The Annotated AliceeVersion 4.0 - click for revision history THE ANNOTATED THE DEFINITIVE EDITION Lewis Carroll
W • W • NORTON & COMPANY
NEW YORK • LONDON
file:///E|/Stuff/E-Books/Alice/ALICE.HTM (1 of 223)12/22/2005 16:50:31
The Annotated Alice
Copyright© 2000, 1990, 1988, 1960 by Martin Gardner
Previous editions published as The Annotated Alice (1960)
and More Annotated Alice
All rights reserved
Printed in the United States of America
For information about permission to reproduce selections from this book, write to
Permissions, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
The text of this book is composed in Devinne text,
with the display set in Mona Lisa and Engravers Roman
Composition by Allentown Digital Services
Manufacturing by The Maple-Vail Book Manufacturing Group
Book design by Antonina Krass
Page makeup by Carole Desnoes
Frontispiece: Posthumous painting of Lewis Carroll by Sir Hubert von Herkomer.
Courtesy Christ Church Picture Gallery, Oxford.
file:///E|/Stuff/E-Books/Alice/ALICE.HTM (2 of 223)12/22/2005 16:50:31
The Annotated Alice
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Carroll, Lewis, 1832-1898.
[Alice's adventures in Wonderland]
The annotated Alice : Alice's adventures in Wonderland & Through the looking-glass / by Lewis Carroll; with illustrations by John
Tenniel; updated, with an introduction and notes by Martin Gardner. — Definitive ed.
This edition combines the notes of Gardner's 1960, The annotated Alice with his 1990 update, More annotated Alice, as well as
additional discoveries and updates drawn from Gardner's encyclopedic knowledge of the texts. It includes Tenniel's classic art with
some recently discovered Tenniel pencil sketches.
Includes bibliographical references.ISBN 0-393-04847-0
1. Fantasy fiction, English. 2. Carroll, Lewis, 1832-1898. Alice's adventures in wonderland. 3. Carroll, Lewis, 1832-1898. Through the
looking-glass. 4. Fantasy fiction, English—History and criticism. 5. Alice (Fictitious character : Carroll)—Fiction. 6. Alice (Fictitious
character : Carroll) I. Gardner, Martin, 1914— . II. Tenniel, John, Sir, 1820-1914. III. Carroll, Lewis, 1832-1898. Through the looking-
glass. IV Title: Through the looking-glass. V Title. VI. Title: Annotated Alice—the definitive edition
PR4611 .A7 1999
W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., 10 Coptic Street, London WC1A 1PU
3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0
To the thousands of readers of my Annotated Alice
and More Annotated Alice
who took the time to send letters of appreciation,
and to offer corrections and suggestions
for new notes. C O N T E N T S PREFACE TO THE DEFINITIVE EDITION OF The Annotated Alice xi INTRODUCTION TO The Annotated Alice xiii INTRODUCTION TO More Annotated Alice xxiii Alice's Adventures in Wonderland 3
file:///E|/Stuff/E-Books/Alice/ALICE.HTM (3 of 223)12/22/2005 16:50:31
The Annotated Alice Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There 129 The Wasp in a Wig 275 ORIGINAL PENCIL SKETCHES BY TENNIEL 299 A NOTE ABOUT LEWIS CARROLL SOCIETIES 303 SELECTED REFERENCES 305 ALICE ON THE SCREEN, BY DAVID SCHAEFER 309 Alice, Where Art Thou?
Quaint child, old-fashioned Alice, lend your dream:
I would be done with modern story-spinners,
Follow with you the laughter and the gleam:
Weary am I, this night, of saints and sinners.
We have been friends since Lewis and old Tenniel
Housed you immortally in red and gold.
Come! Your naivete is a spring perennial:
Let me be young again before I'm old.
You are a glass of youth: this night I choose
Deep in your magic labyrinths to stray,
Where rants the Red Queen in her splendid hues
And the White Rabbit hurries on his way.
Let us once more adventure, hand in hand:
Give me belief again—in Wonderland!
—Vincent Starrett, in Brillig
(Chicago: Dierkes Press, 1949)
file:///E|/Stuff/E-Books/Alice/ALICE.HTM (4 of 223)12/22/2005 16:50:31
The Annotated Alice PREFACE TO THE DEFINITIVE EDITION OF The Annotated AliceThe Annotated Alice
was first published in 1960 by Clarkson Potter. It went through many printings here and in England, in hardcover
and paperback, and was translated into Italian, Japanese, Russian, and Hebrew. I was unable to persuade Crown, which took over Potter
before Crown was in turn taken over by Random House, to let me do a major revision of the book by adding a raft of new notes that had
accumulated in my files. I finally decided to put them in a sequel titled More Annotated Alice
. Random House published it in 1990,
thirty years after the previous book.
