WHEN EDWARD LEAR set off from Corfu for Crete in April 1864, it was in no very optimistic frame of mind. For the last nine years Corfu had been his winter home but after half a century of British rule the island had been ceded to Greece and Lear felt obliged to move. His livelihood required an immediate expedition to new scenes and he probably assumed that another book of Mediterranean travels would be likely to sell. So it was that he chose Crete.
This journal of his travels through the island - now updated and re-issued in paperback - is a detailed and sometimes minute-by-minute commentary on the landscape of Crete and a record of the ups and downs, physical and mental, of an artist travelling on foot over difficult terrain, written in Lear`s own inimitable style. As this text is from the original diary and not an emended and `polished` version prepared by Lear himself for publication, it possesses a spontaneous and uncensored quality that is often missing from his other travel books. Similarly, the majority of the original drawings as reproduced in this book, which were not intended for publication or sale, have a lightness and freshness that capture the outlines and colours of a particular landscape. Together with Rowena Fowler`s introduction and comprehensive notes, the journal gives us a delightful personal glimpse of Edward Lear the man, his world, and 19th century Crete, then still under Turkish rule.
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