Friday, March 8, 2013

Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (born January 27, 1832 in Daresbury, Cheshire, England; died 1898). He was the oldest son in a family of 11 children, his father was a clergyman. He was a lecturer in mathematics, a poet and an early photographer.

Alice Liddell, the daughter of Henry George Liddell, was the inspiration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (published 1865) which began as a story Dodgeson told to her and her sisters. The story was written down later and the novelist Henry Kingsley urged Carroll to publish it. It proved very popular and in 1871 the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There was published. 

This volume contains both books and I found the first one to be a better tale. Both stories are about what happens in Alice's dreams (or someone's dream anyway) and are full of nonsense verse and wordplay. Alice's Adventures has a stronger narrative line while Through the Looking-glass wanders about a great deal and relies on the dream phenomenon of suddenly finding oneself in a different location to move the story along. Looking-glass also has a lot of poems in it--Alice in not entirely happy about this which I thought was funny--which made the story seem a bit padded. There is an excellent section where the first stanza of "Jabberwocky" is explained by Humpty Dumpty.
The advice of the Cheshire cat (in Wonderland) was one of my favorite bits.
"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where--" Alice began.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"Just so long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough." 

Humpty Dumpty's contention (in Looking-glass) that words mean just what he chooses them to mean "neither more nor less," and "which is to be master," him or the words is also quite wonderful.

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