To distinguish the sequel from The Annotated Alice
I substituted Peter Newell's 80 full-page illustrations for Tenniel's art. Michael
Patrick Hearn contributed a fine essay on Newell. I also was able to add to More Annotated Alice
the long-lost "Wasp in a Wig" episode
that Carroll left out of his second Alice
book after Tenniel strongly urged him to remove it, but one still had to open two separate Alice
books simultaneously, which seemed a bit impractical.
In 1998 I was surprised and delighted when my editor at Norton, Robert Weil, suggested that the notes from both Alice
combined in a single "definitive" edition. They are all here, some of them expanded, and many new notes have been added. Tenniel's
pictures in The Annotated Alice
were poorly reproduced, bristling with broken type and fuzzy lines. For this volume they have been
faithfully copied in their original clarity.
The "Wasp in a Wig" episode is included in this book, along with the introduction and notes I wrote for its first publication by the
Lewis Carroll Society of North America in a 1977 limited edition. I had the great pleasure of tracking down the New York City
collector who had bought the original galleys at a London auction, and persuaded him to let me reprint them in a small book.
In addition to thanking Weil for making this edition possible, I also thank Justin Schiller, the nation's top seller and collector of rare
books for children, for permission to include reproductions of Tenniel's preliminary sketches from Schiller's book Alice's Adventures in
, privately printed in 1990. Thanks, too, to David Schaefer for providing a checklist of film productions of Alice
, based on
his great collection of such films. INTRODUCTION TO The Annotated Alice
Let it be said at once that there is something preposterous about an annotated Alice
. Writing in 1932, on the hundred-year anniversary
of Lewis Carroll's birth, Gilbert K. Chesterton voiced his "dreadful fear" that Alice's story had already fallen under the heavy hands of
the scholars and was becoming "cold and monumental like a classic tomb."
"Poor, poor, little Alice!" bemoaned G.K. "She has not only been caught and made to do lessons; she has been forced to inflict lessons
on others. Alice is now not only a schoolgirl but a schoolmistress. The holiday is over and Dodgson is again a don. There will be lots
and lots of examination papers, with questions like: (1) What do you know of the following; mimsy, gimble, haddocks' eyes, treacle-
wells, beautiful soup? (2) Record all the moves in the chess game in Through the Looking-Glass
, and give diagram. (3) Outline the
practical policy of the White Knight for dealing with the social problem of green whiskers. (4) Distinguish between Tweedledum and
There is much to be said for Chesterton's plea not to take Alice
too seriously. But no joke is funny unless you see the point of it, and
sometimes a point has to be explained. In the case of Alice
we are dealing with a very curious, complicated kind of nonsense, written
for British readers of another century, and we need to know a great many things that are not part of the text if we wish to capture its full
wit and flavor. It is even worse than that, for some of Carroll's jokes could be understood only by residents of Oxford, and other jokes,
still more private, could be understood only by the lovely daughters of Dean Liddell.
The fact is that Carroll's nonsense is not nearly as random and pointless as it seems to a modern American child who tries to read the Alice
books. One says "tries" because the time is past when a child under fifteen, even in England, can read Alice
with the same delight
as gained from, say, The Wind in the Willows
or The Wizard of Oz
. Children today are bewildered and sometimes frightened by the
nightmarish atmosphere of Alice's dreams. It is only because adults—scientists and mathematicians in particular—continue to relish the Alice
books that they are assured of immortality. It is only to such adults that the notes of this volume are addressed.
There are two types of notes I have done my best to avoid, not because they are difficult to do or should not be done, but because they
are so exceedingly easy to do that any clever reader can write them out for himself. I refer to allegorical and psychoanalytic exegesis.
Like Homer, the Bible, and all other great works of fantasy, the Alice
books lend themselves readily to any type of symbolic
interpretation—political, metaphysical, or Freudian. Some learned commentaries of this sort are hilarious. Shane Leslie, for instance,
writing on "Lewis Carroll and the Oxford Movement" (in the London Mercury
, July 1933), finds in Alice
a secret history of the
file:///E|/Stuff/E-Books/Alice/ALICE.HTM (5 of 223)12/22/2005 16:50:31
The Annotated Alice
religious controversies of Victorian England. The jar of orange marmalade, for example, is a symbol of Protestantism (William of
Orange; get it?). The battle of the White and Red Knights is the famous clash of Thomas Huxley and Bishop Samuel Wilberforce. The
blue Caterpillar is Benjamin Jowett, the White Queen is Cardinal John Henry Newman, the Red Queen is Cardinal Henry Manning, the
Cheshire Cat is Cardinal Nicholas Wiseman, and the Jabberwock "can only be a fearsome representation of the British view of the
Papacy. . ."
