If you are reading this post, you are likely a Carrollian, and as such, if you know the name Mavis Batey, it is probably because of her books Alice’s Adventures in Oxford (1980), and The World of Alice, published in 1998, the year of the Carroll Centenary at Christ Church College, Oxford.
We regret to report that Mrs. Batey passed away on November 12th at the age of 92. She was a brilliant and gracious person, and will be missed by many. But her publications about Alice, and English gardens, are not her only legacy. In her youth, she was a key part of the British government’s secret Bletchley Park code breaking team during World War II, and made a number of significant contributions to crucial code breaking efforts (including deciphering the first message from one of the infamous German “Enigma” machines) that helped turn the tide in the war.
To read more about Mrs. Batey’s contributions while at Bletchley Park in the Washington Post, click me.
To read an obituary in The Telegraph with more details about her work at Bletchley, click me.
Curiouser and curiouser. Even if you don’t follow the gossip columns, or go to the movies, chances are you’ve heard of talented actress Kristen Stewart, star of the megahit Twilight film franchise, as well as Snow White and the Huntsman, among others. Perhaps that second title should have given us all a hint; it turns out that Ms. Stewart grew up in a fairytale, Wonderland-themed home, complete with a giant chess board by the pool, and several Alice-themed murals. The home is now on the market due to her parents’ pending divorce; if you have $1.75 Million, you can snap it up for yourself!
To view pictures of the property, click me.
If you’re a fan of theme parks, you might enjoy this vintage promotional clip from the early ’60s for Children’s Fairyland in Oakland, CA. Alice appears as tour guide at around 3:55, and at 9:20 she shows the little Wonderland Carousel. Staff claim their park inspired Walt Disney to create his own. If nothing else, this clip makes for an interesting cultural time capsule!
Speaking of the visuals from Disney’s two versions of Alice, now an office space in London has incorporated elements of both in a suite of singular rooms. Want to hold your next meeting down the rabbit hole? To check out the entertaining images, click me.
From the “You can’t make this stuff up (unless maybe you’re Lewis Carroll)” Department comes this entertaining news item from the UK. It seems a florist in Blackburn had a wooden figure of the Disney Caterpillar in her store’s window display, complete with a faux hookah. A local protection officer was walking by the shop, and became concerned that the Caterpillar was breaking the local ordinance against smoking in the workplace. No, really. Or that the shopkeeper was actually running an illicit hookah den. To read the whole silly story and see photos of the Caterpillar caught in the non-act, click me.
Thanks to one of our mimsiest minions for sharing this little gem of a story. What would Lewis Carroll have said?
Whatever you thought of Tim Burton and Linda Woolverton’s film, if you were a fan of the visuals, you might be interested to hear that Disney has a new game app out called Alice in Wonderland: A New Champion. The app is available from the iTunes store, and you can watch the trailer right here:
If you’ve played this game, leave a comment to tell us all what you think of it!
This site, Nights in the Past, bills itself as “the online guide to historic hotels and accommodation in the UK, Europe and USA.” It lists two establishments claiming associations with our Mr. Dodgson: The Old Deanery in Ripon, Yorkshire, and The Ravensworth Arms in Lamesley. The first claim is slight (Mr. Dodgon’s father was appointed Canon of Ripon Cathedral at one point, before moving up again shortly thereafter to Archdeacon at Richmond). As to the Ravensworth Arms, it’s true that Alice Liddell’s father was descended from the Barony of Ravensworth, but there the connections with Mr. Dodgson begin and end as far as we know. The latter claim, judging by the advertising copy on the Ravensworth Arms’ web site, is based entirely on anonymous “suggestions” that Mr. Dodgson stayed there and even wrote some of a certain book there. We can only suggest that such claims might well be considered nonsense (and not of the good kind). Someone should make a list of all the different places claiming that Mr. Dodgson “might have written” some or all of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland on their premises. Impenetrability!
Cards used in the game
Back in November we told you about Rob Stone, the game designer who rediscovered a lost Alice in Wonderland card game and published the rules for all to read online. Rob made that discovery while researching his own Alice-inspired game. His game, called “Alice: Adventures in Wonderland Board Game,” is now finished and he is raising funds to launch it using a Kickstarter campaign.
