I need to locate a limerick by Edward Lear that has a political undertone to it. I also need to understand the background to the poem and source material.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Although Edward Lear seems to have written few overtly political limericks, one poem with definite political overtones is the following:

There was an Old Man of Jamaica,
Who suddenly married a Quaker;
But she cried out, 'Alack!
I have married a black!'
Which distressed that Old Man of Jamaica.

This poem has definite political implications for a number of reasons, including the following:

  • It mentions Jamaica, for years a British colony and thus a symbol of British imperialism.
  • It mentions a Quaker – a member of a small but fervent band of dissident Christians. Since religion was so often a political issue in Britain, and since Quakers became prominent during and after the English Civil Wars of the 1640s, the reference to Quakers is somewhat political.
  • It alludes to racial prejudice – obviously a major political issue, especially in the nineteenth century, when slavery was a very recent memory.
  • Because Quakers were (and often still are) thought to be especially gentle and kind Christians, the fact that this particular Christian is racially prejudiced is somewhat surprising.

 

 

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial