An Unlikely Alliance for A Former Child Friend of Lewis Carroll

A Mouse's Tale

The Mouse’s Tale – Mabel Lucie Attwell

For you history buffs (and I know you’re out there), author and LCSNA member Ruth Berman contributes this post.  Thank you for sharing, Ruth!

“On Monday, I was interested to watch on the local PBS channel a show on “Hitler’s Favourite Royal” (a 2008 BBC production, but I hadn’t seen it before, and have the impression that it was being aired in the US for the first time with this broadcast). The “royal” of the title was Charles Edward, the Duke of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.

Charles Edward’s grandfather, Victoria’s husband Prince Albert, was the younger brother of Ernest II, the Duke of S-C&G. When Ernest died without an heir, the duchy looked to Albert’s sons for an heir, and as the Prince of Wales could not suitably accept the position, the duchy got the second son, Charles Edward’s uncle Prince Alfred, as their new duke. When Alfred died without an heir, the duchy looked to Albert’s third son, Prince Arthur, Duke of Connaught, who turned them down, and offered instead his son, also Prince Arthur. The younger Arthur thought leaving England and going off to Germany to be a German Duke sounded like a rotten job offer, and is supposed to have told his cousin Charles Edward that he had to take it, and he would thrash him if he tried to refuse.

So the unlucky Charles Edward was stuck with it, at the age of 16, in 1900. Charles Edward had been since birth the Duke of Albany, as his father, Victoria’s youngest son, Prince Leopold, duke of Albany, died before Charles Edward was born. Along came 1914, and Charles Edward found himself on the enemy side of the land of his birth. He managed to arrange to be sent to fight on the eastern front, against Russia and Poland, not directly against Britain, but when the war ended, the British government declared him an adherent of their enemies, and stripped him of his title of Duke of Albany. Then along came Hitler, and Charles Edward became one of his earliest and most fervent supporters (hence the program’s title). After the war, he was tried by the Allies as a war criminal and was ordered to pay fines that took away most of the wealth and property that had come with his German titles and had still remained. And after that he lived in seclusion until his death in 1954.

The TV show did not mention the Carrollian interest, but when Charles Edward was still little Prince Charlie, he and his older sister Princess Alice were among Lewis Carroll’s child-friends. Carroll recorded visits with them twice in his diaries, and taught them to fold paper to make toy pistols that would make a shot-like noise when ”fired.” Carroll wrote an acrostic poem, “Puck Lost and Found,” on Princess Alice and Prince Charlie, describing Charlie as a charming sprite (the Puck Found of the title), and recalling the fun of making toy pistols — all sadly ironic in view of the boy’s fate.

Ruth Berman”

“Like Alice, I have eaten eggs, certainly”: Wonderland-referencing poems in Asimov’s Science Fiction

The September 2010 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction hits newsstands today. The two poems in this issue both use Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland themes as their central metaphors. “The Now We Almost Inhabit” by Roger Dutcher and Robert Frazier uses the Cheshire Cat and Alice’s changing size “as images of changable realities”, and Ruth Berman’s poem “Egg Protection” (mistakenly called “Egg Production” in the table of contents) uses “the pigeon’s opinion of long-necked Alice as a predatory serpent as the opinion of birds in general regarding humans.” (Quotes describing the poems from Ruth Berman.) Here’s an excerpt from “Egg Protection”:

For about two weeks, two robins
Kept yelling at me
Every time I appeared outside the door
In (apparently) a cloud
Of flames and brimstone
Visible to birdseyes,
To grab the paper or the mail.

[...]

Like Alice, I have eaten eggs, certainly,
But I don’t want theirs.
Birds consider only the first bit.
They don’t take a human’s word for the rest.

To read the whole poem, please consider purchasing September’s Asimov’s Science Fiction, where all fine magazines are sold!