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Reverend Dodgson

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) is a novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells the story of a girl named Alice who falls down a rabbit-hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar and anthropomorphic creatures.

The tale is filled with allusions to Dodgson's friends (and enemies), and to the lessons that British schoolchildren were expected to memorize. The tale plays with logic in ways that have made the story of lasting popularity with adults as well as children. It is considered to be one of the most characteristic examples of the genre of literary nonsense, and its narrative course and structure has been enormously influential, mainly in the fantasy genre (see Works influenced by Alice in Wonderland).

The book is commonly referred to by the abbreviated title Alice in Wonderland, an alternative title popularized by the numerous stage, film and television adaptations of the story produced over the years. Some printings of this title contain both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.

History

Alice was first published on 4 July 1865, exactly three years after the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and the Reverend Robinson Duckworth rowed in a boat up the River Thames with three little girls:

  • Lorina Charlotte Liddell (aged 13) ("Prima" in the book's prefatory verse)
  • Alice Pleasance Liddell (aged 10) ("Secunda" in the prefatory verse)
  • Edith Mary Liddell (aged 8) ("Tertia" in the prefatory verse)

(The three girls were the daughters of Henry George Liddell, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and Dean of Christ Church as well as headmaster of Westminster School. Most of the book's adventures were based on and influenced by people, situations and buildings in Oxford, England and at Christ Church. I.E. The "Rabbit Hole" which symbolized the actual stairs in the back of the main hall in Christ Church.)

The journey had started at Folly Bridge near Oxford and ended five miles away in the village of Godstow. To while away time the Reverend Dodgson told the girls a story that, not so coincidentally, featured a bored little girl named Alice who goes looking for an adventure.

The girls loved it, and Alice Liddell asked Dodgson to write it down for her. After a lengthy delay - over two years - he eventually did so and on 26 November 1864 gave Alice the manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground. Some, including Martin Gardner, speculate there was an earlier version that was destroyed later by Dodgson himself when he printed a more elaborate copy by hand (Gardner, 1965), but there is no known prima facie evidence to support this. But before Alice received her copy, Dodgson was already preparing it for publication and expanding the 18,000-word original to 35,000 words, most notably adding the episodes about the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Tea-Party. In 1865, Dodgson's tale was published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by "Lewis Carroll" with illustrations by John Tenniel. The first print run of 2,000 was destroyed because Tenniel had objections over the print quality. (Only 23 copies are known to have survived; 18 are owned by major archives or libraries, such as the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, while the other five are held in private hands.) A new edition, released in December of the same year but carrying an 1866 date, was quickly printed.

The entire print run sold out quickly. Alice was a publishing sensation, beloved by children and adults alike. Among its first avid readers were young Oscar Wilde and Queen Victoria. The book has never been out of print. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has been translated into 125 languages, including Esperanto and Faroese. There have now been over a hundred editions of the book, as well as countless adaptations in other media, especially theatre and film.

Publishing highlights

  • 1865: Alice has its first American printing.
  • 1871: Dodgson meets another Alice during his time in London, Alice Raikes, and talks with her about her reflection in a mirror, leading to another book Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, which sells even better.
  • 1886: Carroll publishes a facsimile of the earlier Alice's Adventures Under Ground manuscript.
  • 1890: He publishes The Nursery "Alice", a special edition "to be read by Children aged from Nought to Five."
  • 1908: Alice has its first translation into Japanese.
  • 1960: American writer Martin Gardner publishes a special edition, The Annotated Alice, incorporating the text of both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. It has extensive annotations explaining the hidden allusions in the books, and includes full texts of the Victorian era poems parodied in them. Later editions expand on these annotations.
  • 1961: The Folio Society publication with 42 illustrations by John Tenniel.
  • 1964: Alicia in Terra Mirabili is published: the first Latin translation of the book.
  • 1998: One of the few surviving copies of the 1865 first edition is sold at auction for US$1.5 million, becoming the most expensive children's book ever traded. This record was effaced when a Harry Potter book by J.K. Rowling, The Tales of Beedle the Bard, was sold at auction at US$3.9 million in 2007.

Synopsis

Chapter 1: Down the Rabbit Hole

Alice is bored of sitting on the riverbank with her sister, who is reading a book. Suddenly she sees a white rabbit run past wearing a coat and carrying a watch, lamenting running late. She follows it down a rabbit hole and falls very slowly down a tunnel lined with curious objects. She lands in a long hallway lined with locked doors. She finds a little key sitting on a glass table. Behind a curtain on the wall she finds a tiny door that opens with the key and leads into a beautiful garden. The door however is too small for Alice to fit through. Looking back at the table she sees a bottle labelled "DRINK ME" that was not there before. She drinks and it causes her to shrink to a size small enough to fit through the door. Unfortunately Alice has left the key high above on the table. She finds a box under the table in which there is a cake with the words "EAT ME" on it. She eats it, thinking that if it makes her smaller she can creep under the door and if it makes her larger she can get the key.

