Monday, October 01, 2007

Lewis Carroll ... Again

Whilst in Stratford last week I browsed the bookshops, one of my favourite pastimes, and couldn't resist buying The Complete Stories and Poems of Lewis Carroll. I have my old and well-worn copy of Through The Looking Glass but I don't have the copy of Alice in Wonderland that I read as a child. So I was delighted to see this book with the Tenniel illustrations and other stories and poems by Carroll that I haven't read before.

Included in the book are Sylvie and Bruno, The Hunting of the Snark, as well as early verses and college rhymes, and acrostic and other poems.

The Tenniel woodcut illustrations are brilliant. Here is the Mad Hatter, singing:

"Twinkle, Twinkle little bat!
How I wonder what you're at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea-tray in the sky."

Tenniel sounds like a stickler for perfection and the first edition of Alice had to be re-printed because he was not satisfied with the printing of his pictures. Most of the copies of the original edition were recalled but some survived and are now worth a fortune.

When Through the Looking Glass was being produced Tenniel sent Carroll his drawing of the Jabberwock for the frontispiece. Carroll was concerned that children would be frightened by the monster and sent copies of the drawing to thirty mothers asking their opinion. They agreed that it was too frightening and so the drawing of the White Knight was used at the front of the book and the Jabberwock was relegated to the text. I like the White Knight, but actually when I was a child I was fascinated by the Jabberwock and didn't find the drawing the slightest bit frightening.


Looking at it now it does look terrifying and I can understand how a parent would find it alarming - strange how one's perception changes.

My love of words probably stems from Through The Looking Glass. I remember learning and reciting the Jabberwocky as I enjoyed the sounds, without understanding exactly what it means:

"'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 Jujub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch."

"'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in a rather scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean - neither more nor less.'"

Brilliant!

3 comments:

Ann Darnton said...

I've taught a number of children and students who selected words on HD's principle! Was this from The Chaucer's Head? Lovely bookshop.

BooksPlease said...

No, it was from The Works on Waterside (opposite the RSC) - not quite the same as The Chaucer's Head. This book seemed just so apt as I'm reading Lewis Carroll's biography and was thinking of buying Alice in Wonderland - and it has so much more as well.

Tara said...

That picture is very frightening! Your trip sounds lovely, thank you for sharing it.