Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Alice’s Day

The fourth of July is an important day in children’s literature. On the that day in 1862, Charles Dodgson, a mathematics tutor at Christ Church, Oxford, took three sisters on a boating trip along the river Thames. To amuse the girls, he told them a story about a bored little girl who chased a white rabbit down a rabbit hole and found herself in a nonsensical world called Wonderland.

The story so delighted 10-year-old Alice Liddell that she begged him to write it down. The original, handwritten manuscript with illustrations by Dodgson and entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground was given to Alice as an early Christmas present on 26 November 1864. A year later Dodgson made a few changes to remove family references, and added two new chapters. He appointed John Tenniel to create new illustrations some of which, including those of Alice, where based on Dodgson’s original drawings, while other characters, such as the Hatter and the March Hare, were of Tenniel’s own creation. In 1865 the story was published by Macmillan under the new title of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.

Alice's Adventures Under Ground
© British Library

Alice Liddell kept her original manuscript until she was forced to sell it in 1928 to pay death duties following the death of her husband. The manuscript was sold by auction at Sotheby’s for £15,000 to an American dealer, Dr Rosenbach. Upon returning to America he sold it to Eldridge Johnson. Following Johnson’s death in 1946 the manuscript was sold, again by auction, to a wealthy group of benefactors who, in 1948, donated it to the British people in gratitude for their gallantry against Adolf Hitler during World War II. It is now in the British Library and is available to view on their website.

Happy Alice's Day