Chapter 2: The Pool of Tears

The cake makes Alice grow so tall that her head hits the ceiling. Getting frustrated, she cries. Her tears flood the hallway. The White Rabbit runs by and is so frightened by Alice that he drops the gloves and fan he is holding. She fans herself with the fan and starts to wonder if she is still the same person that she was before. The fan causes her to shrink again. Alice swims through her own tears and meets a mouse, who is swimming as well. She tries to make small talk with him but all she can think of talking about is her cat, which offends the mouse. The pool becomes crowded with other animals and birds that have been swept away. They all swim to shore.

Chapter 3: A Caucus Race and a Long Tale

The first question is how to get dry again. The mouse gives them a very dry lecture on William the Conqueror. A Dodo decides that the best thing to dry them off would be a Caucus-Race. The Dodo marks out a race course in a sort of circle and the racers begin running whenever they feel like it, and everyone wins. Alice reaches into her pocket and finds a box of comfits which she distributes among the winners. The animals then beg the mouse to tell them something more and he recites a tale about a mouse and Fury. Alice mistakes his tale for his tail. This insults him and he leaves. She starts talking about her cat again, which frightens the rest of the animals away.

Chapter 4: The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill

The White Rabbit appears again and orders Alice to go back to his house and fetch him his gloves and fan. Inside, she finds another bottle and drinks from it. Alice grows so large that she has to stick one arm out the window and her foot up the chimney. The horrified Rabbit orders his gardener, a lizard named Bill, to climb on the roof and go down the chimney. As Bill slides down the chimney Alice kicks him out with her foot, shooting him up into the sky. Outside Alice hears the voices of animals that have gathered to gawk at her giant arm. The crowd hurls pebbles at her, which turn into little cakes that shrink Alice down again. She runs into the woods, where she decides that she must get back to her right size and she must find the lovely garden. Suddenly Alice is confronted by a giant puppy. She picks up a stick and teases him with it until he is tired and she can run away. She comes upon a mushroom and sitting on it is a caterpillar smoking a hookah.

Chapter 5: Advice from a Caterpillar

The Caterpillar questions Alice and she admits to her current identity crisis. He asks her to recite "You Are Old, Father William". She does so, but it comes out with many errors. She insults him by saying that three inches is a wretched height to be (he himself is three inches tall). The Caterpillar crawls away into the grass, telling Alice that one side of the mushroom will make her taller and the other side will make her shorter. She breaks off two pieces from the mushroom. One side makes her shrink smaller than ever, while another causes her neck to grow high into the trees, where a pigeon mistakes her for a serpent. With some effort, Alice brings herself back to her usual height. She stumbles upon a small estate and uses the mushroom to reach a more appropriate height.

Chapter 6: Pig and Pepper

A Fish-Footman has an invitation for the Duchess of the house, which he delivers to a Frog-Footman. Alice observes this transaction and, after a perplexing conversation with the frog, welcomes herself into the house. The Duchess' Cook is throwing dishes and making a soup which has too much pepper, which causes Alice, the Duchess and her baby (but not the cook or her grinning Cheshire-Cat) to sneeze violently. The Duchess tosses her baby up and down while reciting the poem "Speak roughly to your little boy." The Duchess gives Alice the baby while she leaves to go play croquet with the Queen. To Alice's surprise, the baby later turns into a pig, so she sets it free in the woods. The Cheshire-Cat appears in a tree, directing her to the March Hare's house. He disappears but his grin remains behind to float on its own in the air.

Chapter 7: A Mad Tea Party

Alice becomes a guest at a mad tea party, along with the Hatter, the March Hare, and the Dormouse. In the course of the party, Alice reveals that the date is May 4 (which happens to be the birthday of her presumed real-life counterpart, Alice Pleasance Liddell). The other characters give Alice many riddles and stories, until she becomes so insulted that she leaves, claiming that it was the stupidest tea party that she had ever been to. Alice comes upon a door in a tree, and enters it, and finds herself back in the long hallway. She opens the door, eats part of her mushroom, and shrinks so she can get into the beautiful garden.

