at 9.30. The Dr. goes to town tomorrow.

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

  1. Several words have been struck out. []
  2. Unreadable place name. []
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Thursday, 8 May 1862

Fine day. Rose at 4.30. Rushed off by 6.20[.]

Light carriage. Picked up the Fosters, ― I to pay my arranged 4 dollars they 2. Very clear & lovely weather, walked on ― horses resting, ― at Strongili. On to 19th mile, & lunched very pleasantly close to Ἄγια Τριάδα. At Lefchimo by 1. Dr. & Mrs. Sansone kindly folk. Coffee. Walked with them to the “Ποταμὸς.[”] At 3.30 took leave of the F.’s & went to Ἄ. Nicόλο, & Ἄ. Ἀνάλειψις ― but could not draw.

Returned: washed: waited: wrote. The Doctor came at times & talked. At 7.30 supper befell ― & very pleasant too & good withal, Maccaroni, Triglie, eggs ― Παλαμιδα1 &c. Small only boy ― 15 months old. Under Doctor ― Samuello ― intelligent: studied in Paris & London. At 9, begged to go to bed, which was (apparently) clean.

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

  1. Bonito (NB), a kind of tuna. []
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Wednesday, 7 May 1862

Rose at 6. ―

Got 25£ from Taylor. Breakfast with the 2 Fosters at 9. ―

at 11.30. drove with them to Κυνοπιάστες, ― but Villetta was not at home. (I asked Luard to dine ― first, & left a note for G. with the Παραμυθιόττι.) We drove also to Cupido’s fountn. Home by 1.30, & found G. had not had the letter given him by the Παρα= but had gone out. So I fumed & worried till 4.30. when he came in, & said he could dine L. & me at 8 ― Whereat ― at 5 ―  I went out ― walking with the Fosters ―― wonderful sky ― & no end of rainbows: ― [at ]1 .15 came Luard. At 10. bed.

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

  1. Blotted. []
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Tuesday, 6 May 1862

Fine till 11 ― we walked about, G. smoking. This place, in an unfrequented spot off the road, is not good to dwell in.

At 4.30 ― we packed ― by 5.30 Spiro Assoniti was engaged to find 2 horses ― whereat we packed, & were off by 6. ― Certainly a beautiful nogetable valley ― & full of fine bits: ― but ill to dwell in. I think I shall go to Lefchimo as soon as possible. ― We were in Corfû by 9.50 ― at my door. ―

2 ordinary papers: ― 1 Sat., 1 Atheneum from Miss G. who has kindly sent it doubtless from its being so full of notics [sic] about poor [Bush]. One letter, very nice , from C. Fortescue. George, as if he had had no trouble at all ― made a good lunch for me at 11 ― after wh. I slept till 5. Meanwhile, Foster ― of Roman memory ― had called ― he & Mrs. F. are at Turnock’s. To whom I wrote, & then I went to bed.

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

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Monday, 5 May 1862

Rose at 5 ― a very sleepless & comfortless night: dogs barking ― &c. &c.

Off with G. & Spiro Assoniti ― a cloudy threatening sky. ― Across the thin woods ― wonderful scenes of long-armed light-foliaged trees ― like Calabria in 1847. But it soon poured down torrents of rain ― also hail & thunders, & [we stood up] ¼  of an hour, ― but it soon [staid],1 & we walked up to Vauriatadi, apparently a dreary village, & the people thereof gloomy & odious ― 2 or 3 gave directions as to A. Παυλιάνα,2 but followed us ― a difficult track, & one, so slushy & steep I could hardly manage. However ― at the top is the village, & Mr. Charlton’s house, a charming [place], of neatness ― roses & gardens, & a γραμματικὸς:3 who soon gave me some coffee & eggs ― & offered dinner later. Whereby I drew 3 or 4 times ― but it was cold: & at 12.30 had eggs & wine: ― 3 little children, 3d apiece, but I wrote a note to Mr. C. promising him a drawing. The view over Lefchimo to Stαξος is beautiful. At 2.30 ― we went away ― a morning of good luck: ― & came down by Κ. Παυλιάνα4 to a high road: goats & sheep! ― & so ― clouds again gathering ― to Strongili  about 5 or not so late.

Then it rained a good lot. ― And afterwards I drew from the window.

Now it is 6 & fine again. Boles is bad, & all wrong to day.

After all this, did the accounts with Giorgio.

Feverish, & unwell ― nervous to a horrid degree. No sleep at all.

And (at 11.45.) I fancied I heard steps, & a trying of the door: ― which presently turned out a fact by a violent shake & force of the outer door ― which however held ― & the ladri5 ran down the steps. ― So, considering the bad air, & the affair at [Πισκοπιανῆ] ― & my being so unwell, I αποφασισα6 to go. George, who awoke also, rose ― & we did not go to rest again.

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

  1. Blotted. []
  2. Ano Pavliana (Upper Pavliana), a village (NB). []
  3. Secretary (male) (NB). []
  4. Κάτω Παυλιάνα, i.e. Lower Pavliana (NB). []
  5. Thieves. []
  6. Decided (NB). []
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Sunday, 4 May 1862

Particular lovely, all day.

Slept vastly better ― not to say well: & rose a little before 5 ― Plain coffee & bread the order of the day: & George & I were off before 6. A pleasant shadeful walk ― & assuredly the olives are wonderful, the interminable perpetuation of this silver light catching trunks contrasting with the deep shades on the green & fern below.

I am at Stavrõ1 ― where a perlite Xωριάτης2 shewed me to the Topos where ὃλοι Ἃγγλοι3 were wont to go ―: & no lovelier view can be seen ― so much so that I rank it first of all the distant Corfu views ― as regards the seeing all & everything. At 7 Therapeia, with a circle of very well kept in order boys ― I sate down to draw, ― & afterwards a 2nd & 3rd view ― so that it was one before I left off ― 6 hours of it.

Then we went to a Bottega,4 & had some capital Eggs & bread & cheese & wine: good people ― staring constantly. “Φυσικὰ”5 saith G. ― There were some extremely handsome women ― παιδιὰ!6

At 2 we came down ― & walked slowly, with interludes of Bertoldino7 & other matters.

Home by sunset ― this place is too damp to be out afterwards.

A toughy fowl, (to G.’s dismay,) & new potatoes ― were the dinner: also vile wine. ― whereby indignation & sleeplessness.

Bed by 8.45.

“Out of the day & night” &c.

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

  1. Stavros (Σταυρού). []
  2. Peasant (NB). []
  3. The place (topos) where “all Englishmen” (NB) were wont to go. []
  4. “Shop,” in Italian. []
  5. Of course (NB). []
  6. Children (NB). []
  7. A reference to the Italian comic tales of Bertoldo, the sharp-witted farmer, and Bertoldino, his no less cunning son, popularized by Giulio Cesare Croce (1550-1609) in Le sottilissime astuzie di Bertoldo, and Le piacevoli e ridicolose semplicità di Bertoldino, figlio del già astute Bertoldo. The stories are among the best-known grotesque, and at times nonsensical ones in Italian literature. []
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Important announcement

This morning’s entry was the last to be e-mailed; all those who subscribed to receive e-mail notifications of new posts should have received an invitation to join the new blog at leardiaries.wordpress.com. If you have not, please go there and join. I will keep posting entries here only until 12 May, Lear’s 200th birthday.

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