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More Snarkiness

December 5th, 2010

I asked Mahendra to send me a few more of his Snarky pics, and he was kind enough to do so, and here they are. Click on the thumbnails to enter the gallery, then mouse over the right or left to get forward or backward options.  Apparently Nietzsche & Heidegger are members of the crew! Not sure if any other real persons have found their way in, but if you spot any shout.

And visit Mahendra’s blog, to see more of his artwork and find purchasing info for the Hunting of the Snark

A New Snark

November 29th, 2010


The wonderful illustrator Mahendra Singh has a new edition of The Hunting of the Snark fresh out in time for Christmas. Mahendra describes this as a ‘graphic novel version’.  We haven’t peeked inside yet, but the cover looks entirely intriguing don’t you think. Is the Snark itself actually going to make an appearance? Will anyone who opens this book softly vanish there and then?

Mahendra’s blog has more details.

Boojums over Broadway (well, actually Chicago…)

November 4th, 2010

Peter  and Martin Wesley-Smith’s  show  Boojum! Nonsense, Truth and Lewis Carroll is opening in Chicago this month. It runs from 18 November to 19 December, with previews on 16 & 17 November, at the Storefront Theatre, presented by Caffeine Theatre and Chicago Opera Vanguard.  The buzz is  it will be a very vibrant, interesting version of this show.  Well worth seeing, so go along and tell your friends.

LCSNA Fall meeting and the Snark

October 29th, 2010

The amazingly talented Oleg Lipchenko has asked us to remind everyone he will be talking at the Fall meeting of  the Lewis Carroll Societ of North  America,  Nov 6, in NYC.  Subject  is intriguingly titled “Butcher in the Ruff: Rendering the Snark (A Work in Progress)” , & uses this even more  intriguing quote as his jumping off point:

The assumption which states that “It’s a Boo-…” applies to Boots* seems to be plausible, but is based on written word “Boots”, still vocally “oo” means a long “u” and therefore in this case “Boots” has no priority over “Butcher”. It probably was indeed, “It’s a Bo-o-o-o-o-o-o-tcher!” I would rather believe in this interpretation, because in the poem, Butcher was described in great detail, and acted as one of the front characters, unlike Boots, who was just a “chorus member”. Actually, we even don’t know who Boots is at all…

*Larry Shaw The Baker Murder case, cit. by The Annotated Snark by Martin Gardner.

Having seen  Oleg’s extraordinarily beautful illustrations for   Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which we featured in this blog a while back,   we can’t wait for this latest project to be completed, and urge anyone who will be in the vicinity to go along to this meeting.  Details are available at the LCSNA website.

Behind the Looking Glass

October 26th, 2010

‘Just had a US reader send me the following about my book, _Behind the Looking Glass_ (2008, Cambridge Scholars): “Really an impressive work. I am recommending it to several people. Every philosophy department should have it. It should be a companion text in philosophy and literature.”

Kwel!! Sherry L. Ackerman

“I cannot remember any other motive…”: the chronology of creating Wonderland

October 26th, 2010


It’ll  be November soon, the month in which Alice’s  Adventures Underground was begun and (two looong  years later) finally delivered to its intended recipient, Alice Liddell.   It’s  one of the most myth-drenched areas of Lewis Carroll’s life.  So it does no harm to use the upcoming anniversary to take another look.  (By the way, for those who know what I’m talking about,   I think of the image on the right as being captioned  “trying to engage in rational argument on an e-list.” )

Anyhoo…The creation of Alice’s Adventures has always  – until recent times – been presented as something ‘ Lewis Carroll’  did entirely and spontaneously and willingly for the little girl.   Indeed, Charles Dodgson himself later defined it that way when,  in the Theatre magazine  many years after the event, he claimed he wrote the story  “for a child I loved”.  Though the fact he added the rather odd qualification  “I cannot remember any other motive”   might alert us that a little bit of creative ‘amnesia’ is going on.  Maybe by then, some twenty years after the event, that was how he actually remembered it.  But the truth, while not exactly an entire contradiction, was a lot more ambiguous

