12 July 2016
The other day I called over to see my friend Mark, who has a varied and fascinating Carroll collection, biased, I'd say, towards the fine arts. When I arrived, he already had two visitors, Seiko Kusuda and Atsuko Sudo. Seiko is a well known artist in Japan, and I've mentioned her work before, (a couple of examples here) but this was her first visit to the UK. She'd come with Atsuko, her friend and editor, and they'd been on a whistlestop tour of the country, looking for Carrollian inspiration. They'd gone to Christ Church, Oxford, where they had attended a course run by Edward Wakeling (I've also mentioned him a few times - like here - when he commented on an unpublished Carroll poem). They had also travelled up to Daresbury, where Lewis Carroll was born.

And finally, here they were in London, with their flight departing that evening, still with the V & A museum to see. They were looking over Mark's vintage postcard albums featuring Lewis Carroll's many theatrical friends, and vintage Alice productions of long ago.

There were any number of "Alice" character costumes to be seen in the postcards, and it did also seem that Carroll knew lots of rather successful and good looking young women who smiled winningly out of their postcards. I'm always sorry I never saw his own album of postcards - I have no doubt some of these cards appeared in that too - but his album is one of the many possessions which have now disappeared without trace.

Seiko and Atsuko were very charming and friendly. Seiko doesn't speak fluent English, but she gave me some presents of her work, including some pretty postcards and what I thought was something very original - several exhibition flyers which had been printed in different versions to include small pop ups of different Alice characters.

I've never seen anything like this before, Seiko is a collector, and so I think she knows the kind of things collectors like.

Among her photos was one of a carving she'd spotted in Oxford Cathedral, which really did bear a resemblance to the Jabberwock - the monster in the famous poem. This carving is not something I have seen mentioned before, but Carroll would certainly have noticed it. In my opinion, it's more likely to have inspired him with the Jabberwock than the gnarled "Jabberwocky Tree" which the Christ Church porters are always so keen to point out to visitors!

There are, of course, other possibilities - many people in the Northeast think that Carroll was inspired by the Lambton Worm

Lambton Worm I think that's a bit less likely because we don't know if he even saw any pictures of the Lambton Worm, whereas he'd have had the chance to see the Oxford Cathedral carving innumerable times.

Anyhow, the image from Oxford could turn up in one of Seiko's next postcards... and if it does, I'll be sure to write about it here.
30 June 2016
Lewis Carroll Society talks
12 June 2016
Just a reminder that, as ever, Alice will be everywhere in evidence in Oxford next July 2nd, when Alice's Day comes round again. Here are the details. The theme this year is "Animals in Wonderland," a topic which caught my attention because I'm involved in a project about Alice and the natural world. The project won't go public for a long time yet, but "Alice in Wonderland" was published just six years after Darwin's "Origin of Species" so when you think of Carroll telling the original story in 1862, you might ber in mind that the topic of evolution would have still have been in the forefront of much public discussion.

His bank account shows that he spent a lot of money, two guineas, on a ticket for the famous debate about evolution which took place in Oxford between Bishop Wilberforce (below) and Thomas Huxley.

This is arguably one of the most famous debates in the history of science, and how I'd love to know Carroll's impressions - for many of the books in his library show he was fascinated by the issue of Darwinism for the rest of his life. Sadly, the diaries for this period are missing (and once again, I grind my teeth at whichever family member decided that posterity didn't need to know about Carroll's life between 1858-1862!)

Anyway, being quite the celebrity hunter, Carroll was keen to meet the distinguished guests at the debate, and he is said to have assisted with ushering during the meeting, which would have allowed him to get into conversation with them. He photographed several of the delegates, including Bishop Wilberforce, shown here on 28 June, 1860, just two days before the debate. No doubt he was thinking about what he would say.

I doubt if Alice's Day will have much detail on this topic, but the Lewis Carroll Society is contributing a talk: John Vernon Lord, illustrator, teacher and author, speaks about ‘Wonderland Creatures and Looking Glass Beasts’ at the The Story Museum, 11:00-11:30 on 2 July. I hope you can get along.

Here's one of John Vernon Lord's pictures: the Caterpillar. I always imagine the Caterpillar as a crusty old Oxford Don made to look rather ridiculous sitting on a mushroom, and so I do love this image.

