“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”
This year marks the one-hundred-and-fiftieth anniversary of the first printing of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderful, commonly referred to as Alice in Wonderland.
“Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!”
When I was about five, my mother read me both the Wonderland book and the Looking-Glass one, and I loved them so much, I begged her to read them over and over again.
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
But until this year, I never checked into the background of how the Wonderland book came to be written. I thought I’d share some of the interesting facts I found out about the author and the book here.
“Have I gone mad?”
“I’m afraid so, but let me tell you something, the best people usually are.”
First, probably a lot of people know that Lewis Carroll is a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, but I didn’t. Or that he based a lot of his characters on real people and places, even images. Because he stuttered, he said his last name Dodo-Dodgson, and thus the dodo bird in the book was created. The rabbit hole was probably a symbol for the stairs, called the rabbit hole, in the back of the main hall in Christ Church where Mr. Dodgson was a mathematician.
“I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?”
Mr. Dodgson first told many of Alice’s adventures to three little girls on a boat ride with their father, Henry Liddell. Lorina Charlotte, aged thirteen at the time, Alice Pleasance, aged ten, and Edith Mary, aged eight. They loved the stories so much, he later wrote them down, expanded on them, did his own illustrations, but later hired an illustrator, John Tenniel. The first draft was 15,500 words, but then he added more material such as the Cheshire cat and the Mad Hatter tea party (one of my favorite scenes) and it became 27,500 words.
“Curiouser and curiouser!”
“Off with their heads!”
The author had a rare neurological disorder that causes hallucinations and affects the size of visual objects, which can make the patient feel bigger or smaller than he is. This of course became a major part of the book. The disease is now often called the Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.
I have to say that Mr. Dodson’s life was almost as fascinating as his stories. Happy Anniversary, Alice!
As the Cheshire Cat said, “Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” And now you know why I love to read and write. What is your favorite book? What was the first book you remember being read to you or that you read yourself?