Chapter 8: The Queen's Croquet Ground

Now in the beautiful garden, she comes upon three living playing cards painting the white roses on a rose tree red because the Queen of Hearts hates white roses. A procession of more cards, kings and queens and even the White Rabbit enters the garden. Alice meets the violent Queen and pacifying King of Hearts. The Queen orders "Off with their heads!" when she sees the work of the gardeners. A game of croquet begins, with flamingoes as the mallets and hedgehogs as the balls. The Queen condemns more people to death, and Alice once again meets the Cheshire Cat. The Queen of Hearts then debates chopping off the Cat's head, even though that is all there is of him. Alice suggests talking to the Duchess, so the Queen orders the Duchess out of prison.

Chapter 9: The Mock Turtle's story

The Duchess is brought to the croquet ground. She is now less angry and is always trying to find morals in things. The Queen of Hearts dismisses her on the threat of execution and introduces Alice to the Gryphon, who takes her to the Mock Turtle. The Mock Turtle is very sad, even though he has no sorrow. He tries to tell his story about how he used to be a real turtle in school, which The Gryphon interrupts so they can play a game.

Chapter 10: The Lobster Quadrille

The Mock Turtle and the Gryphon dance to the Lobster Quadrille, while Alice recites (rather incorrectly) "Tis the Voice of the Lobster." The Mock Turtle sings them "Beautiful Soup" during which the Gryphon drags Alice away for an impending trial.

Chapter 11: Who Stole the Tarts?

At the trial, the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing the tarts. The jury box is made up of twelve animals, including Bill the Lizard, and the judge is the King of Hearts. The first witness is the Mad Hatter, who doesn't help the case at all, followed by the Duchess's Cook. During the proceedings, Alice finds that she is steadily growing larger when she is suddenly called as a witness herself.

Chapter 12: Alice's Evidence

Alice accidentally knocks over the jury box as she stands in alarm. She argues with the King and Queen of Hearts over the ridiculous proceedings, eventually refusing to hold her tongue. The Queen shouts her familiar "Off with her head!" but Alice is unafraid, calling them out as just a pack of cards. Alice's sister wakes her up for tea, brushing what turns out to be some leaves and not a shower of playing cards from Alice's face. Alice leaves her sister on the bank to imagine all the curious happenings for herself.

Characters in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Misconception of characters

Although Tweedledee, Tweedledum, Humpty Dumpty, and the Jabberwock are often thought to be characters in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, they actually only appear later in Through the Looking-Glass. They are, however, often included in film versions, which are usually simply called "Alice in Wonderland," often causing the confusion.

Character allusions

The members of the boating party that first heard Carroll's tale all show up in Chapter 3 ("A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale") in one form or another. There is, of course, Alice herself, while Carroll, or Charles Dodgson, is caricatured as the Dodo. Carroll is known as the Dodo because Dodgson stuttered when he spoke, thus if he spoke his last name it would be Do-Do-Dodgson. The Duck refers to Rev. Robinson Duckworth, the Lory to Lorina Liddell, and the Eaglet to Edith Liddell.

Bill the Lizard may be a play on the name of Benjamin Disraeli. One of Tenniel's illustrations in Through the Looking-Glass depicts a caricature of Disraeli, wearing a paper hat, as a passenger on a train. The illustrations of the Lion and the Unicorn also bear a striking resemblance to Tenniel's Punch illustrations of Gladstone and Disraeli.

The Hatter is most likely a reference to Theophilus Carter, a furniture dealer known in Oxford for his unorthodox inventions. Tenniel apparently drew the Hatter to resemble Carter, on a suggestion of Carroll's.

The Dormouse tells a story about three little sisters named Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie. These are the Liddell sisters: Elsie is L.C. (Lorina Charlotte), Tillie is Edith (her family nickname is Matilda), and Lacie is an anagram of Alice.

The Mock Turtle speaks of a Drawling-master, "an old conger eel", that used to come once a week to teach "Drawling, Stretching, and Fainting in Coils". This is a reference to the art critic John Ruskin, who came once a week to the Liddell house to teach the children drawing, sketching, and painting in oils. (The children did, in fact, learn well; Alice Liddell, for one, produced a number of skilled watercolours.)

The Mock Turtle also sings "Turtle Soup". This is a parody of a song called "Star of the Evening, Beautiful Star", which was performed as a trio by Lorina, Alice and Edith Liddell for Lewis Carroll in the Liddell home during the same summer in which he first told the story of Alice's Adventures Under Ground (source: the diary of Lewis Carroll, August 1, 1862 entry).