31 May 2016

Here's an interesting article by Fran Kohlt on Lewis Carroll and madness. I went to a much longer talk she gave to the Lewis Carroll Society on this same subject. Madness is famously a theme which threads through Carroll's work, and he was interested in psychology, which was, however, in its very early stages during his lifetime. He wasn't, sadly, in time to read the first English translations of Freud's works!
22 May 2016

When I think of Lego I think of constructing Lego Star Wars Death Stars or Lego Mobile Police Units, but the company has now branched out into producing "girl" toys I'm not very keen on such sexist ideas but I suppose they know what suits their business.

One of their latest productions is Alice in Wonderland. So go here to see how to start constructing Alice's story out of Lego!
29 April 2016

The Mad Hatter's topper is instantly recognisable, but what about the other characters' hats? The Tweedles, above, wore the kind of hats which were popular leisure wear with young men - the kind of thing to wear with white flannels when out on a boat on the river, for instance. (Perhaps Dodgson himself wore one on his boating trips.) Later, the caps were adopted for schoolboys such as William Brown (Just William - click on this link to see him wearing one).

Get Your Thinking Caps On" is an inspired-by-Alice competition being run by Guildford Borough Council, whose heritage services department is staging an Alice Day on August 7th this year. It is free, and takes place in the grounds of Guildford Castle on Sunday 7 August, from 11am -4pm.

"After more than 150 years wearing the same old thing isn’t it time they deserved something new to wear?" they ask. "And some of the characters don’t have hats. Don’t they deserve one?"

Contestants can choose from one of the following characters and give them something new to wear.

1: Alice. Spruce up a brand new hair band for Alice to wear to a special tea party

2: The Hatter. Make the Hatter happy with a decorative new topper

3: The White Rabbit. He is always late and doesn’t have a hat. Design a hat to help the White Rabbit be more punctual

4: The Dormouse. He keeps falling asleep, and doesn’t have a hat. Create a hat design to help the Dormouse stay awake

There are three age groups:
7years and younger (specify age)
8-10 years and
11-13 years

Children should send their design in to the address on the entry form (click here to get one, and for more informationn.) They can send a painting, drawing, or collage, and they're asked to include some information about the materials that might be used to make the head band or hat – and of course any special powers it has and how these work.

All the designs will be entered in a competition. The winners and their guests will be invited to a special tea party in Guildford Castle on 7 August, and they'll also be presented with a certificate by the Mayor of Guildford.

The closing date for entries 18 July 2016, and there is plenty of time!

Personally I like this best of the many crazy hats I have seen lately, it is light hearted and fun and I like its simplicity. Do you think it was done with straws?

(It is from familyfun.go.com, and the artwork at the top of this post is by Blue Stevens –based on original illustrations by John Tenniel )

15 April 2016

Ambient experimental musician Matt Chopin has been creating music based on Alice in Wonderland. Matt was raised next to a cemetery and started off writing classical music, but moved on to ambient music. (If you don't know what that is, it's defined "as a style of gentle, largely electronic instrumental music with no persistent beat, used to create or enhance a mood or atmosphere." )

See what you think, - the music is on his website here.
18 February 2016

I've been away doing a lot of travelling to various places. One of them was Walt Disney World, in Florida, where the Electrical Parade in Magic Kingdom had a specially impressive Caterpillar on his mushroom, I thought...

And you can spot Alice here.... sorry it's a bit blurry but hey, it was dark!

I've also been contacted during my absence by Julian Yanover, who has put a really useful archive of Carroll's poems online, here. It's surprisingly hard to find all of these together online, and so the page should be a useful resource for Carrollians.

Finally, I saw a wonderful edition of Alice in Wonderland in Dutch. It came out last year, to celebrate Alice 150, but I didn't get around to mentioning it at the time.

It's visually really beautiful, created in an Arts and Crafts style by artist Floor Rieder. So far I haven't seen an English version, but here's a photo of the cover and one of the interior pages.

In Dutch the title is "De avonturen van Alice in Wonderland en in Spiegelland." If you're a collector, you may well want to look it out, as it is an exceptionally interesting volume.
24 January 2016

I love animation, so find this little video the most intriguing aspect of Damon Albarn's musical wonder.land, currently on at the National Theatre in London. It ends in April, and I still haven't decided whether to spend the large amount of money it costs to go to the performance, when there are so many other demands on my time in the coming months .... but I'm more inclined to include wonder.land in my plans after reading Chloe Llewellyn's script review of it! Take a look. here (WARNING: SPOILERS!)

Chloe has a great Alice site on tumblr - so do take a look if you are interested in resources about Alice.

08 January 2016
No words needed...

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