Friday, July 06, 2012

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

When Alice Pleasance Liddell, moved to Oxford in 1856, at just four years of age, I'm sure she had no idea of the adventure's that lay ahead of her. As the fourth born child of Henry Liddell, the newly appointed Dean (Head) of Christ Church, Alice was never short of company. Together with his wife Lorina, Dean Liddell provided Alice with a total of nine siblings, but it was the two sisters nearest to her in age, Lorina and Edith, with whom she was closest.

Alice Pleasance Liddell, Summer 1858. Charles Dodgson. Photograph: National Portrait Gallery

With the Christ Church Deanery as their new home, the girls undoubtedly had much to explore and were often found playing in the Deanery garden. On one such occasion they stumbled upon a man taking photographs of the Cathedral who introduced himself as Charles Dodgson,(otherwise known as Lewis Carroll). Alice's father shared an interest in this new art form, so it was not long before Dodgson was invited to take the first of the many photographs of his growing family, and of Alice in particular.  

From left to right: Edith, Lorina & Alice Liddell, circa 1859. Charles Dodgson. 

During the long process of sitting to have their photographs taken, Dodgson often told the children stories to keep them entertained. However, Alice's real 'Adventures in Wonderland' began on the 4th of July, 1862, as she rowed merrily along the Isis with her sisters Edith (age 8) and Lorina (age 13)

Accompanied by their friends Mr Dodgson and Rev. Duckworth, 10-year-old Alice asked Dodgson to entertain her and her sisters with a story. As Rev. Duckworth rowed the boat, Dodgson happily obliged, regaling the girls with stories of a girl named Alice as they made their way from Folly Bridge to Godstow. (The Oxford River Cruises 'Mad Hatter's Tea Party' follows this very same route today).

Alice and the Dodo, by Sir John Tenniel, 1865. Image: The Victorian Web

Although these stories were not unlike those that Dodgson had spun for the sisters before, 
this was the first occasion that Alice had begged him to write it down for her. 

Those of you who know the story well, may now even be able to guess who inspired a few of the charters in Chapter 2, “The Pool of Tears.” Any ideas who Duck, Lory, Eaglet and the Dodo might be? None other than Rev. Robinson Duckworth, Lorina Liddell, Edith Liddell and Charles Dodgson himself of course! 

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