In recent years the trend has naturally been toward psychoanalytic interpretations. Alexander Woollcott once expressed relief that the
Freudians had left Alice's dreams unexplored; but that was twenty years ago and now, alas, we are all amateur head-shrinkers. We do
not have to be told what it means to tumble down a rabbit hole or curl up inside a tiny house with one foot up the chimney. The rub is
that any work of nonsense abounds with so many inviting symbols that you can start with any assumption you please about the author
and easily build up an impressive case for it. Consider, for example, the scene in which Alice seizes the end of the White King's pencil
and begins scribbling for him. In five minutes one can invent six different interpretations. Whether Carroll's unconscious had any of
them in mind, however, is an altogether dubious matter. More pertinent is the fact that Carroll was interested in psychic phenomena and
automatic writing, and the hypothesis must not be ruled out that it is only by accident that a pencil in this scene is shaped the way it is.
We must remember also that many characters and episodes in Alice
are a direct result of puns and other linguistic jokes, and would
have taken quite different forms if Carroll had been writing, say, in French. One does not need to look for an involved explanation of
the Mock Turtle; his melancholy presence is quite adequately explained by mock-turtle soup. Are the many references to eating in Alice
a sign of Carroll's "oral aggression," or did Carroll recognize that small children are obsessed by eating and like to read about it in their
books? A similar question mark applies to the sadistic elements in Alice
, which are quite mild compared with those of animated
cartoons for the past seventy years. It seems unreasonable to suppose that all the makers of animated cartoons are sado-masochists;
more reasonable to assume that they all made the same discovery about what children like to see on the screen. Carroll was a skillful
storyteller, and we should give him credit for the ability to make a similar discovery. The point here is not that Carroll was not neurotic
(we all know he was), but that books of nonsense fantasy for children are not such fruitful sources of psychoanalytic insight as one
might suppose them to be. They are much too rich in symbols. The symbols have too many explanations.
Readers who care to explore the various conflicting analytic interpretations that have been made of Alice
will find useful the references
cited in the bibliography at the back of this book. Phyllis Greenacre, a New York psychoanalyst, has made the best and most detailed
study of Carroll from this point of view. Her arguments are most ingenious, possibly true, but one wishes that she were less sure of
herself. There is a letter in which Carroll speaks of his father's death as "the greatest blow that has ever fallen on my life." In the Alice
books the most obvious mother symbols, the Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen, are heartless creatures, whereas the King of Hearts
and the White King, both likely candidates for father symbols, are amiable fellows. Suppose, however, we give all this a looking-glass
reversal and decide that Carroll had an unresolved Oedipus complex. Perhaps he identified little girls with his mother so that Alice
herself is the real mother symbol. This is Dr. Greenacre's view. She points out that the age difference between Carroll and Alice was
about the same as the age difference between Carroll and his mother, and she assures us that this "reversal of the unresolved Oedipal
attachment is quite common." According to Dr. Greenacre, the Jabberwock and Snark are screen memories of what analysts still persist
in calling the "primal scene." Maybe so; but one wonders.
The inner springs of the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson's eccentricities may be obscure, but the outer facts about his life are well
known. For almost half a century he was a resident of Christ Church, the Oxford college that was his alma mater. For more than half
that period he was a teacher of mathematics. His lectures were humorless and boring. He made no significant contributions to
mathematics, though two of his logical paradoxes, published in the journal Mind
, touch on difficult problems involving what is now
called metalogic. His books on logic and mathematics are written quaintly, with many amusing problems, but their level is elementary
and they are seldom read today.
In appearance Carroll was handsome and asymmetric—two facts that may have contributed to his interest in mirror reflections. One
shoulder was higher than the other, his smile was slightly askew, and the level of his blue eyes not quite the same. He was of moderate
height, thin, carrying himself stiffly erect and walking with a peculiar jerky gait. He was afflicted with one deaf ear and a stammer that
trembled his upper lip. Although ordained a deacon (by Bishop Wilberforce) he seldom preached because of his speech defect and he
never went on to holy orders. There is no doubt about the depth and sincerity of his Church of England views. He was orthodox in all
respects save his inability to believe in eternal damnation.
