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Sherrard’s edition of The Corfu Years (Lear 1988) which, in addition to extracts from the journals, includes several unpublished letters to his sister Ann, Emily Tennyson, William Holman Hunt and others.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