24 June 2015

I'd never heard of Bugsworth Basin - had you? But I had an email from them recently, and found out that that the Bugsworth Basin Trust, in Derbyshire's Peak District is a canal basin that was once an intersection with the old Victorian Peak Forest Tramway, which transported limestone from local quarries. Click here for their website . It's an attractive area, and I was intrigued by the name. I discovered the local village used to be "Buxworth," (perhaps something to do with the town of Buxton, not far away) but "Bugsworth" is undoubtedly more memorable.

Anyway, if you are wondering what connection all this has with Alice, well, it seems it would have been worth being in Bugsworth over the Easter weekend. They had a Mad Hatters tea party, in a marquee decorated by local children and their carers


- over a hundred kids, who clambered through a rabbit hole, here seen guarded by the White Rabbit and Cheshire Cat. Interesting, isn't it, that the Cheshire Cat is now associated with Disney's colours of purple and pink?

I was very taken by this cake, depicting carrots in the earth - just the sort of cake a white rabbit might like ...

Carrot patch cake

And impressed by the high quality of the art work. These are just a couple of examples.

Not to mention the face painting - a bit scary, this one....

Having been involved in a few community events myself, I have a rough idea of what is involved, and I can't even begin to think of the amount of organisation that this treat must have taken, so well done to all the volunteers and local businesses involved in Bugsworth Community Gala for an incredible joint effort. I dare say Lewis Carroll would have been impressed. He used to help his dad, the rector, with parties for the local children. In those days they involved lantern slides, currant buns and party pieces. No doubt they had just as much of a good time, though.

The only thing that seemed to be missing from the event was Alice herself. Really? Well, she wasn't in any of the photos I saw. I'll ask the organisers, but on reflection, I quite like the idea of a Mad Tea Party without Alice. It feels easier to get involved without the girl in blue getting all the limelight....

19 June 2015
Which one is Tenniel?

Here's a photo of an an editorial meeting of "Punch" magazine. Carroll fans know that Tenniel did the original illustrations to both Alice stories. But can you spot him? I'm going to post this question on the Facebook page, here, and someone I suspect will soon post the answer.

12 June 2015

This is "Memoria Technica for Numbers," is a technique that Lewis Carroll devised to help remember difficult numbers. He made several copies to send to friends and colleagues, and used his new Parker electric pen to do it. In those days, before even the invention of carbon paper, it was difficult to make copies, and many companies looked for solutions, with various degrees of success. Often copying processes were so laborious and expensive that businesses found it cheaper and simpler to employ clerks whose job was to copy all the correspondence out by hand.

This pen, designed by that genius Edison, worked by pricking holes in the paper and rubbing ink into them. Carroll bought it on 20 June 1877 He used it it to produce many duplicated items to circulate among his friends. The British distributor of the electric pen, The Electric Writing Co. Ltd., published this testimonial from Dodgson in their edition of the electric pen instruction manual:

July 11th, 1877
I have tried the new Electric Pen for writing MS, printing and drawing, and consider it perfectly successful for all three purposes. For simplicity, expedition, and cleanliness in working, it seems to me to be quite unrivalled, and those who, like myself, often require twenty or thirty copies of questions or formulae, &c., will save the cost of the machine in printer's bill several times over in a year.

Mathematical Lecturer of Ch.Ch., Oxford

The letter is dated only a few days after he bought it, and one imagines him being so delighted that he wrote his letter right away, rushed out and posted it. I hope it proved reliable and he continued to like it so much.

11 June 2015
I've been away so couldn't post it before, but here is a piece in The Times for 1 June.

10 June 2015

Click the link for an this online demonstrator for Carroll's "The Game of Logic" I daresay that if Carroll lived today, he would have created something like this himself.

But since he's not alive, I'm very grateful to Mark Richards for doing it!

08 June 2015

I'd heard that the Houghton Library at Harvard had an Alice 150 site based on its collections, but I hadn't got around to checking it out. But a friend reminded me to do so, and I think it's charming. Take a look

The image at the top of this post shows one of the items in the collection. It is a copy of Alice in Wonderland owned by Alice Hargreaves herself. Although she told nobody about her connection with the famous book for most of her life, she did quietly collect editions of it. How interesting it would be to know what she really thought about the whole thing, and why she never spoke about it until, short of money, she needed to sell the original manuscript. It must have been a most peculiar experience to gradually realise that "her" story was becoming world famous.

