Brown grained cloth with gilt lettering on the spine. Embossed ship on front cover.
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (commonly Alice in Wonderland) is an 1865 English children’s novel by Lewis Carroll (a pseudonym of Charles Dodgson). A young girl named Alice falls through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world of anthropomorphic creatures. It is seen as a prime example of the literary nonsense genre. Its play with logic gives the story lasting popularity with adults as well as children.
One of the best-known works of Victorian English fiction, its narrative, structure, characters and imagery have had huge influence on popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre. The book has never been out of print and has been translated into at least 97 languages. Its legacy covers adaptations for stage, screen, radio, art, ballet, theme parks, board games and video games. Carroll published a sequel in 1871 entitled Through the Looking-Glass and a shortened version for young children, The Nursery “Alice”, in 1890.
THE BOOK’s BACKGROUND “All in the golden afternoon…”
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865. It was inspired when, three years earlier on 4 July, Lewis Carroll and the Reverend Robinson Duckworth rowed up the River Isis in a boat with three young girls. This day was known as the “golden afternoon,” prefaced in the novel as a poem. The poem might be a confusion or even another Alice-tale, for it turns out that particular day was cool, cloudy and rainy. The three girls were the daughters of scholar Henry Liddell: Lorina Charlotte Liddell (aged 13; “Prima” in the book’s prefatory verse); Alice Pleasance Liddell (aged 10; “Secunda” in the verse); and Edith Mary Liddell (aged 8; “Tertia” in the verse).
The journey began at Folly Bridge, Oxford and ended five miles (8 km) away in the Oxfordshire 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.
Carroll began writing the manuscript of the story the next day, although that earliest version is lost. 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.
To add the finishing touches he researched natural history in connection with the animals presented in the book, and then had the book examined by other children—particularly those of George MacDonald. Though Dodgson did add his own illustrations, he subsequently approached John Tenniel to illustrate the book for publication, telling him that the story had been well liked by children.
On 26 November 1864, Dodgson 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 that there was an earlier version that was destroyed later by Dodgson when he wrote a more elaborate copy by hand.
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.
THE PLOT SYNOPSIS
Chapter One – Down the Rabbit Hole: Alice, a seven-year-old girl, is feeling bored and drowsy while sitting on the riverbank with her elder sister. She notices a talking, clothed white rabbit with a pocket watch run past. She follows it down a rabbit hole where she suddenly falls a long way to a curious hall with many locked doors of all sizes. She finds a little key to a door too small for her to fit through, but through it, she sees an attractive garden. She then discovers a bottle on a table labelled “DRINK ME,” the contents of which cause her to shrink too small to reach the key which she had left on the table. She subsequently eats a cake labelled “EAT ME” in currants as the chapter closes.
Chapter Two – The Pool of Tears: The chapter opens with Alice growing to such a tremendous size that her head hits the ceiling. Unhappy, Alice begins to cry and her tears literally flood the hallway. After she picks up a fan that causes her to shrink back down, Alice swims through her own tears and meets a mouse, who is swimming as well. Alice, thinking he may be a French mouse, tries to make small talk with him in elementary French. Her opening gambit “Où est ma chatte?” (transl. ”Where is my cat?”), however, offends the mouse, who then tries to escape her.
Chapter Three – The Caucus Race and a Long Tale: The sea of tears becomes crowded with other animals and birds that have been swept away by the rising waters. Alice and the other animals convene on the bank and the question among them is how to get dry again. Mouse gives them a very dry lecture on William the Conqueror. A dodo decides that the best thing to dry them off would be a Caucus-Race, which consists of everyone running in a circle with no clear winner. Alice eventually frightens all the animals away, unwittingly, by talking about her (moderately ferocious) cat.
Chapter Four – The Rabbit Sends a Little Bill: White Rabbit appears again in search of the Duchess’s gloves and fan. Mistaking her for his maidservant, Mary Ann, Rabbit orders Alice to go into the house and retrieve them. Inside the house she finds another little bottle and drinks from it, immediately beginning to grow again. The horrified Rabbit orders his gardener, Bill the Lizard, to climb on the roof and go down the chimney. Outside, Alice hears the voices of animals that have gathered to gawk at her giant arm. The crowd hurls pebbles at her, which turn into little cakes. Alice eats them, and they reduce her again in size.
Chapter Five – Advice from a Caterpillar: Alice comes upon a mushroom and sitting on it is a blue caterpillar smoking a hookah. Caterpillar questions Alice, who begins to admit to her current identity crisis, compounded by her inability to remember a poem. Before crawling away, the caterpillar tells Alice that one side of the mushroom will make her taller and the other side will make her shorter. She breaks off two pieces from the mushroom. One side makes her shrink smaller than ever, while another causes her neck to grow high into the trees, where a pigeon mistakes her for a serpent. With some effort, Alice brings herself back to her normal height. She stumbles upon a small estate and uses the mushroom to reach a more appropriate height.
