Alice in Wonderland has captivated readers for decades. Written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, it was published in 1865. Three years earlier, Carroll rowed a boat up the Isis section of the Thames river with three young girls and Reverend Robinson Duckworth inside. The three young ladies were the sisters Liddell, daughters of Henry Liddell (the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and Dean of Christ Church): Lorina Charlotte Liddell (aged 13); Alice Pleasance Liddell (aged 10); Edith Mary Liddell (aged 8).
While on the river it’s said Carroll entertained the girls with a story that was so beloved by Alice that she asked for it to be written down for her and thus Alice in Wonderland came into existence. Carroll approached the artist John Tenniel to illustrate the manuscript.
In 1998 Lewis Carroll’s own copy of Alice, one of only six surviving copies of the 1865 first edition, sold at an auction for US$1.54 million to an anonymous American buyer, becoming the most expensive children’s book (or 19th-century work of literature) ever sold, up to that time. Alice Liddell’s copy of the manuscript sold in 2009 for $115,000.
The relationship between Alice and Carroll is a murky one. She posed for Carroll often and those photos have been cited as proof that the nature of their friendship was less than appropriate.
This past June The Morgan Library in New York held an exhibit celebrating the 150th anniversary of the book’s publication. The exhibit included original drawings by Carroll and Tenniel as well as a number of photos. I was surprised that there was no mention of the question of Carroll’s relationship with Alice. You can view a number of the illustrations online at The Morgan Library’s site. There is an interesting article on the subject of their relationship here.
We may never know the truth about Carroll’s proclivities as Richard Cavendish writes here:
“The friendship between the Liddells and Dodgson (Carroll) had broken down in 1863, for reasons that are not clear – the relevant page in his diary was cut out by one of his descendants – but it may be that Mrs Liddell was uneasy about him and Alice. Polite relations were resumed after a few months, but the earlier warmth did not return. ”
Alice grew into an adult and married a cricket player at the age of 28. They had three sons. She became quite the society hostess. After her husband’s death in 1926 she found the upkeep of their household to be draining. Facing financial difficulties, she sold her copy of the manuscript for £15,400. She died in 1934 and is quoted as saying, “I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland.”
Alice in Wonderland has been the subject of songs, art, and numerous films, one of my favorites is the stop motion film by Jan Svankmejer. You can watch the trailer online.
There are no shortage of Alice themed events. Don’t forget to attend The Victorian Tea and Dance Society’s Alice in Wonderland themed social Sunday, March 6.
Should you find yourself in London, you must go to The Madhatter’s High Tea at the beautiful Sanderson Hotel. I left with diabetes but I also left happy.
Want to throw your own tea party? I have several pieces of the Alice in Wonderland collection from Fishs Eddy in New York. I love them. Not sure if they still have the dinnerware but they also carry the prettiest cake stands.
Cakestands for days.
And who’s ready for a garden party? Alice always is.
Need to make a pillow? A skirt? Find all the fabric you need on Etsy:
And let’s not forget shoes. Wow.
From Elusive Rabbit:
Or these from Irregular Choice:
Care for a scarf?
An entire tea set? Egg cup? Gift wrap? Check out The Alice Boutique.
I find The Hudson Hotel in New York to have a very Alice in Wonderland feel. Much of the furniture in the library bar is oversized and the lobby is really something. It’s a fun place to take a client for a drink.
And I leave you with a great Queen of Hearts from Popsugar:
Curiouser and curiouser!