Five Fascinating Facts About… Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

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Compiled by the Shiny editors.

We join in the celebrations of the 150th Anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with our own little tribute:

One of Carroll’s illustrations

1. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland started off as Alice’s Adventures Underground in 1864. Carroll gave the original manuscript to Alice Liddell described as ‘A Christmas Gift to a Dear Child in Memory of a Summer’s Day’. Carroll illustrated this early edition himself, rewriting and expanding the text into the version we are more familiar with today – the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party do not appear in Alice’s Adventures Underground.

2. Lewis Carroll (who was, of course, really Charles Dodgson) was a linguistic innovator: one of his contributions to English is ‘portmanteau word’, for a word made up of merging two other words. As Humpty Dumpty says, ‘Well, “slithy” means “lithe and slimy”. “Lithe” is the same as “active”. You see it’s like a portmanteau — there are two meanings packed up into one word.’

3. In 1931, the Alice books were banned in the Chinese province of Hunan, by General Ho Chien, because they featured talking animals. The censor apparently believed that anthropomorphised animals were an insult to humans, and a threat to the distinction children were able to draw between humans and animals.

4. Illustrators of the Alice books have been a varied group. Alongside the well-known John Tenniel illustrations (which brought us the well-known Alice band), there have been dozens of others who have turned their hand to Wonderland – including Tove Jansson, Peter Blake, Mervyn Peake (left), and Salvador Dali.

Mervyn Peake’s Alice (1954)

5. Alice Liddell went on to marry a cricketer, Reginald Hargreaves. After his death in 1926, she had to sell her manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Underground to pay for the upkeep of their home. It raised a record £15,400 at Sotheby’s and went to America. Upon its new owner’s death, an American consortium bought it and presented it to the British people  ‘in recognition of Britain’s courage in facing Hitler before America came into the war’.  It is now in the British Library.

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