Happily, Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in real life!) was a prolific letter writer. Even now, so many years after his death, some of his private correspondence can still surface–even if only long enough to pass from one private collection to another at public auction. But at least we obtain a new glimpse at the man in his own words.
On March 19th, Bonham’s is auctioning off a letter from November 9, 1891, in which Mr. Dodgson explains his dislike of being recognized as “Lewis Carroll” and even expresses, momentarily, the half-wish that he had never written any books because of all the attention their success brought:
“All that sort of publicity leads to strangers hearing of my real name in connection with the books, and to my being pointed out to, and stared at by, strangers, and treated as a ‘lion’. And I hate all that so intensely that sometimes I almost wish I had never written any books at all….”
Of course, those of us who have studied Mr. Dodgson in any depth know that he was more than willing to use the name Lewis Carroll to secure a social introduction when he wanted to! While he may have disliked being “lionized” there is no question that he went “lion hunting” himself with his camera and then his books on many occasions. So his statement here should be taken with more than a grain of salt. And we must also consider that he was writing to the woman who occasionally housed his child friends on visits to Eastbourne, where he went for summer vacations of peace and quiet. But the fact that he emphasizes the negative impact of the publicity on his private life does at least speak to the intensity with which he guarded his right to make a distinction between his private self and his literary persona–something well-known artists and figures struggle with to this day.
I am hopeful that this letter will pass into the collection of a library that will make it available to those who wish to see it for their own research, or if it passes again into private hands, that the new owner will be liberal in sharing this new letter with libraries for exhibits. Who knows what other Lewis Carroll correspondence still lies out there in private hands, waiting to be shared with the public?
To see the auction listing, click me.
To read an article about the auction, click me.
Here’s another tidbit from a mimsy minion:
The Alice books have been translated into Hawaiian by a University of Hawaii professor in honor of the upcoming 150th anniversary of the publication of Wonderland, which is in 2015 as you likely know. He notes that as in other foreign language translations of the book, he had to apply some localization in order for the stories to make sense to Hawaiian readers. For instance, there are no crocodiles in Hawaii!
Translator R. Keao NeSmith notes that the publisher first tested his skills by asking him to translate the Mad Tea Party scene–which he likened to solving a Sudoku because of all the unique humor and references in it. The edition is printed by Michael Everson’s Evertype publishing house.
To read more about these new Hawaiian Alice translations, click me.
Our thanks to a mimsy minion for this link to an article in the UK’s Daily Mail about another person who has been diagnosed with the rare disorder known as “Alice in Wonderland Syndrome,” in which the person experiences episodes where body parts and objects in the room appear to shrink and grow.
For the article, which includes many photos of the young woman in Alice costumes and a video of her purportedly experiencing the syndrome, click me.
Are you looking for someplace special to take your Valentine this year? Well, if you happen to live in or near London, the Sanderson Hotel now offers a not inexpensive but very festive-sounding “Mad Hatter’s Afternoon Tea” including creative baked treats, a “Jelly Wonderland,’ and even custom crockery (which is also available for purchase separately, for you teapot lovers–and you know who you are).
To see a description, menu, and make reservations, click me.
Here’s a tidbit from one of our mimsy minions:
In the current Feb 10 issue of The New Yorker, within a long article on Robert Frost, there is a quote from his letter from England, July 4, 1913: “…Now it is possible to have sense without the sounds of sense (as in much prose that is supposed to pass muster but makes very dull reading) and the sound of sense without sense (as is Alice in Wonderland which makes anything but dull reading.)…”
If you’d like to read the article on The New Yorker’s web site, click me.
One of our mimsy minions reports the citing of another burlesque performance inspired by the Alice books. This one is called Through the Looking Glass: The Burlesque Alice in Wonderland, presented by performer/producers Lily Verlaine and Jasper McCann. The show runs April 16-19th at the Triple Door Theatre in Seattle, WA.
For more information and tickets, click me.
Our thanks to Mark Richards for news of this new art exhibit in Warrington, England. Local area artist Frances Broomfield has created a series of fanciful paintings that reimagine some familiar Carrollian characters, along with other flights of fancy. In addition, Broomfield commemorates and in some measure recreates an exhibit that the young Mr. Dodgson himself actually saw there in 1840. The exhibit is free and runs through May 31st.
For more information on this exhibit, click me.
And in case you can’t make it to the UK, you can watch a related video featuring some of the artworks right here (if the video doesn’t display, try reloading this page in your browser):
One of our mimsy minions reports that the UK publication The Guardian includes Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland as one of the 100 best novels.
I would, however, readily dispute the author’s description of Alice as “a story about a quite bad-tempered child that is not really for children.” The minute a writer claims the Alice books aren’t for children, I know that he or she has never actually put one of the books in front of a child of the right age to appreciate it! Just because adults can appreciate the writing doesn’t mean that children can’t. In fact, if he were really to look at why the two books have become timeless, it’s due in large part to the fact that they speak to all ages.
And I’m not sure where he gets the idea that Alice is “bad-tempered.” Is it a sign of ill temper to let other people know when they’re behaving badly? I’ve always admired Alice for being strong-minded enough to set her own limits with the denizens of Wonderland. The average Victorian heroine wouldn’t have lasted ten minutes in Wonderland! And I’m quite sure her behavior delighted the Liddell girls, as it continues to delight many of us today.
I will also note that in the comments below the article, the author rightly praises The Hunting of the Snark but makes the misguided statement that “It’s not really a book, but a long poem….” Hmmm….last time I checked my first edition, it looked like a book. It really did.
To read the article, click me.
One of our mimsy minions reports that BalletMet in Columbus, Ohio, will be remounting their 2006 production of Alice in Wonderland, choreographed by current Artistic Director Gerard Charles. The show runs from February 7-15, 2014.
For more information and tickets, click me.
Attention puzzle lovers! We recently received this note that may be of interest to you:
I’m part of a team of puzzlers who spent most of last year writing LOTS of puzzles for the annual MIT Mystery Hunt (http://web.mit.edu/puzzle/www/history.html
), which was this year Alice In Wonderland
themed (with other Carrollian and non-Carrollian touches).
We had also noticed the call for puzzles
here last June, but we were unable to participate as our writing process is very (almost comically) secretive, and the puzzles and theme were not to be revealed until the weekend of the recent Hunt.
A number of the puzzles we wrote require specific knowledge about MIT, and some aren’t strongly integrated into the theme, though they may still be of interest to you. The entire hunt, including all puzzles and solutions, can be found at the following address: http://web.mit.edu/puzzle/www/2014
If you have any further questions about specific puzzles or would like to contact the author(s) directly, please feel free to email the team leadership at firstname.lastname@example.org