Five Fascinating Facts about… Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

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:

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.

alice flamingo

One of Carroll’s illustrations

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.

alice peake4. 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.

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.



alice tea party

The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party by John Tenniel


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5 thoughts on “Five Fascinating Facts about… Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  1. Pingback: BookBuzz | Shiny New Books

  2. These facts are fascinating, especially the (very curious) Hunan banning. Thank you Shiny Editors. I loved the Alice books for their neologisms and portmanteau words (although I had no idea that’s what they were then). And I loved them for their extraordinary imaginative reach. The combination of strange new words and a soaring imagination made me want to become a writer because they showed me that you can imagine absolutely anything and if you can imagine absolutely anything you can write about, find the words for, absolutely anything.

    • I think Alice was the first proper book I read – I still have my original Puffin paperback from the early 1960s – with all the pictures coloured in by yours truly. A true original, it will live on and on (although I find Alice a tad irritating these days!)

    • I had a copy of the Annotated Alice many years ago – every time I see it mentioned somewhere I think I should buy it again. If we get to do it again when it becomes the true anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in a few years time, I’ll see you right!

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