Contents

Poems and songs

Tenniel's illustrations

John Tenniel's illustrations of Alice do not portray the real Alice Liddell, who had dark hair and a short fringe. Carroll sent Tenniel a photograph of Mary Hilton Babcock, another child-friend, but whether Tenniel actually used Babcock as his model is open to dispute.

Famous lines and expressions

The term "Wonderland", from the title, has entered the language and refers to a marvellous imaginary place, or else a real-world place that one perceives to have dream like qualities. It challenges and takes on real-life matters. It, like much of the Alice work, is widely referred to in popular culture.

"Down the Rabbit-Hole", the Chapter 1 title, has become a popular term for going on an adventure into the unknown. In computer gaming, a "rabbit hole" may refer to the initiating element that drives the player to enter the game. In drug culture, "going down the rabbit hole" is a metaphor for taking drugs.

In Chapter 6, the Cheshire Cat's disappearance prompts Alice to say one of her most memorable lines: "...a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!"

In Chapter 7, the Hatter gives his famous riddle without an answer: "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" Although Carroll intended the riddle to have no solution, in a new preface to the 1896 edition of Alice, he proposes several answers: "Because it can produce a few notes, though… they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!" (Note the spelling of "never" as "nevar"—turning it into "raven" when inverted. This spelling, however, was "corrected" in later editions to "never" and Carroll's pun was lost.) Puzzle expert Sam Loyd offered the following solutions:

  • Because the notes for which they are noted are not noted for being musical notes
  • Poe wrote on both
  • They both have inky quills ("inkwells")
  • Bills and tales ("tails") are among their characteristics
  • Because they both stand on their legs, conceal their steels ("steals"), and ought to be made to shut up

Many other answers are listed in The Annotated Alice. In Frank Beddor's novel Seeing Redd, the main antagonist, Queen Redd (a megalomaniac parody of the Queen of Hearts) meets Lewis Carroll and declares that the answer to the riddle is "Because I say so." Carroll is too terrified to contradict her.

Arguably the most famous quote is used when the Queen of Hearts screams "Off with her head!" at Alice (and everyone else she feels slightly annoyed with). Possibly Carroll here was echoing a scene in Shakespeare's Richard III (III, iv, 76) where Richard demands the execution of Lord Hastings, crying "Off with his head!"

When Alice is growing taller after eating the cake labeled "Eat me" she says, "curiouser and curiouser", a famous line that is still used today to describe an event with extraordinary wonder.

Symbolism in the text

References to mathematics

Since Carroll was a mathematician at Christ Church, it has been suggested that there are many references and mathematical concepts in both this story and also in Through the Looking-Glass; examples include:

  • In chapter 1, "Down the Rabbit-Hole", in the midst of shrinking, Alice waxes philosophic concerning what final size she will end up as, perhaps "going out altogether, like a candle."; this pondering reflects the concept of a limit.
  • In chapter 2, "The Pool of Tears", Alice tries to perform multiplication but produces some odd results: "Let me see: four times five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is--oh dear! I shall never get to twenty at that rate!". This explores the representation of numbers using different bases and positional numeral systems (4 x 5 = 12 in base 18 notation; 4 x 6 = 13 in base 21 notation. 4 x 7 could be 14 in base 24 notation, following the sequence).
  • In chapter 5, "Advice from a Caterpillar", the Pigeon asserts that little girls are some kind of serpent, for both little girls and serpents eat eggs. This general concept of abstraction occurs widely in many fields of science; an example in mathematics of employing this reasoning would be in the substitution of variables.
  • In chapter 7, "A Mad Tea-Party", the March Hare, the Mad Hatter, and the Dormouse give several examples in which the semantic value of a sentence A is not the same value of the inverse of A (for example, "Why, you might just as well say that 'I see what I eat' is the same thing as 'I eat what I see'!"); in logic and mathematics, this is discussing an inverse relationship.
  • Also in chapter 7, Alice ponders what it means when the changing of seats around the circular table places them back at the beginning. This is an observation of addition on a ring of the integers modulo N.

References to the French language

It has been suggested by several people including Martin Gardner and Selwyn Goodacre that Dodgson had an interest in the French language, choosing to make references and puns about it in the story. It is most likely that these are references to French lessons which would have been a common feature of a Victorian middle-class girl's upbringing. A sampling of these include:

  • In chapter 2, "The Pool of Tears", Alice imagines sending a present to her own foot; she addresses the foot as Alice's Right Foot, Esq.. Esquire is the description of a person whose gender is male; it has been suggested that this is a play on the French word for foot. The word in French is le pied, and due to the rules of the language concerning noun gender, will always be addressed as masculine regardless of the gender of the owner of the foot.
  • Also in chapter 2, Alice posits that the mouse may be French and chooses to speak the first sentence of her French lesson-book to it: "Où est ma chatte?'", or "Where is my cat?"

