July 4th, 1862 & 1865 – Alice Falls Down the Rabbit Hole

Today-In-History

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (commonly shortened to Alice in Wonderland) is the much loved novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. It tells the tale of Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children.It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. Its narrative course and structure, characters and imagery have been enormously influential in both popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre.

Alice Tea Party 680

Alice was published on July 4th, 1865, exactly three years after Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and the Reverend Robinson Duckworth rowed in a boat, on July 4th, 1862 (this popular date of the “golden afternoon” might be a confusion or even another Alice-tale, for that particular day was cool, cloudy and rainy), up the Isis with the three young daughters of Henry Liddell (the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and Dean of Christ Church): Lorina Charlotte Liddell (aged 13, born 1849, “Prima” in the book’s prefatory verse); Alice Pleasance Liddell (aged 10, born 1852, “Secunda” in the prefatory verse); Edith Mary Liddell (aged 8, born 1853, “Tertia” in the prefatory verse).

Alice Liddell

Alice Liddell

The journey began at Folly Bridge near Oxford and ended five miles away in the village of Godstow. During the trip Dodgson told the girls a story that featured a bored little girl named Alice who goes looking for an adventure. The girls loved it, and Alice Liddell asked Dodgson to write it down for her. He began writing the manuscript of the story the next day, although that earliest version no longer exists. The girls and Dodgson took another boat trip a month later when he elaborated the plot to the story of Alice, and in November he began working on the manuscript in earnest.

Alice Original

A page from the original manuscript copy of “Alice’s Adventures Under Ground,” 1864

To add the finishing touches he researched natural history for the animals presented in the book, and then had the book examined by other children—particularly the children of George MacDonald. He added his own illustrations but approached John Tenniel to illustrate the book for publication, telling him that the story had been well liked by children.

On November 26th, 1864 he gave Alice the handwritten manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, with illustrations by Dodgson himself, dedicating it as “A Christmas Gift to a Dear Child in Memory of a Summer’s Day”. Some, including Martin Gardner, speculate there was an earlier version that was destroyed later by Dodgson when he wrote a more elaborate copy by hand. But before Alice received her copy, Dodgson was already preparing it for publication and expanding the 15,500-word original to 27,500 words, most notably adding the episodes about the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Tea-Party.


 

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