It’s been a busy few weeks for me, so have not managed as much novel reading time as I might have liked. Plus I am also reading some non-fiction at present (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey).  However, as a little light relief, I did pull down my copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland from the bookshelf the other day and have very much enjoyed re-reading this at odd moments (typically in the middle of the night, when I couldn’t sleep – which, I suppose, is probably the perfect time to read Alice!).

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Okay, let me say upfront that if anyone reading this blog has not ever read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland nor its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, then, well, quite frankly, you should! It is delightful; it is a classic; it is random; it is memorable; it is a perfect piece of nonsense and it is quintessentially English.

I splashed out on a nice hardback edition years ago when I bought my copy and it has all of the original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel in it. I have included photos of a couple of the ninety-two illustrations below, which all fit so perfectly with the tale.

Lewis Carroll is the pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-98), who was a Lecturer in Mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford. It was at Christ Church, in 1855, while taking photographs of the garden of Henry George Liddell, Dean of Christ Church, that he met Liddell’s four-year-old daughter, Alice, and her two sisters. As Charles Dodgson spent more time entertaining these three girls over the following months (often rowing them along the river), he  composed stories for them, which ultimately turned into this much beloved children’s classic.

The genius of the tale is that mixed amongst all of the apparent oddness and nonsense, there is a wealth of wit, wordplay and philosophical questioning.

Here is a well-known extract taken from Alice’s conversation with Humpty Dumpty:

‘…There’s glory for you!’
‘I don’t know what you mean by “glory,”‘ Alice said.
Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. ‘Of course you don’t – till I tell you. I meant “there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!”‘
‘But “glory” doesn’t mean “a nice knock-down argument,”‘ Alice objected.
‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.’
‘The question is,’ said Alice, ‘whether you can make words mean so many different things.’
‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘which is to be master – that’s all.’

I also cannot resist quoting at least a couple of verses from the brilliant nonsense poem Jabberwocky before I finish this post. So here are the opening two stanzas (and you’ll just have to read the book yourself to discover Humpty Dumpty’s explanation of the meaning):

‘Twas brillig and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogroves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

‘Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!’

Finally, some trivia: the poem that ends Through the Looking Glass is an acrostic of Alice Liddell’s full name.