In politics he was a Tory, awed by lords and ladies and inclined to be snobbish toward inferiors. He objected strongly to profanity and
suggestive dialogue on the stage, and one of his many unfinished projects was to bowdlerize Bowdler by editing an edition of
Shakespeare suitable for young girls. He planned to do this by taking out certain passages that even Bowdler had found inoffensive. He
was so shy that he could sit for hours at a social gathering and contribute nothing to the conversation, but his shyness and stammering
"softly and suddenly vanished away" when he was alone with a child. He was a fussy, prim, fastidious, cranky, kind, gentle bachelor
whose life was sexless, uneventful, and happy. "My life is so strangely free from all trial and trouble," he once wrote, "that I cannot
doubt my own happiness is one of the talents entrusted to me to 'occupy' with, till the Master shall return, by doing something to make
other lives happy."
So far so dull. We begin to catch glimpses of a more colorful personality when we turn to Charles Dodgson's hobbies. As a child he
dabbled in puppetry and sleight of hand, and throughout his life enjoyed doing magic tricks, especially for children. He liked to form a
mouse with his handkerchief then make it jump mysteriously out of his hand. He taught children how to fold paper boats and paper
pistols that popped when swung through the air. He took up photography when the art was just beginning, specializing in portraits of
children and famous people, and composing his pictures with remarkable skill and good taste. He enjoyed games of all sorts, especially
file:///E|/Stuff/E-Books/Alice/ALICE.HTM (6 of 223)12/22/2005 16:50:31
The Annotated Alice
chess, croquet, backgammon and billiards. He invented a great many mathematical and word puzzles, games, cipher methods, and a
system for memorizing numbers (in his diary he mentions using his mnemonic system for memorizing pi
to seventy-one decimal
places). He was an enthusiastic patron of opera and the theater at a time when this was frowned upon by church officials. The famous
actress Ellen Terry was one of his lifelong friends.
Ellen Terry was an exception. Carroll's principal hobby—the hobby that aroused his greatest joys—was entertaining little girls. "I am
fond of children (except boys)," he once wrote. He professed a horror of little boys, and in later life avoided them as much as possible.
Adopting the Roman symbol for a day of good fortune, he would write in his diary, "I mark this day with a white stone" whenever he
felt it to be specially memorable. In almost every case his white-stone days were days on which he entertained a child-friend or made
the acquaintance of a new one. He thought the naked bodies of little girls (unlike the bodies of boys) extremely beautiful. Upon
occasion he sketched or photographed them in the nude, with the mother's permission, of course. "If I had the loveliest child in the
world, to draw or photograph," he wrote, "and found she had a modest shrinking (however slight, and however easily overcome) from
being taken nude, I should feel it was a solemn duty owed to God to drop the request altogether
." Lest these undraped pictures later
embarrass the girls, he requested that after his death they be destroyed or returned to the children or their parents. None seems to have
In Sylvie and Bruno Concluded
there is a passage that expresses poignantly Carroll's fixation upon little girls of all the passion of which
he was capable. The narrator of the story, a thinly disguised Charles Dodgson, recalls that only once in his life did he ever see
perfection. "... it was in a London exhibition, where, in making my way through a crowd, I suddenly met, face to face, a child of quite
unearthly beauty." Carroll never ceased looking for such a child. He became adept at meeting little girls in railway carriages and on
public beaches. A black bag that he always took with him on these seaside trips contained wire puzzles and other unusual gifts to
stimulate their interest. He even carried a supply of safety pins for pinning up the skirts of little girls when they wished to wade in the
surf. Opening gambits could be amusing. Once when he was sketching near the sea a little girl who had fallen into the water walked by
with dripping clothes. Carroll tore a corner from a piece of blotting paper and said, "May I offer you this to blot yourself up?"
A long procession of charming little girls (we know they were charming from their photographs) skipped through Carroll's life, but
none ever quite took the place of his first love, Alice Liddell. "I have had scores of child-friends since your time," he wrote to her after
her marriage, "but they have been quite a different thing." Alice was the daughter of Henry George Liddell (the name rhymes with
fiddle), the dean of Christ Church. Some notion of how attractive Alice must have been can be gained from a passage in Praeterita
fragmentary autobiography by John Ruskin. Florence Becker Lennon reprints the passage in her biography of Carroll, and it is from her
book that I shall quote.
Ruskin was at that time teaching at Oxford and he had given Alice drawing lessons. One snowy winter evening when Dean and Mrs.
Liddell were dining out, Alice invited Ruskin over for a cup of tea. "I think Alice must have sent me a little note," he writes, "when the
eastern coast of Tom Quad was clear." Ruskin had settled in an armchair by a roaring fire when the door burst open and "there was a
sudden sense of some stars having been blown out by the wind." Dean and Mrs. Liddell had returned, having found the roads blocked
"How sorry you must be to see us, Mr. Ruskin!" said Mrs. Liddell.
