In 1969, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, approached Burgess about the possibility of his producing a screenplay for their proposed life of Edward Lear, the Victorian painter and writer of nonsense verse. It was intended that Mildred Freed Alberg would produce the film, Eric Till would direct, and Peter Ustinov star as Lear. There were difficulties, however, in finding finance for the film (working title "How Pleasant to Know Mr Lear"), which seems to have caused the project to falter.
By 1972, Burgess was in correspondence with Michael Powell Productions about a similar film, based on Lear's life. In a series of letters to Burgess, Powell explains that he first became interested in making a film about Lear when he was sent a "sketch-scenario" by Catherine Mortimer in 1968. He envisaged a film in which Lear's life and works would be seen in retrospect as a series of dances, recitations, ballets, songs and scenes, and he intended to direct the film, with Ralph Richardson starring as Lear and Burgess providing the screenplay and music. An alternative working title of "The Nonsense Man" was suggested. Again, the proposed film-project proved unsuccessful.
This series consists of outlines for a screenplay, including a film treatment written by Catherine Mortimer in 1968, a short biography of Edward Lear, and a fragment of a draft screenplay.