“Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.”
~ The Duchess, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland“
On the 4th of July in 1862, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, his friend reverend Canon Duckworth, and the sisters Alice, Lorina and Edith Liddell were on a boat trip on the Isis River in Oxford. Alice grew bored, and asked to be told a story with “lots of nonsense in it”. Dodgson proceeded to tell the girls a story that he made up as he went along, and “Alice’s Adventures” began.
After telling the girls more and more of the story on different trips, Alice loved it so much that she asked that Dodgson write it down for her. He wrote a manuscript, complete with illustrations, and gave it to Alice as a Christmas gift. Later, Dodgson’s friend and novelist Henry Kingsley saw the manuscript and encouraged him to publish the book. Dodgson asked advice from his other friend, George MacDonald, an author of children’s stories, who took the manuscript home to read to his children. His six-year-old son Greville declared that he “wished there were 60,000 copies of it”, so Dodgson decided to publish it. After a few revisions and changes, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was published (under Dodgson’s pen name “Lewis Caroll”) on July 4, 1865, exactly three years from the date of that first boating trip .
Everyone knows the story of Alice in Wonderland, and has seen the movie(s) that the story has inspired, but “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was never required reading for me in school. There have been several books that I’ve read, either having seen the films or seeing the films after, and I’ve always enjoyed reading the books – there are always insights that the films have a hard time showing – details that are always cut out for time or other purposes.
What I never realized about “Alice in Wonderland” was how brilliantly the story was written. Even though the original tale was requested to be “full of nonsense”, Caroll actually weaved very clever trans-language puns and inside jokes (most of them mathematical, as he was actually a mathematician, not a children’s author) into the final version. Even almost all the poems in the book were actually parodies on popular English poetry of the time.
I also didn’t remember that there was a second installation of Alice’s adventures. “Through the Looking Glass” is Lewis Caroll’s second Alice book, and Walt Disney decided to merge the stories from both books together for the animated classic “Alice in Wonderland”. After reading “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and reading more about the history behind it (and the Disney movie), I realized there were characters I had yet to read about, that I had seen in the film.
With the rich history of this book, its background, and its author, doing research on the Wonderland adventures has made me feel as if I have gone down the rabbit hole myself. I’d write more, but I’m late – I’m late! For a very important date to read “Through The Looking-Glass”.