05 July 2014

Recently went along to the newly refurbished Watts Gallery in Surrey. It is generally concerned with aspects of Victorian art,and its inspiration is G F Watts, a well known Victorian painter. Lewis Carroll knew Watts, although I don't think he thought much of him, since when he was 46, Watts married the famous actress Ellen Terry who was just sixteen, in what proved to be a disastrous union. Watts even made Terry - one of the theatrical geniuses of her day - give up the stage, as he didn't want her to work.

Ellen Terry was a good friend of Carroll's; in fact, it's fair to say that he was a true fan of hers and revelled in being admitted to her circle of friends. He had known her and her family socially since she was very young, and it was rumoured that he was in love with her when she grew up, although there is no evidence of this. He did try to justify her behaviour in running away from Watts less than a year after their marriage, and subsequently living unmarried with a man and having two children with him - behaviour that really was social suicide at the time. Even Terry's own family refused to see her until she married and "made an honest woman of herself" some years later.

Times change. It's hard to imagine the way things were then. But anyway the Watts Gallery is a great place. It was once the centre of a kind of "artists village" and until quite recently it had a charmingly "forgotten" atmosphere, but it has now been very attractively and carefully modernised, thanks to the National Lottery. I visited it a few weeks ago and admired several ceramic plaques set in a wall commemorating donors and other people who had helped make the refurbishment happen.

I shall be returning to see the Ellen Terry exhibition which will be running at the gallery till November 9th this year. The image at the top of this entry shows part of a portrait Watts painted of her, which the gallery has used for its exhibition poster.
28 June 2014

A wonderful public art project is launching in London - Bookbench. Artists will illustrate favourite books to celebrate our literary heritage. Ralph Steadman is doing a "Through the Looking Glass" bench based on the illustrations he did for the book in 1972. Not my favourite illustrations in fact, but they'll make a great bench by the look of it.

More about Bookbenches here.
24 June 2014
If you, like me, have wondered about the "old tunes" that Carroll wanted preserved for his songs, then listen to this Youtube clip of the Corries singing "Bonny Dundee." You might recognise the song in Looking Glass which Carroll intended to be sung to it.

'To the Looking-Glass world it was Alice that said
"I've a sceptre in hand, I've a crown on my head.
Let the Looking-Glass creatures, whatever they be
Come and dine with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me!"'

'Then fill up the glasses as quick as you can,
And sprinkle the table with buttons and bran:
Put cats in the coffee, and mice in the tea—
And welcome Queen Alice with thirty-times-three!'

'"O Looking-Glass creatures," quoth Alice, "draw near!
'Tis an honour to see me, a favour to hear:
'Tis a privilege high to have dinner and tea
Along with the Red Queen, the White Queen, and me!"'

'Then fill up the glasses with treacle and ink,
Or anything else that is pleasant to drink:
Mix sand with the cider, and wool with the wine—
And welcome Queen Alice with ninety-times-nine!'
16 June 2014
black and white

I have been away lately so rather a lot of things have piled up that I have meant to post. So here they are, at last.


I got more charming cards from Yoshi, in Japan. The one above reminds me of illustrations in one of my books when I was a child - I am now trying to remember which one it was. The artist Samidare Kauru signed one of the cards for me, too

and the package arrived about a week ago when I was just about to go away. Yoshi also sent a Tokyo underground map, in English - and so well designed that it makes the system look almost simple. Simple = good. :)


And then, there are some events. If you're anywhere near OXFORD, go along for its annual Alice Day - click the link here for more information. Major organisations and businesses in the city have come together in events which celebrate the theme of "Underground."

From my point of view, the most interesting events are probably the talks about aspects of Alice at The Old Fire Station Sarah Stanfield and Franziska Kohlt of the LCS will both be speaking, the former about the origins of the story, the latter about some other magical underground tales.


And here in London, at Morden Hall Park,the National Trust property near Wimbledon, Sixteen Feet Productions is putting on a performance of Alice in Wonderland between 1-4 August, 3 PM and 6 PM each day.
24 May 2014
I am planning my trip to Japan as I will be giving a talk on Lewis Carroll in Tokyo in the autumn. (more details soon). The theme of my talk will include the way that so many people have been inspired by the books to create films and images of their own. I really like this charming surreal version of Alice in Wonderland - I don't know anything else about it, but I really enjoyed watching it for its dry humour! this is Part 1 only. I am still seeking Part 2 and any subsequent parts! :)

28 April 2014

Oh, dear, I'm tired. I feel like the Dormouse! But I wanted to say that last year a very nice lady called Cindy Bisaillon came to interview me at length about Lewis Carroll for CBC Radio. I've now heard that the first part of her programme has aired and it's on the website here

Life has been a rush but I am not so much of a Dormouse that I won't be able to stay awake and settle down and listen to it very soon! I'm delighted that CBC wants to give a couple of hours to Lewis Carroll and I can't wait to hear what the other participants say!

22 April 2014
Toronto Alice

If you have a creative project you want to get off the ground, try crowdfunding. So many people have so many ideas, and it's fun browsing the various sites. When looking through one of the main sites, Indiegogo, I came across this pitch for a "Toronto Alice" from Jennifer Linton.

Jennifer has already reached her funding goal, and her pitch expires on May 18. I hope the link will stay up for a while after that, but if you would like to take a look at her website, it's here.

I'd love to see Alice's adventures in Toronto.
20 April 2014

The Wandsworth Arts festival takes place next month, and Alice fans (specially those with kids) will find it worthwhile to hop along to this corner of SW London to enjoy this new and unusual adaptation of Carroll's story, which begins when Alice loses her cat and ends up in a curious junk shop. Full details are here (click the link), and the show will run on various dates in May, viz: May 3, 2014 Time: 3:00pm - 4:00pm, and Saturday 3rd, Sunday 4th, Saturday 10th, Sunday 11th, Saturday 17th, Sunday 18th May at 3pm. Tickets are a very reasonable six pounds.
23 March 2014

I passed this place in Great Newport Street, near Leicester Square. Must go in next time I am passing (I was in a hurry) but if you have been there, let me know. Their website is Carrollian themed.

And on 8 APril onwards the British Library has an All About Alice event - click here for details.
04 March 2014
The Nyctograph Edition

Do you recognise the odd looking square lettering shown in the book cover above? I'd... hm... guess not. It's on the cover of an edition of "Alice" written in the night time language Lewis Carroll devised, so he could jot down notes at night without having to get out of bed and light a candle. Carroll used his alphabet with a special device which he called a nyctograph. You could take it into bed with you and write under your warm bedclothes!

Alan Tannenbaum has written a foreword to this edition, and the book is available on Amazon. If you want to click here you can find some more information. It all sounds very logical!