Thursday, July 21, 2011

Peering 'Through the Looking-Glass' in Oxford

'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice.

'You must be,' said the Cat, 'or you wouldn't have come here.'

Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

Having recently read a fictionalized version of Lewis Carroll's relationship with Alice Liddell, the girl for whom he wrote what was originally published as Alice's Adventures Under Ground, it was harder to view the many Oxford sites associated with the book as innocently as I once would have. But Alice in Wonderland was one of my favorite stories, so I'm going to try to ignore the "dodginess" of their relationship as much as possible.
It is believed that Carroll, a k a Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, based many of the characters in Alice and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, on real people and places he knew from his work as a mathematical lecturer at Christ Church. Henry Liddell was the dean of Christ Church at the time and Dodgson became friendly with several of Liddell's children, including his daughter Alice. The story that became Alice in Wonderland began during a picnic in July 1862 and was published three years later. He went on to publish the sequel in 1871.

Some of the sites associated with the book:

The tree that inspired the Jabberwock​y in 'Through the Looking Glass.'

Christ Church is both a college and cathedral. Alice Liddell's parents and one of her sisters are buried in this cemetery.

The door to the Forbidden Garden, where the Liddell girls weren't allowed to play. Alice was supposedly caught with her eye to the keyhole.

The corner of the Christ Church quadrangle where Carroll is supposed to have written part of his story. Because Oxford failed to adopt London time, the clock in the tower is perpetually 5 minutes behind the rest of the country. As dean, Alice Liddell's father would have been constantly behind as well, perhaps inspiring the White Rabbit character.

A stained glass window in the Great Hall honoring Alice.

A sign outside Alice's Shop, devoted entirely to 'Alice in Wonderland​' memorabilia and located at a store where Alice Liddell used to shop.

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