This kind of vicarious fame hasn't been good for some others who were inspiration for famous books, notably "Christopher Robin" Milne, who fell out with both his parents, and whose mother refused to see him even on her deathbed - and Peter Llewellyn Davies (Peter Pan) who actually killed himself. These examples were well in the future for Alice and Lewis Carroll, of course, but perhaps Alice's parents were wise not to encourage her to become precociously famous for something that was none of her doing.

The sad fate of many child stars comes to mind, too. Their lives are defined by something they had to do before they were old enough to make a reasoned choice... although some, like Shirley Temple

managed to use their early, unlooked-for fame as a stepping stone, rather than as a millstone. I wonder if anyone has written a study of the effects of childhood fame.

31 May 2015

This is the cover of a new Alice in Wonderland reading on Audible - click here to hear a sample - and it also includes an excerpt from "The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll," the biography written by Carroll's nephew, Stuart Collingwood. They'll also have a free download of an essay by me!

The CD is launched on 31 May and it's read by Alison Larking, comedienne and author of The English American, a novel about an American girl adopted by an English couple. She's an ​​​Audiofile​​ Earphones award​-​winning narrator of more than 100 audio books, so I'm pleased that she will be reading my contribution!
29 May 2015
If you are in Massachussetts... This Sunday at the Edith Wharton House.

Hallo, hallo, hallo!

I am delighted to invite and any other children you might like to spend the afternoon to a Mad Hatter's Tea Party in the gardens at Edith Wharton's home The Mount this coming Sunday to celebrate the release of the 150th anniversary audiobook edition of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass narrated by Alison Larkin!

There will be prizes. Prizes! And children's activities and croquet on the lawn. Come in costume or just come! Details below. (You can get a FREE copy with a one month TRIAL subscription to Audible or you can just buy it as an immediate download for yourself or email it as a gift, by clicking here.)

Here are the official details!

Yours, The Mad Hatter p.s. Why IS a raven like a writing desk?

Celebrate the release of the 150th anniversary audiobook edition of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, narrated by Alison Larkin with a cup of tea, scrumptious sweets, childrenís activities, and a reading! The Mountís formal gardens will come alive with the spirit of Lewis Carrollís childhood classic Ė party guests can play croquet on the grass terraces and eat petit fours in the pergola. Costumes are encouraged!
At 4:00 pm, award-winning audiobook narrator Alison Larkin will give a reading of the famous Mad Hatterís Tea Party scene. To pre-order a copy of this delightful new recording click here!

Whartonís own battered copy of Alice in Wonderland is housed in The Mountís Library.

Advance reservations are strongly encouraged. For more information or to purchase tickets, please call 413-551-5100 or visit EdithWharton.org.

Presented in partnership with Berkshire Family Focus.

16 May 2015

I posted a couple of cards from Yoshi on the Facebook page and promised to give a little bit more info about them.

My favourite of the cards is the Cheshire Cat

which was created by Mitsuji Kamata, born 1958. He's a steampunk fan who makes three-dimensional sculptures and dolls. Click here and here to see some of his work, and one of his "Alice" dolls is shown at the top of the post.

I also like Humpty Dumpty, above. The artist's name is OKA, and all I can find out about her is that she was born in 1983. But if this image is anything to go by, she was influenced by Heironymus Bosch! Look a little closer at Alice viewing herself inside Humpty...

The illustrator of the following image,

showing Alice, the White Rabbit, the King and Queen of Hearts, isYui Nakano, She was born in 1988 and graduated from Kobe Design University in 2011. Her work appears in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland Visual Fan Book - the fashion book supervised by Eitaro Takei, which you can read about in the previous post.

Finally, this is by Nakano Yui

and you can see more of her work here

04 May 2015

"The Alice Look" opened at the V & A on the 2nd May. (I wonder why it wasn't the 4th May - Alice's birthday?) I popped in for a quick look and saw there was a real life example of the Japanese "Alice" look on display, though unfortunately not much space in the exhibition to devote to this most intriguing branch of fashion.

The "Alice" look is popular in Japan as part of a larger trend of lolita style, which includes punk, goth, oji (boy) wa (traditional Japanese clothing) all adapted in an extreme Victorian way.

In some parts of Tokyo you'll see many young women dressed this way and there are some fascinating displays in department stores and boutiques. It must be a lot of fun to dress up like this.

My friend Yoshi recently sent me a great book, illustrated by a variety of illustrators, showing the Alice Look in illustration. It was supervised by Eitaro Takei. I've done my best to open out the book and photograph some of the striking illustrations.

Here are some pictures I snapped around the vicinity of Takashita Street, meeting place for Tokyo's youth.

Tokyo shopping

Sales assistant

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