The whimsy of this poem by Edward Lear introduced generations of children to adventure, travel and true love, with these two explorers who threw doubt and unease out of the boat before embarking on their journey, the world and seas at their command.
On first glance I missed the apostrophe s after the word sparrow, reading the title as My Mistress Sparrow is Dead, and imagining a frail woman of Victorian beauty, mourned by her equally consumptive lover. The true title, and the story behind it, is why I love this book.
The Victorians are recognised as pioneers of sexual repression and extreme prudishness, and certainly that is the image they themselves were keen to project. But was this a clever ruse to hide their rampant appetites for the pleasures of the flesh?