Troublesome beards & delightful limericks: Edward Lear’s A Book of Nonsense (1861)

Illustration of 'There was an Old Man with a Beard ' - a limerick from Edward Lear’s A Book of Nonsense

Apparently Beards Are Back! And you must keep on top of your beard or they become unmanageable; plucking and trimming – shampoo and beard oil required.

The great age of the beard was the Victorian era. And to judge from this illustration the Victorians struggled with beard grooming as we do today. Perhaps seeing so much out of control facial hair is what inspired the above illustration and limerick from Edward Lear’s A Book of Nonsense, 3rd ed (1861).

“There was an Old Man with a beard,

Who said, “It is just as I feared! —

Two Owls and a Hen, four Larks and a Wren,

Have all built their nests in my beard.”


I want! I want! (1793) by William Blake. A ladder to the stars.

Image of I want! I want! (1793) by William Blake

I want! I want! (1793) by William Blake (English, 1757-1827). The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK.

In Blake’s 1793 engraving, the poet and artist finds an inspired solution to getting to the moon: a really big ladder! Elon Musk could learn something. Or is this piece of art about something else? Seems quite apt for today.

First page of The Lord of the Rings – original manuscript

Original first page for Lord of the Rings (1937), J.R.R. Tolkien.

The original handwritten first page of The Lord of the Rings (1937) by J.R.R. Tolkien (1892-1973), Professor of Old and Middle English language and literature at The University of Oxford. Tolkien’s personal and academic papers are archived at the Bodleian Library.

“It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door” – The Lord of the Rings

A long job handwriting 1178 pages, let alone dreaming up the wonderful world of Middle-Earth, phew.

“It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.”
The Lord of the Rings

Long Victorian Prints … everywhere!

Long Victorian Prints ... on Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, WordPress and Instagram.

Long Victorian Prints is not just on WordPress, also on (bookmarks) – Phew! A labour of love.

I also have a book and art WordPress blog, The Long Victorian, 1789-1914. That’s been a bit quiet recently (strangely, my lack of posts has only increased the visitors, must say something), but you are more than welcome to drop in. Regular posting will resume shortly. It’s on (different set of bookmarks), mainly focusing on literature and fine art of the long nineteenth century.

‘Mr. Collins was not a sensible man’ Pride and Prejudice, Vol. 1, Ch. 15

Illustration (1894) of Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Artist, Hugh Thomson.

Illustration (1894) of Mr. Collins from Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. [Artist, Hugh Thomson]. Depicted here is the cousin of Mr Bennet – and clergyman of the parsonage near Rosing’s Park – protesting that he never reads novels.

‘ By tea-time, however, the dose had been enough, and Mr. Bennet was glad to take his guest into the drawing-room again, and when tea was over, glad to invite him to read aloud to the ladies. Mr. Collins readily assented, and a book was produced; but on beholding it .. he started back, and begging pardon, protested that he never read novels. — Kitty stared at him, and Lydia exclaimed. — Other books were produced, and after some deliberation he chose Fordyce’s Sermons. Lydia gaped as he opened the volume, and before he had, with very monotonous solemnity, read three pages, she interrupted him with … ‘

I rather like this from the excellent Mr Collins:

‘My dear Miss Elizabeth, I have the highest opinion in the world of your excellent judgment in all matters within the scope of your understanding … ‘

A duel between nuns, Illustrated Police News, 1869

A duel between nuns from the Illustrated Police News (1869).

‘A duel between nuns’ from the Illustrated Police News (1869). Not something you read every day! The full title: is ‘A duel between nuns within their convent near Genoa [Italy] according to the information of the time, no blood was poured’.

The Illustrated Police News was founded in 1864 – it was a popular British magazine full of lurid stories and produced famously sensational stories during the Jack the Ripper murders of 1888. It ceased publication in 1938.


A dandy’s toilette (1818) – perhaps the famous “Beau” Brummel

A dandy’s toilette (1818)

A dandy’s toilette (1818). A colour engraving, alas the artist is unknown. Used in the book: The corset, A cultural history by Valerie Steele.

The dandy, might be George “Beau” Brummel (1778-1840), an iconic figure in Regency England and an arbiter of men’s fashion. He was a friend of the Prince Regent, the future King George IV.