Greece, Turkey, North Macedonia and Albania

In 1837 Lear went to Rome and for the next eleven years he travelled throughout Italy, establishing his reputation as a landscape painter.

To E. L. On His Travels in Greece - Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Illyrian woodlands, echoing falls
Of water, sheets of summer glass,
The long divine Peneian pass,
The vast Akrokeraunian walls,

Tomohrit, Athos, all things fair,
With such a pencil, such a pen,
You shadow forth to distant men,
I read and felt that I was there:

And trust me, while I turn’d the page,
And track’d you still on classic ground,
I grew in gladness till I found
My spirits in the golden age.

For me the torrent ever pour’d
And glisten’d–here and there alone
The broad-limb’d Gods at random thrown
By fountain-urns;-and Naiads oar’d

A glimmering shoulder under gloom
Of cavern pillars; on the swell
The silver lily heaved and fell;
And many a slope was rich in bloom

From him that on the mountain lea
By dancing rivulets fed his flocks,
To him who sat upon the rocks,
And fluted to the morning sea.

Lear discussed with Church his desire to visit Greece in the spring but had some doubts “on account of the unsettled state of the country.” In February 1848, Church left Rome to travel to Athens where he was to stay with uncle, Sir Richard Church. In a letter to his uncle, Church wrote “I am very sorry to leave Rome and many friends there, especially Edward Lear … He is doubtful about coming to Greece, but has not given it up. note 1 

On March 18 1848,  a Special Mission, appointed by Lord Palmerston, left England to visit a number of European capitals with the aim of acheiving some kind of reconciliation of conflicting interests over the situation in Ottoman-occupied parts of Greece. At the head of the mission was Sir Stratford Canning, who was on his way to Constantinople to resume his post as British Ambassador. Accompanying the mission was Lord Augustus Loftus,  Secretary to Canning, whose autobiography  note 2  provides us with some insight into that journey to Athens and, later, to Constantinople.

Diplomacy done, Canning and his family, together with Loftus, left the port of Trieste onboard the armed paddle steamer HMS Antelope and headed south for Greece. En route, Antelope called in at Corfu where “we picked up the renowned artist, Mr. Lear, and Sir Stratford gave him a passage to Athens“.

After a short stop at Vostitiza, present-day Aigio, to experience a Greek fete day, Antelope dropped the party near Corinth





At the end of May 1848,


wrote to his uncle, Sir Richard Church, who was at that time residing in Athens as ????, to tell him that he’d met Lear

Note 1: After Lear’s death in 1888, Charles Church recounted his own memories of his Grecian travels with Lear, incorprating extracts from Lear’s diary.
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Note 3: Drawing of HMS Antelope, an armed paddle steamer built in Liverpool and launched in 1846. Antelope served with the Royal Naval Mediterranean fleet until 1853 when she was transferred to the Royal Naval anti-slavery patrol off the coast of West Africa. During its existence, the West Africa Squadron captured 1,600 slave ships, freeing 150,000 Africans
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