Rob’s game features two decks of cards—a player character deck and a story deck—and a story board, along which players move through the chapters of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Rob explains:
It was important to us not to add anything to the story; to remain faithful to the original work so that fans as well as educators would find in this game, a pathway to experiencing the characters, places and events in Wonderland in a way we call going beyond the book. It doesn’t replace the book or add to it, rather it transports the story into the three-dimensional space of a tabletop board game.
On the Kickstarter campaign page you can read a fuller description of the the game-to-be, and, if you like the sound of it, you can make a donation to help bring it to life.
Last week, the Câmara Brasileira do Livro (Brazilian Book Guild) announced the winners of the 54th annual Jabuti Awards and we are pleased to relate that Alice found herself in the list of winning titles. Adriano Peliano of the Lewis Carroll Society of Brazil took third prize in the graphic design category for her book Aventuras de Alice no Subterrâneo (Alice’s Adventures under Ground) by Editora Scipione.
As the images below show, Peliano’s book is a triumph of translation and calligraphic skill. Each page of the Portuguese translation mirrors Carroll’s handwritten original; the transformation of the language is subtle and quite magical.
Alice’s Adventures under Ground; Carroll on the left, Peliano on the right
In a recent post on Alice Nations, the blog of the Lewis Carroll Society of Brazil, Peliano described the book’s creation:
When I decided to recreate the manuscript in Portuguese, I intended to have it be as close as possible to the original object. In doing that I looked for a design that would seem almost imperceptibly different. The pictures, conversations, discoveries, doubts, surprises, obstacles, the strangeness and the delicacy, all came from Lewis Carroll’s original. His handwriting was recreated as if he had written the book in Portuguese for each one of us. In the translation I intended to imbue the words with happiness and invoke curiosity, to read the book as if for the first time.
I can even say that I share this prize with Lewis Carroll. This graceful book is a gift dedicated to him, to Alice Liddell, to a boat trip, to all Alices and rabbits in the world, but mainly, to the strength and magic from an encounter.
The Jabuti Awards honor excellence in Brazilian literature and publishing. “Jabuti” means “tortoise”—can anyone tell us the significance of the name? As the Mock Turtle said of his schoolmaster, so he might school us here: “We called him Tortoise because he taught us”, but what did the Mock Turtle know of Portuguese?
The Isis from Godstow Lock
Amid all the fireworks, flag-waving, and hot dog eating, another anniversary celebration is taking place today. 150 years ago this very afternoon, Lewis Carroll first extemporized the story of Alice’s adventures to three little girls in a rowing boat. Could we argue this event had cultural implications on a par with the Declaration of Independence itself? I think we could.
In celebration of the milestone, Oxford’s annual Alice’s Day, coordinated by the Oxford Story Museum, will be bigger than ever before and for the first time will include a raucous caucus race in Christ Church Meadow. Tish Francis, co-director of the museum, spoke about the event in Oxford Mail: “It is going to be wonderful, holding the race on a field overlooked by the windows of Christ Church, where Alice Liddell would have sat and looked out. We have got singers, dancers, circus performers. In the words of the Dodo, the best way to explain it is just to do it.” More on Alice’s Day and the Caucus Race can be read in C. M. Rubin’s article for the Huffington Post: Alice – - Join in the Race!
Ted Gioia, author and blogger, has commemorated the occasion in the post How Alice Got Into Wonderland in which he suggests that Carroll’s story may never have been meant just for children and asks “did a little-known Anglican
minister play a bigger role than the real-life Alice in the creation of this classic work?”
While Fourth of July celebrations may be taking center stage here in America, we hope that lovers of the Alice books will find their own ways to mark the day. (If you happen to be in Vallejo, California you could tip your hat to the Hatter as he drives by in their Fourth of July parade.) Here are some suggestions:
- Take any opportunity to quote Alice. For example, if asked whether you like the potato salad, you could answer: “Thank you, it’s a very interesting dance to watch and I do so like that curious song about the whiting!”
- Greet all newcomers to your local fireworks display with a languid “Who are you?” Refuse to be satisfied with their answer, whatever it is.
- If you should happen to fall asleep at your family reunion, upon waking tell everybody all about your curious dream in which you chased a rabbit down a rabbit-hole, grew, shrunk, went for a swim, had a drink, kicked a lizard, et cetera, and ending up signing the Declaration of Independence.
If you have any more ideas, or news of other celebrations that are taking place, please tell us about them in the comments below.
Here’s to that golden afternoon!