"I was never more so," Ruskin replied.
The dean suggested that they go back to their tea. "And so we did," Ruskin continues, "but we couldn't keep papa and mamma out of
the drawing-room when they had done dinner, and I went back to Corpus, disconsolate."
And now for the most significant part of the story. Ruskin thinks
that Alice's sisters, Edith and Rhoda, were also present, but he isn't
sure. "It is all so like a dream now," he writes. Yes, Alice must have been quite an attractive little girl.
There has been much argumentation about whether Carroll was in love with Alice Liddell. If this is taken to mean that he wanted to
marry her or make love to her, there is not the slightest evidence for it. On the other hand, his attitude toward her was the attitude of a
man in love. We do know that Mrs. Liddell sensed something unusual, took steps to discourage Carroll's attention, and later burned all
of his early letters to Alice. There is a cryptic reference in Carroll's diary on October 28, 1862, to his being out of Mrs. Liddell's good
graces "ever since Lord Newry's business." What business Lord Newry has in Carroll's diary remains to this day a tantalizing mystery.
There is no indication that Carroll was conscious of anything but the purest innocence in his relations with little girls, nor is there a hint
of impropriety in any of the fond recollections that dozens of them later wrote about him. There was a tendency in Victorian England,
reflected in the literature of the time, to idealize the beauty and virginal purity of little girls. No doubt this made it easier for Carroll to
suppose that his fondness for them was on a high spiritual level, though of course this hardly is a sufficient explanation for that
fondness. Of late Carroll has been compared with Humbert Humbert, the narrator of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita
. It is true that
both had a passion for little girls, but their goals were exactly opposite. Humbert Humbert's "nymphets" were creatures to be used
carnally. Carroll's little girls appealed to him precisely because he felt sexually safe with them. The thing that distinguishes Carroll from
other writers who lived sexless lives (Thoreau, Henry James . . .) and from writers who were strongly drawn to little girls (Poe, Ernest
Dowson . . .) was his curious combination, almost unique in literary history, of complete sexual innocence with a passion that can only
be described as thoroughly heterosexual.
Carroll enjoyed kissing his child-friends and closing letters by sending them 10,000,000 kisses, or 4¾, or a two-millionth part of a kiss.
He would have been horrified at the suggestion that a sexual element might be involved. There is one amusing record in his diary of his
having kissed one little girl, only to discover later that she was seventeen. Carroll promptly wrote a mock apology to her mother,
assuring her that it would never happen again, but the mother was not amused.
On one occasion a pretty fifteen-year-old actress named Irene Barnes (she later played the roles of White Queen and Knave of Hearts in
file:///E|/Stuff/E-Books/Alice/ALICE.HTM (7 of 223)12/22/2005 16:50:31
The Annotated Alice
the stage musical of Alice
) spent a week with Charles Dodgson at a seaside resort. "As I remember him now," Irene recalls in her
autobiography, To Tell My Story
(the passage is quoted by Roger Green in Vol. 2, page 454, of Carroll's Diary
), "he was very slight, a
little under six foot, with a fresh, youngish face, white hair, and an impression of extreme cleanliness. . . . He had a deep love for
children, though I am inclined to think not such a great understanding of them. . . . His great delight was to teach me his Game of Logic
[this was a method of solving syllogisms by placing black and red counters on a diagram of Carroll's own invention]. Dare I say this
made the evening rather long, when the band was playing outside on the parade, and the moon shining on the sea?"
It is easy to say that Carroll found an outlet for his repressions in the unrestrained, whimsically violent visions of his Alice
Victorian children no doubt enjoyed similar release. They were delighted to have at last some books without a pious moral, but Carroll
grew more and more restive with the thought that he had not yet written a book for youngsters that would convey some sort of
evangelistic Christian message. His effort in this direction was Sylvie and Bruno
, a long, fantastic novel that appeared in two separately
published parts. It contains some splendid comic scenes, and the Gardener's song, which runs like a demented fugue through the tale, is
Carroll at his best. Here is the final verse, sung by the Gardener with tears streaming down his cheeks.
He thought he saw an Argument
That proved he was the Pope:
He looked again, and found it
A Bar of Mottled Soap.
"A fact so dread," he faintly said,
"Extinguishes all hope!"