Let’s begin with a univeral constant though.  One thing that is definitely true – Lewis Carroll did begin writing Underground because Alice Liddell asked him to,  in fact his diary records her request in July 1862.  But this is where the Myth and the Reality tend to part ways.   The Mythic version goes on to have  him writing down the entire  story  the very night that Alice asked him to do so,  or at least very soon afterwards (chronologies can tend to be vague in these accounts).  It has the story finished inside a few weeks/months, and the book lying on a table at the Deanery where it chances to be seen by a family friend, who urges  Mrs Liddell to get a shy and reluctant Carroll to publish the book.  Hence, the story goes, an  unassuming, unwordly Don stumbles into immortality, and all because he loved a child.

It’s  a lovely tale, to which,  as  the glorious Fielding (I never tire of quoting it)  says,  I have only one objection – namely that it is not true. Or at least it’s not the whole truth. It’s not even nothing but the truth. This is what really happened.

  • Summer of  1862.  Charles Dodgson  is telling the ‘Alice’  story to the three famous sisters, Ina, Alice and Edith Liddell,  while  on their famous river-trips.  Indications are the girls  loved  the tale and were always begging for new instalments, but that Dodgson was less enthusiastic (on one occasion he calls  it the ‘interminable’ Alice’s Adventures, and is peeved because he wants to sing them a new song he just made up instead). At around the same time Alice asks him to write her story down. He promises he will do so.
  • July 1862. He writes what he calls the ‘headers’  of the story on a train journey to London with the Liddell family (OT – why is he travelling to London with the Liddells? One of those things he never explains) .
  • July-November 1862. He apparently forgets all about the story for about four months.
  • Nov 1862. He meets Alice Liddell by chance in the quad at Christ Church, and that evening notes in his diary that he has started writing the story  (we can assume it is because she has reminded him of her request).
  • Feb 1863. The story is finished, but pictures not done.  He gives the MS – not to Alice –  but  to George MacDonald – best selling children’s author and close friend. He doesn’t say why he does this, but I think we can deduce that, while writing it, he’s begun to think it might have a commercial life and is canvassing opinions from writers and their children.
  • May 1863. Mrs GM tells  him he should publish the book. Alice Liddell still has not received her MS,  10  months after asking for it. Dodgson is still, intermittently working on the pictures and ticking himself off for taking so long.
  • October 1863. He meets Alexander MacMillan. His diary doesn’t say why, but subsequent events make it obvious he is talking to him about a possible publishing contract. Meanwhile Alice still does not have her book, 15 months after asking for it.
  • December 1863. He is trying to get an introduction to Tenniel to ask him to do the illustrations for Wonderland. Alice still has not received her book, 17 months after asking for it.
  • Sep 1864. Wonderland is being readied for publication. He finally finishes the pics on Underground, 2 years and 2 months after Alice asked for her book. But Alice still doesn’t receive it for another two months.
  • November  1864. Alice finally gets her book,  mailed to her by Dodgson, even though she only lives across the quad.    She has been waiting  28 months to receive it,  and for 21 of those months it has been sitting in Dodgson’s study, pictures unfinished,   or passed round to the MacDonalds, to Tenniel, to MacMillan, and even to his friends the Ottleys,  and, of course, developed and adapted in to Wonderland, which is now itself almost ready and will be  published in just six months.

This is the blurry, mundane  truth. Dodgson didn’t write it down all at once just to please a child he loved, for all that he conveniently  “couldn’t remember” otherwise.  He wrote it after a four-month hiatus, and apparently rather reluctantly. And, before it was even finished he had begun thinking about publishing it in some form.  The story of the book lying on the table in the Deanery and being accidentally spotted is a piece of charming apocrypha.  There’s no record of any such event in Dodgson’s papers, and the fact Alice didn’t receive her book before Nov 1864, by which time Dodgson was already well into publishing Wonderland, makes it highly improbable, if not impossible.  But anyhow, Dodgson – the real Dodgson – didn’t need nudging into professional authorship. He  was eager for it already. And why not? He deserved that much.

