‘Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with’

Art, books, history, illustration

Underground or Wonderland?  Everything is topsy turvy when you enter Charles Dodgsons world. A maths lecturer who enjoys telling stories, a photographer who stops taking pictures, and a man who changes his name to publish a work of art that stands the test of time.  Lewis Carroll’s first publication was actually available after the second publishing house published theirs. Typically Carroll.  The story behind that was that his illustrator complained bitterly about the quality of printing and Lewis agreed , withdrawing the first 2000 copies in America going to print in Britain. Several editions exist beside the quantity of imitation and parodies, but before the first publication in 1865 he gave Alice the handwritten manuscript of “Alices Adventures Underground” in which he had illustrated the text. Facsimile editions of the manuscript were published Christmas 1886 and copies can still be found where his handwriting can be seen. There is a new edition of the early story, shorter than the final version of “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” which is set in type and features Carrolls illustrations   http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/1904808395/evertype-21

The enjoyment of the text is not the total story , the ideas and playfulness in the tale has inspired creative artists in all arenas to produce spin offs from it.  Not least Salvador Dali, whose amazing illustrations were published in byMaecenas Press-Random House, New York in 1969.

For more of the Dali images, go here http://www.williambennettgallery.com/index.php

Virginia Woolf was impressed,as she extolled Lewis Carrolls works “are not books for children; they are the only books in which we become children . . . To become a child is to be very literal; to find everything so strange that nothing is surprising; to be heartless, to be ruthless, yet to be so passionate that a snub or a shadow drapes the world in gloom.  It is so to be Alice in Wonderland.”  What a wonderful review! The French are keen too, they have just finished a wonderful exhibition showing past and present artists who continue to use Alice as a starting point.  It was still available online http://www.bibliotheque-rennesmetropole.fr/agenda-culturel/expositions/images-d-alice-au-pays-des-merveilles/ and well worth a look at. In the meantime I will leave you with an array of illustrators work that demonstrate the wonder of opportunity Lewis Carroll gave them.

These images came from a wonderful resource at the University of Florida which holds an archive of an exhibition of Alice. If you want a hands on experience of the mad cap antics then this could be right up your street, if you live in Oxford, U.K. The Caucus Race will take place in historic Merton Field, with its stunning backdrop of Oxford colleges and the River Isis. Merton Field is part of Christ Church, the college where Lewis Carroll, aka Charles Dodgson, was a maths tutor and where the original Alice also lived. If you turn up, expect to be joined by a strange array of creatures, from the Dodo to the Dormouse. The Caucus Race will involve dance, street theatre, and Wonderland games for all ages. Fancy a day out? Full information here



4 thoughts on “‘Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with’

  1. I love Alice too; presently I have an Alice display on my dining room mantle! White rabbits, mad hatter hat, clock, mushrooms, caterpillar. And I completed my assignment today, so I want to thank you again for nominating me for the Versatile Blogger award. Cheers, Donna.


  2. What fascinating pictures! It’s always interesting to see other illustrations than the original John Tenniel ones. I live very close to Oxford, and I visited Christ Church college in January – a beautiful place! I recommend Oxford to anyone for a quintessentially English day out, and I’ve heard the caucus race is fabulous. Lovely article! xxx


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