But the superb nonsense songs were not the features Carroll most admired about this story. He preferred a song sung by the two fairy
children, Sylvie and her brother Bruno, the refrain of which went:
For I think it is Love,
For I feel it is Love,
For I'm sure it is nothing but
Carroll considered this the finest poem he had ever written. Even those who may agree with the sentiment behind it, and behind other
portions of the novel that are heavily sugared with piety, find it difficult to read these portions today without embarrassment for the
author. They seem to have been written at the bottom of treacle wells. Sadly one must conclude that, on the whole, Sylvie and Bruno
both an artistic and rhetorical failure. Surely few Victorian children, for whom the story was intended, were ever moved, amused, or
elevated by it.
Ironically, it is Carroll's earlier and pagan nonsense that has, at least for a few modern readers, a more effective religious message than Sylvie and Bruno
. For nonsense, as Chesterton liked to tell us, is a way of looking at existence that is akin to religious humility and
wonder. The Unicorn thought Alice a fabulous monster. It is part of the philosophic dullness of our time that there are millions of
rational monsters walking about on their hind legs, observing the world through pairs of flexible little lenses, periodically supplying
themselves with energy by pushing organic substances through holes in their faces, who see nothing fabulous whatever about
themselves. Occasionally the noses of these creatures are shaken by momentary paroxysms. Kierkegaard once imagined a philosopher
sneezing while recording one of his profound sentences. How could such a man, Kierkegaard wondered, take his metaphysics seriously?
The last level of metaphor in the Alice
books is this: that life, viewed rationally and without illusion, appears to be a nonsense tale told
by an idiot mathematician. At the heart of things science finds only a mad, never-ending quadrille of Mock Turtle Waves and Gryphon
Particles. For a moment the waves and particles dance in grotesque, inconceivably complex patterns capable of reflecting on their own
absurdity. We all live slapstick lives, under an inexplicable sentence of death, and when we try to find out what the Castle authorities
want us to do, we are shifted from one bumbling bureaucrat to another. We are not even sure that Count West-West, the owner of the
Castle, really exists. More than one critic has commented on the similarities between Kafka's Trial
and the trial of the Jack of Hearts;
between Kafka's Castle
and a chess game in which living pieces are ignorant of the game's plan and cannot tell if they move of their
own wills or are being pushed by invisible fingers.
This vision of the monstrous mindlessness of the cosmos ("Off with its head!") can be grim and disturbing, as it is in Kafka and the
Book of Job, or lighthearted comedy, as in Alice
or Chesterton's The Man Who Was Thursday
. When Sunday, the symbol of God in
Chesterton's metaphysical nightmare, flings little messages to his pursuers, they turn out to be nonsense messages. One of them is even
signed Snowdrop, the name of Alice's White Kitten. It is a vision that can lead to despair and suicide, to the laughter that closes Jean
Paul Sartre's story "The Wall," to the humanist's resolve to carry on bravely in the face of ultimate darkness. Curiously, it can also
suggest the wild hypothesis that there may be a light behind the darkness.
Laughter, declares Reinhold Niebuhr in one of his finest sermons, is a kind of no man's land between faith and despair. We preserve our
sanity by laughing at life's surface absurdities, but the laughter turns to bitterness and derision if directed toward the deeper
irrationalities of evil and death. "That is why," he concludes, "there is laughter in the vestibule of the temple, the echo of laughter in the
temple itself, but only faith and prayer, and no laughter, in the holy of holies."
file:///E|/Stuff/E-Books/Alice/ALICE.HTM (8 of 223)12/22/2005 16:50:31
The Annotated Alice
Lord Dunsany said the same thing this way in The Gods of Pagana
. The speaker is Limpang-Tung, the god of mirth and melodious
"I will send jests into the world and a little mirth. And while Death seems to thee as far away as the purple rim of hills, or sorrow as far
off as rain in the blue days of summer, then pray to Limpang-Tung. But when thou growest old, or ere thou diest, pray not to Limpang-
Tung, for thou becomest part of a scheme that he doth not understand.
"Go out into the starry night, and Limpang-Tung will dance with thee. ... Or offer up a jest to Limpang-Tung; only pray not in thy
sorrow to Limpang-Tung, for he saith of sorrow: 'It may be very clever of the gods, but he doth not understand.' "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
and Through the Looking-Glass
are two incomparable jests that the Reverend C. L. Dodgson, on a
mental holiday from Christ Church chores, once offered up to Limpang-Tung. INTRODUCTION TO More Annotated Alice
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, was a shy, eccentric bachelor who taught mathematics at Christ Church,
Oxford. He had a great fondness for playing with mathematics, logic, and words, for writing nonsense, and for the company of
attractive little girls. Somehow these passions magically fused to produce two immortal fantasies, written for his most-loved child-
friend, Alice Liddell, daughter of the Christ Church dean. No one suspected at the time that those two books would become classics of
English literature. And no one could have guessed that Carroll's fame would eventually surpass that of Alice's father and of all Carroll's
colleagues at Oxford.