References to classical languages

  • In chapter 2, Alice initially addresses the mouse as "O Mouse", based on her vague memory of the noun declensions in her brother's textbook: "A mouse (nominative)-- of a mouse (genitive)-- to a mouse (dative)-- a mouse (accusative)-- O mouse! (vocative)". This corresponds to the traditional order that was established by Byzantine grammarians (and is still in standard use, except in the United Kingdom and some countries in Western Europe) for the five cases of Classical Greek; because of the absence of the ablative case, which Greek does not have but is found in Latin, the reference is apparently not to the latter as some have supposed.

Historical references

  • In chapter 8, three cards are painting the roses on a rose tree red, for they accidentally planted a white-rose tree which the Queen of Hearts hates. Red roses symbolized the English House of Lancaster, while white roses were the symbol for their rival House of York. Therefore, this scene may contain a hidden allusion to the Wars of the Roses.

Cinematic adaptations

PD:public domain

Live performance

With the immediate popularity of the book, it didn't take long for live performances to begin. One early example is Alice in Wonderland, a musical play by H. Saville Clark (book) and Walter Slaughter (music), which played in 1886 at the Prince of Wales Theatre in London.

As the book and its sequel are Carroll's most widely recognized works, they have also inspired numerous live performances, including plays, operas, ballets, and traditional English pantomimes. These works range from adaptations which are fairly faithful to the original book to those which use the story as a basis for new works. A good example of the latter is The Eighth Square, a murder mystery set in Wonderland, written by Matthew Fleming and music and lyrics by Ben J Macpherson. This goth-toned rock musical premiered in 2006 at the New Theatre Royal in Portsmouth, England.

Over the years, many notable people in the performing arts have been involved in Alice productions. Actress Eva Le Gallienne famously adapted both Alice books for the stage in 1932; this production has been revived in New York in 1947 and 1982. One of the most well-known American productions was Joseph Papp's 1980 staging of Alice in Concert at the Public Theater in New York City. Elizabeth Swados wrote the book, lyrics, and music. Based on both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, Papp and Swados had previously produced a version of it at the New York Shakespeare Festival. Meryl Streep played Alice, the White Queen, and Humpty Dumpty. The cast also included Debbie Allen, Michael Jeter, and Mark Linn-Baker. Performed on a bare stage with the actors in modern dress, the play is a loose adaptation, with song styles ranging the globe. This production can be found on DVD.

A free theatre script of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is available from FunAntics Theater Scripts here It includes the original poems that schoolchildren were expected to recite such as "You are Old Father William" and "The Voice of the Sluggard" which Lewis Carroll satirized.

Similarly, the 1992 operatic production Alice used both Alice books as its inspiration. However, it also employs scenes with Charles Dodgson, a young Alice Liddell, and an adult Alice Liddell, to frame the story. Paul Schmidt wrote the play, with Tom Waits and Kathleen Brennan writing the music. Although the original production in Hamburg, Germany, received only a small audience, Tom Waits released the songs as the album Alice in 2002, to much acclaim.

In addition to professional performances, school productions abound. Both high schools and colleges have staged numerous versions of Alice-inspired performances. The imaginative story and large number of characters are well-suited to such productions.

A large-scale operatic adaptation of the story by the Korean composer Unsuk Chin to an English language libretto by David Henry Hwang received its world premiere at the Bavarian State Opera on June 30, 2007.

Criticism

The book was generally received in a positive light, but has also caught a large amount of derision for its strange and unpredictable tone. One of the best-known critics is fantasy writer Terry Pratchett, who has openly stated that he dislikes the book.

In 1931, the book was banned in Hunan, China because "animals should not use human language" and it "put animals and human beings on the same level.

Works influenced

Alice and the rest of Wonderland continue to inspire or influence many other works of art to this day, sometimes indirectly via the Disney movie, for example. The character of the plucky, yet proper, Alice has proven immensely popular and inspired similar heroines in literature and pop culture, many also named Alice in homage.

Media

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, read aloud by the LibriVox project:

Other tributes to the story

The town of Warrington in Cheshire, the nearest town to the village of Daresbury where the Reverend Dodgson lived and worked, has several statues of figures from the story. The figures show the scene of the tea party, whilst allowing room for viewers to sit at the table with the characters. The church in Daresbury, likewise, memorialises the story in several stained glass windows.

See also

References

External links

Online texts

Illustrations

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