A Man Named Lear

Why did the Beatles make so many references within their work to include famous doubles and doppelgangers? Next in the “Doubles and Doppelgangers” series we have a little story based on a novel by a man named Lear.


Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?
It’s based on a novel by a man named Lear,
And I need a job,
So I want to be a paperback writer,
Paperback writer.

A Man named Lear- Who is Lear?

For whatever reason, this particular lyric from Paperback Writer always reminded me of King Lear- a work of course from Shakespeare. Considering the many allusions to Shakespeare in the Beatles works- this was never far from a good assumption in my mind.

Then I learned about an English writer named Edward Lear.

From Wiki:

Edward Lear (12 or 13 May 1812 – 29 January 1888) was an English artist, illustrator, musician, author and poet, and is known now mostly for his literary nonsense in poetry and prose and especially his limericks, a form he popularised. His principal areas of work as an artist were threefold: as a draughtsman employed to illustrate birds and animals; making coloured drawings during his journeys, which he reworked later, sometimes as plates for his travel books; as a (minor) illustrator of Alfred Tennyson’s poems. As an author, he is known principally for his popular nonsense collections of poems, songs, short stories, botanical drawings, recipes, and alphabets. He also composed and published twelve musical settings of Tennyson’s poetry.


Lear played the accordion, flute, and guitar, but primarily the piano. He composed music for many Romantic and Victorian poems, but was known mostly for his many musical settings of Tennyson’s poetry. He published four settings in 1853, five in 1859, and three in 1860. Lear’s were the only musical settings that Tennyson approved of. Lear also composed music for many of his nonsense songs, including “The Owl and the Pussy-cat,” but only two of the scores have survived, the music for “The Courtship of the Yonghy-Bonghy-Bò” and “The Pelican Chorus.” While he never played professionally, he did perform his own nonsense songs and his settings of others’ poetry at countless social gatherings, sometimes adding his own lyrics (as with the song “The Nervous Family”), and sometimes replacing serious lyrics with nursery rhymes.

Lear used many pseudonyms during his lifetime, usually when introducing himself. “Mr Abebika kratoponoko Prizzikalo Kattefello Ablegorabalus Ableborinto phashyph” or “Chakonoton the Cozovex Dossi Fossi Sini Tomentilla Coronilla Polentilla Battledore & Shuttlecock Derry down Derry Dumps”. So it may come as no surprise that many feel as if “Edward Lear” was also a pseudonym. “Lear” could be used as an anagram for “Earl”.

Lear published Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets in 1871, which included his most famous nonsense song, The Owl and the Pussycat, which he wrote for the children of his patron Edward Stanley, 13th Earl of Derby.

Edward Earl = Edward Lear??

Another case of a “Double Identity” that we see so much within the Beatles legacy.

Also interesting to note is Edward Lear’s patron- Edward Smith-Stanley 13th Earl of Derby, (who some believe also to be Edward Lear) spent most of his life in Liverpool, where he kept a large collection of animals that were shipped to him in England from explorers from all over the world.

In 1834 he succeeded his father as 13th Earl of Derby and withdrew from politics, instead concentrating on his natural history collection at Knowsley Hall, near Liverpool. He had a large collection of living animals: at his death there were 1,272 birds and 345 mammals at Knowsley, shipped to England by explorers such as Joseph Burke.  Many of Derby’s collections are now housed in Liverpool museum.

Beatles in “Derby” style hats

John Lennon’s mother Julia’s maiden name was Stanley- and although there is no evidence that these two were related- it is an interesting notion that both Julia Stanley and Edward Stanley were both active and living in Liverpool. Edward Stanley’s Grandson- Frederick Stanley, 16th Earl of Derby was Lord Mayor of Liverpool in 1893 and the first Chancellor of the University of Liverpool.

Also fun to note- at the time of Paperback Writer’s release- the only Beatle member to have written a novel was John. Who wrote “In his Own Write” in 1964, which comprised of prose and poetry and art very similar in style to Edward Lear’s limerick style of “nonsense” poetry.



Edward Stanley’s father- the 12th Earl of Derby  returned to Parliament as one of two representatives for Lancashire in 1774, a seat he held until 1776, when he succeeded his grandfather in the earldom and entered the House of Lords. His mother was named Lucy, daughter and co-heir of Hugh Smith of Weald Hall, Essex.

Sgt. Pepper Code perhaps??


Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster

I absolutely love the layers upon layers of the mysteries the Lads From Liverpool consistently throw at us within their works.  Was this planned?  It all seems so intricate and detailed – could they possibly have known the rabbit hole adventures they would lead us down?  Pure Genius if you ask me.


To Be Continued….





  1. hello, i’ve enjoying your post, absolutely interesting, i would like suggest a post about Billiy Liar, a novel written by Keith Waterhouse, that it’s a popular source in various songs, plays and movies. In the past i read the book once, and i assure you that the plot will fascinate you, someway. I remember when Oasis released “The Importance of Being Idle” and the video makes references to the novel, the beatles’ idolatry by the gallagher brothers, a kind of new fab-four or something like that.


    1. Hi again! I will look into that, thank you for the suggestion. Oasis does seem to mirror the Beatles in more ways than one- so yeah, right up my alley.
      Thank you for your comment. Much appreciated


      1. thanks for your reply, Since I’ve been reading beatles sync blogs, I’ve had more coincidences with English literature, finnegans wake is the least, but in “A portrait of the artist as a young man”, it’s the writer’s alter ego, lennon in the 70s came across with pseudomonys like dr. winston o´boogie, but i prefer finnegans wake. Furthermore noel gallagher said when he was included in the new recreated Sgt.Pepper cover by sir peter blake, that all the props were still there from the Sgt Pepper photo shoot and he took a photo with the wax model of Sonny Liston. maybe the enigma of the pepper cover can be solved if we examined more closely. A friend said me that, problably, “carnival of light” could be for release, this year it’s in some synchronistic way

        Liked by 1 person

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