No other books written for children are more in need of explication than the Alice
books. Much of their wit is interwoven with
Victorian events and customs unfamiliar to American readers today, and even to readers in England. Many jokes in the books could be
appreciated only by Oxford residents, and others were private jokes intended solely for Alice. It was to throw as much light as I could
on these obscurities that forty years ago I wrote The Annotated Alice
There was little in that volume that could not be found scattered among the pages of books about Carroll. My task then was not to do
original research but to take all I could find from the existing literature that would make the Alice
books more enjoyable to
During the forty years that followed, public and scholarly interest in Lewis Carroll has grown at a remarkable rate. The Lewis Carroll
Society was formed in England, and its lively periodical, Jabberwocky
(now retitled The Carrollian
), has appeared quarterly since its
first issue in 1969. The Lewis Carroll Society of North America, under the leadership of Stan Marx, came into existence in 1974. New
biographies of Carroll— and one of Alice Liddell!—as well as books about special aspects of Carroll's life and writings have been
published. That indispensable guide for collectors, The Lewis Carroll Handbook
, was revised and updated in 1962 by the late Roger
Green, and updated again in 1979 by Denis Crutch. Papers about Carroll turned up with increasing frequency in academic journals.
There were new collections of essays about Carroll, and new bibliographies. The two-volume Letters of Lewis Carroll
, edited by
Morton H. Cohen, was published in 1979. Michael Hancher's The Tenniel Illustrations to the ‘Alice’ Books
came out in 1985.
New editions of Alice
, as well as reprintings of Alice's Adventures Under Ground
(the original story hand-lettered and illustrated by
Carroll as a gift to Alice Liddell), and The Nursery "Alice"
(Carroll's retelling of the story for very young readers) rolled off presses
around the world. Several editions of Alice
were newly annotated—one by the British philosopher Peter Heath. Other editions were
given new illustrations by distinguished graphic artists. Some notion of the vastness of this literature can be gained by leafing through
the 253 pages of Edward Guiliano's Lewis Carroll: An Annotated International Bibliography, 1960-77
, already more than two decades
behind the times.
Since 1960 Alice has been the star of endless screen, television, and radio productions around the world. Poems and songs in the Alice
books have been given new melodies by modern composers—one of them Steve Allen, for CBS's 1985 musical. David Del Tredici has
been writing his brilliant symphonic works based on Alice
themes. Glen Tetley's "Alice" ballet, featuring Del Tredici's music, was
produced in Manhattan in 1986. Morton Cohen, who knows more about Dodgson than any other living person, published in 1995 his
biography Lewis Carroll
, which contained many startling revelations.
While all this was going on, hundreds of readers of AA
sent me letters that called attention to aspects of Carroll's text I had failed to
appreciate and that suggested where old notes could be improved and new ones added. When those letters reached the top of a large
carton, I said to myself that the time had come to publish this new material. Should I try to revise and update the original book? Or
should I write a sequel called More Annotated Alice
? I finally decided that a sequel would be better. Readers who owned the original
would not find it obsolete. There would be no need to compare its pages with those in a revised edition to see where fresh notes had
been added. And it would have been a horrendous task to squeeze all the new notes into the marginal spaces of the original book.
A sequel also offered an opportunity to introduce readers to different illustrations. It is true that Tenniel's drawings are eternally part of
"canon," but they are readily accessible in The Annotated Alice
, as well as in scores of other editions currently in print. Peter
Newell was not the first graphic artist after Tenniel to illustrate Alice
, but he was the first to do so in a memorable way. An edition of
file:///E|/Stuff/E-Books/Alice/ALICE.HTM (9 of 223)12/22/2005 16:50:31
The Annotated Alice
the first Alice
book with forty plates by Newell was published by Harper and Brothers in 1901, followed by the second Alice
again with forty plates, in 1902. Both volumes are now costly collector's items. Whatever readers may think of Newell's art, I believe
they will find it refreshing to see Alice and her friends through another artist's imagination.
Newell's fascinating article on his approach to Alice
is reprinted here, followed by the latest and best of several essays about Newell and
his work. I had planned to discuss Newell in this introduction until I discovered that my friend Michael Hearn, author of The Annotated
Wizard of Oz
and other books, had said everything in an essay that I could have said and much more.