Does all this lessen the meaning of his work?  Of course not.  ‘Alice’ is  much too powerful to need some anemic mythology to prop it up.  Does it even mean he didn’t love Alice Liddell?  No, of course not. He clearly did love her and her sisters. It just means he was a human being, not an impossible, idealized Saint Lewis.  When he  made Underground the basis of Wonderland, and when he gave that creative process priority over his gift to the ‘child he loved’, he was, unquestionably being rather  selfish, and I think he knew it, which is why he reinvented the creation-story inside his own head, and why – probably – he preferred to mail the belated gift to the child, rather than have to explain why it had taken him so long.

But I think he should have spared himself the self-deception, because he didn’t need it.  There was nothing wrong with what he did. Genius requires a little selfishness.  And the fact is, if he’d been  entirely unselfish at that moment,  Alice might have gotten her book on time, but Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland would probably never have been written at all, and that would change the landscape of the modern world more than we can ever want to imagine.  His small human selfishness reaped a huge and generous reward. So, I think we can forgive him – though I’m not sure Alice Liddell ever did

But that’s another story isn’t it.

The Virtual Victorian

October 21st, 2010

Here’s an extract from the Virtual Victorian blog (unpromisingly titled “The Shy and Stammering Man”):

But, despite loving to visit art galleries and the theatre, the stuttering, unmarried clergyman was never truly comfortable in the adult ‘society’ world, preferring to indulge in the uncomplicated friendship of children. Such sincere and intense ‘relationships’ have since led on to controversy and speculation – though the VV is keen to stress that there is no actual evidence that….

Blah-blah, you can probably guess the rest (there is even an accompanying post all about the ‘real Alice’, in which pretty much every myth you can name gets a featured role).

It’d take the rest of this afternoon to offer a corrective to all the individual errors of fact, so we’re just going to offer an appeal:

VV – you have a wonderful blog in so many ways, so please, we beg you stop dishing out this nonsense. Please read the latest biographies. Please do a little Googling, find out just how many errors of fact you have perpetrated then – please – re-edit your post or add a correction. If you love ‘Alice’ as much as you seem to, then don’t you owe her creator that much in return? You have a lot of readers, and currently you are wildly misinforming them about his life.

Why not turn this around and become a force for change? Link to us, or do your own post about the real and still very little known Lewis Carroll?

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First post at new home

October 17th, 2010

Here we are at our shiny new home, with a shiny new custom-made theme.  More later about why we had to move…


September 1st, 2010

Well, we’ve been told those changes to Wiki we talked about were actually made by one of the authors mentioned – who has now taken down the reference to the other author mentioned (at his request we understand), and modified the entry in other small ways. We have to say we originally thought it had been done by some random troll – because the wording and the sentiments just didn’t seem like something that would have come from the author herself. If we’d known, despite all outward appearance, it had been written by the author named we would have approached it in a less satirical way, and we’re sorry for that.

But we have to admit we are if anything even more baffled by the whole business! What purpose is there in creating imaginary divisions between us? In quibbling between ‘myth’ and ‘comprehensive misrepresentation’? If we agree then let’s celebrate it, not pretend we don’t.

Oh – we’ve closed the poll too, as it’s probably a little insensitive now we know the true provenance of the Wiki comments. Though, even though intended it as a little joke, it’s yielded some interesting results we might share later.

Time for a vote

August 29th, 2010

Just a bit of fun, ‘Charles1832’, don’t burst anything.(And please don’t post multiple replies we just have to delete). We just think it’s time for people to stand up and be counted!