'A work of glorious intelligence and literary devices . . . Nonsense becomes a form of higher sense' Malcolm Bradbury'I had sent my heroine straight down a rabbit-hole . . . without the least idea what was to happen afterwards,' wrote Lewis Carroll, describing how Alice was conjured up one 'golden afternoon' to entertain a young girl. His dream worlds of nonsensical Wonderland and the back-to-front Looking-Glass kingdom depict order turned upside-down: a baby turns into a pig, time is abandoned at a disordered tea-party and a seven-year-old girl is made Queen. But amongst the anarchic humour and sparkling word play, puzzles and riddles, are poignant moments of nostalgia for lost childhood. Edited with an Introduction and notes by Hugh Haughton
Conjured up one 'golden afternoon' in 1862 to entertain Alice Liddell, the daughter of the dean of Carroll's college, the dream worlds of nonsensical Wonderland and back-to-front Looking-Glass kingdom depict order turned upside-down.
“A work of glorious intelligence and literary devices…Nonsense becomes a form of higher sense” –Malcolm Bradbury“Alice in Wonderland is one of the top 25 books of all time. I always loved the book and I always loved the various characters, the psychedelic nature of it and kind-of odd allegorical stories inside stories. I always thought it was beautiful.” –Jonny Depp“Wonderland and the world through the Looking Glass were, I always knew, different from other imagined worlds. Nothing could be changed, although things in the story were always changing…Carroll moves his readers as he moves chess pieces and playing cards.” –A. S. Byatt“It would not have occurred to me even to suspect that the “children’s tale” was in brilliant ways coded to be read by adults and was in fact an English classic, a universally acclaimed intellectual tour de force and what might be described as a psychological/anthropological dissection of Victorian England. It seems not to have occurred to me that the child-Alice of drawing rooms, servants, tea and crumpets and chess, was of a distinctly different background than my own. I must have been the ideal reader: credulous, unjudging, eager, thrilled. I knew only that I believed in Alice, absolutely.” –Joyce Carol Oates“The Alices are the greatest nonsense ever written, and far greater, in my view, than most sense.” –Philip Pullman
From Chapter IV: The Rabbit Sends in a Little BillIt was the White Rabbit, trotting slowly back again, and looking anxiously about as it went, as if it had lost something; and she heard it muttering to itself, “The Duchess! The Duchess! Oh my dear paws! Oh my fur and whiskers! She’ll get me executed, as sure as ferrets are ferrets! Where can I have dropped them, I wonder?” Alice guessed in amoment that it was looking for the fan and the pair of white kidgloves, and she very good-naturedly began hunting about for them, but they were nowhere to be seen—everything seemed to have changed since her swim in the pool; and the great hall, with the glass table and the little door, had vanished completely. Very soon the Rabbit noticed Alice, as she went hunting about, and called out to her, in an angry tone, “Why, Mary Ann, what are you doing out here? Run home this moment, and fetch me a pair of gloves and a fan! Quick, now!” And Alice was so much frightened that she ran o at once in the direction it pointed to, without trying to explain the mistake that it had made. “He took me for his housemaid,” she said to herself as she ran. “How surprised he’ll be when he finds out who I am! But I’d better take him his fan and gloves—that is, if I can find them.” As she said this, she came upon a neat little house, on the door of which was a bright brass plate with the name “W. RABBIT ” engraved upon it. She went in without knocking, and hurried upstairs, in great fear lest she should meet the real Mary Ann, and be turned out of the house before she had found the fan and gloves. “How queer it seems,” Alice said to herself, “to be going messages for a rabbit! I suppose Dinah’ll be sending me on messages next!” And she began fancying the sort of thing that would happen: “‘Miss Alice! Come here directly, and get ready for your walk!’ ‘Coming in a minute,’ nurse! But I’ve got to watch this mouse-hole till Dinah comes back, and see that the mouse doesn’t get out.’ Only I don’t think,” Alice went on, “that they’d let Dinah stop in the house if it began ordering people about like that!” By this time she had found her way into a tidy little room with a table in the window, and on it (as she had hoped) a fan and two or three pairs of tiny white kid-gloves: she took up the fan and a pair of the gloves, and was just going to leave the room, when her eye fell upon a little bottle that stood near the looking-glass. There was no label this time with the words “DRINK ME,” but nevertheless she uncorked it and put it to her lips. “I know something interesting is sure to happen,” she said to herself, “whenever I eat or drink anything: so I’ll just see what this bottle does. I do hope it’ll make me grow large again, for really I’m quite tired of being such a tiny little thing!” It did so indeed, and much sooner than she had expected: before she had drunk half the bottle, she found her head pressing against the ceiling, and had to stoop to save her neck from being broken. She hastily put down the bottle, saying to herself “That’s quite enough—I hope I sha’n’t grow any more—As it is, I ca’n’t get out at the door—I do wish I hadn’t drunk quite so much!” Alas! It was too late to wish that! She went on growing, and growing, and very soon had to kneel down on the floor: in another minute there was not even room for this, and she tried the effect of lying down with one elbow against the door, and the other arm curled round her head. Still she went on growing, and, as a last resource, she put one arm out of the window, and one foot up the chimney, and said to herself “Now I can do no more, whatever happens. What will become of me?”
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Biographical noteLewis Carroll (Author)
Lewis Carroll, born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-98), grew up in Cheshire in the village of Daresbury, the son of a parish priest. He was a brilliant mathematician, a skilled photographer and a meticulous letter and diary writer. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, inspired by Alice Liddell, the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church in Oxford, was published in 1865, followed by Through the Looking-Glass in 1871. He wrote numerous stories and poems for children including the nonsense poem The Hunting of the Snark and fairy stories Sylvie and Bruno.