The famous lost episode about a wasp in a wig—Carroll deleted it from the second Alice
book after Tenniel complained that he couldn't
draw a wasp and thought the book would be better without the episode—is included here at the back of the book, rather than in the
chapter about the White Knight where Carroll had intended it to go. The episode was first published in 1977 as a chapbook by the
Lewis Carroll Society of North America, with my introduction and notes. This book is now out of print, and I am pleased to have
obtained permission to include the entire volume here.
A few errors in the introduction to The Annotated Alice
need correcting. I spoke of Shane Leslie's essay, "Lewis Carroll and the Oxford
Movement," as though it were serious criticism. Readers were quick to inform me it is no such thing. It was intended to spoof the
compulsion of some scholars to search for improbable symbolism in Alice
. I said that none of Carroll's photographs of naked little girls
seemed to have survived. Four such pictures, hand colored, later turned up in the Carroll collection of the Rosenbach Foundation in
Philadelphia. They are reproduced in Lewis Carroll's Photographs of Nude Children
, a handsome monograph published by the
foundation in 1979, with an introduction by Professor Cohen.
There has been considerable speculation among Carrollians about whether Carroll was "in love" with the real Alice. We know that Mrs.
Liddell sensed something unusual in his attitude toward her daughter, took steps to discourage his attentions, and eventually burned all
his early letters to Alice. My introduction mentioned a cryptic reference in Carroll's diary (October 28, 1862) to his being out of Mrs.
Liddell's good graces "ever since Lord Newry's business." When Viscount Newry, age eighteen, was an undergraduate at Christ
Church, Mrs. Liddell hoped he might marry one of her daughters. In 1862 Lord Newry wanted to give a ball, which was against college
rules. He petitioned the faculty for permission, with Mrs. Liddell's support, but was turned down. Carroll had voted against him. Does
this fully explain Mrs. Liddell's antagonism? Or was her anger reinforced by a feeling that Carroll himself wished someday to marry
Alice? For Mrs. Liddell this was out of the question, not only because of the large age difference, but also because she considered
Carroll too low on the social scale.
The page in Carroll's diary that covered the date of his break with Mrs. Liddell was cut from the volume by an unknown member of the
Carroll family and was presumably destroyed. Alice's son Caryl Hargreaves is on record as having said he thought Carroll was
romantically in love with his mother, and there are other indications, not yet made public, that Carroll may have expressed marital
intentions to Alice's parents. Anne Clark, in her biographies of Carroll and of Alice, is convinced that some sort of proposal was made.
The question was thoroughly dealt with in Morton Cohen's biography of Carroll. Professor Cohen originally thought Carroll never
considered marrying anyone, but Cohen later altered his opinion. Here is how he explained it in an interview published in Soaring with
(Lewis Carroll Society of North America, 1982), a collection of essays edited by Edward Guiliano and James Kincaid:
Actually, I didn't change my mind recently; I changed it in 1969 when I
first got a photocopy of the diaries from the family. When I sat down and
read through the diaries—the complete diaries not just the published
excerpts—somewhere between 25 and 40% was never published, and naturally
those unpublished bits and pieces are enormously significant. Those were
the parts that the family decided should not be published. Roger Lancelyn
Green, who edited the diaries, actually never even saw the full
unpublished diaries because he worked from an edited typescript. When I
first read through the unpublished portions of the diaries, however, I
realized that another dimension to Lewis Carroll's "romanticism" existed.
Of course it is pretty hard to reconcile the stern Victorian clergyman
with the man who favored little girls to a point where he would want to
propose marriage to one or more of them. I believe now that he made some
sort of proposal of marriage to the Liddells, not saying "may I marry your
eleven-year-old daughter," or anything like that, but perhaps advancing
some meek suggestion that after six or eight years, if we feel the same
way that we feel now, might some kind of alliance be possible? I believe
also that he went on later on to think of the possibility of marrying
other girls, and I think that he would have married. He was a marrying
man. I very firmly believe that he would have been happier married than as
a bachelor, and I think one of the tragedies of his life was that he never
managed to marry.
Some critics have likened Carroll to Humbert Humbert, the narrator of Vladimir Nabokov's novel Lolita
. Both were indeed attracted to
what Nabokov called nymphets, but their motives were quite different. Lewis Carroll's little girls may have appealed to him precisely
because he felt sexually secure with them. There was a tendency in Victorian England, reflected in much of its literature and art, to
idealize the beauty and virginal purity of little girls. This surely made it easier for Carroll to take for granted that his fondness for them
file:///E|/Stuff/E-Books/Alice/ALICE.HTM (10 of 223)12/22/2005 16:50:31