Chapter Six – Pig and Pepper: A fish-footman has an invitation for the Duchess of the house, which he delivers to a frog-footman. Alice observes this transaction and, after a perplexing conversation with the frog, lets herself into the house. The Duchess’s cook is throwing dishes and making a soup that has too much pepper, which causes Alice, the Duchess, and her baby (but not the cook or grinning Cheshire Cat) to sneeze violently. Alice is given the baby by the Duchess, and, to Alice’s surprise, the baby turns into a pig. The Cheshire Cat appears in a tree, directing her to the March Hare’s house. He disappears but his grin remains behind to float on its own in the air prompting Alice to remark that she has often seen a cat without a grin but never a grin without a cat.
Chapter Seven – A Mad Tea-Party: Alice becomes a guest at a “mad” tea party along with the March Hare, the Hatter, and a very tired Dormouse, who falls asleep frequently only to be violently awakened moments later by the March Hare and the Hatter. The characters give Alice many riddles and stories, including the famous “why is a raven like a writing desk?.” The Hatter reveals that they have tea all day because Time has punished him by eternally standing still at 6 PM (tea time). Alice becomes insulted and tired of being bombarded with riddles and she leaves, saying it is the stupidest tea party that she has ever been to.
Chapter Eight – The Queen’s Croquet Ground: Alice leaves the tea party and enters the garden where she comes upon three living playing cards painting the white roses on a rose tree red because The Queen of Hearts hates white roses. A procession of more cards, kings and queens and even the White Rabbit enters the garden. Alice then meets the King and Queen. The Queen, a figure difficult to please, introduces her signature phrase “Off with his head!” which she utters at the slightest dissatisfaction with a subject. Alice is invited (or some might say ordered) to play a game of croquet with the Queen and the rest of her subjects but the game quickly descends into chaos. Live flamingos are used as mallets and hedgehogs as balls and Alice once again meets the Cheshire Cat. The Queen of Hearts then orders the Cat to be beheaded, only to have her executioner complain that this is impossible since the head is all that can be seen of him. Because the cat belongs to the Duchess, the Queen is prompted to release the Duchess from prison to resolve the matter.
Chapter Nine – The Mock Turtle’s Story: The Duchess is brought to the croquet ground at Alice’s request. She ruminates on finding morals in everything around her. The Queen of Hearts dismisses her on the threat of execution, and she introduces Alice to the Gryphon, who takes her to the Mock Turtle. The Mock Turtle is very sad, even though he has no sorrow. He tries to tell his story about how he used to be a real turtle in school, which the Gryphon interrupts so they can play a game.
Chapter Ten – Lobster Quadrille: The Mock Turtle and the Gryphon dance to the Lobster Quadrille, while Alice recites (rather incorrectly) “‘Tis the Voice of the Lobster”. The Mock Turtle sings them “Beautiful Soup” during which the Gryphon drags Alice away for an impending trial.
Chapter Eleven – Who Stole the Tarts?: Alice attends a trial whereby the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts. The jury is composed of various animals, including Bill the Lizard, the White Rabbit is the court’s trumpeter, and the judge is the King of Hearts. During the proceedings, Alice finds that she is steadily growing larger. The dormouse scolds Alice and tells her she has no right to grow at such a rapid pace and take up all the air. Alice scoffs and calls the dormouse’s accusation ridiculous because everyone grows and she cannot help it. Meanwhile, witnesses at the trial include the Hatter, who displeases and frustrates the King through his indirect answers to the questioning, and the Duchess’s cook.
Chapter Twelve – Alice’s Evidence: Alice is then called up as a witness. She accidentally knocks over the jury box with the animals inside them and the King orders the animals to be placed back into their seats before the trial continues. The King and Queen order Alice to be gone, citing Rule 42 (“All persons more than a mile high to leave the court”), but Alice disputes their judgement and refuses to leave. She argues with the King and Queen of Hearts over the ridiculous proceedings, eventually refusing to hold her tongue, only to say in the process, “It’s not that I was the one who stole the tarts in the first place.” Finally, the Queen confirms that Alice was the culprit responsible for stealing the tarts after all (which automatically pardons the Knave of Hearts of his charges), and shouts, “Off with her head!”, but Alice is unafraid, calling them just a pack of cards; although Alice holds her own for a time, the card guards soon gang up and start to swarm all over her. Alice’s sister wakes her up from a dream, brushing what turns out to be some leaves and not a shower of playing cards from Alice’s face. Alice leaves her sister on the bank to imagine all the curious happenings for herself.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll, was happiest in the company of children for whom he created puzzles, clever games and charming letters. As all Carroll admirers know, his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) became an immediate success and has since been translated into more than eighty languages. The equally popular sequel Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, was published in 1872. The Alice books are but one example of his wide-ranging authorship. The Hunting of the Snark, a classic nonsense epic (1876) and Euclid and His Modern Rivals, a rare example of humorous work concerning mathematics, still entice and intrigue today’s students. His humour, sparkling wit and genius have lasted for more than a century and his books are among the most quoted works in the English language.
Lewis Carroll was born on 27 January 1832. He studied at Christ Church, Oxford and went on to become a mathematics lecturer there from 1855 to 1881. Lewis Carroll’s most famous works are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (published in 1865) and the sequel Alice Through the Looking-Glass, which contains the classic nonsense poem The Jabberwocky (published in 1872).
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