150 years ago, on July 4th, 1862, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was born upon a small boat as a story told to three young girls by a stammering mathematician named Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll.
A small group of Dodgson’s friends set out upon a boat for afternoon tea. The party was made up of Reverend Robinson Duckworth, and the three sisters of Carroll’s friend Harry Liddell: Edith (8), Alice (10), and Lorina (13). Tasked with entertaining the young children, he told them a fantastical story and named the protagonist after Alice Liddell. She enjoyed the adventures of her fictional self so much that she asked him to write them down for her, and soon enough, he produced a manuscript entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground.
Eventually, the manuscript ended up in the hands of John Tenniel, who would famously illustrate the novel’s final iteration: Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland. Although the illustrations of this wild and wonderful story were not based upon Alice Liddell. It turns out Carroll didn’t like them at all:
‘Mr. Tenniel is the only artist, who has drawn for me, who has resolutely refused to use a model, and declared he no more need one than I should need a multiplication table to work a mathematical problem! I venture to think that he was mistaken and that for want of a model, he drew several pictures of ‘Alice’ entirely out of proportion — head decidedly too large and feet decidedly too small.’
Despite his misgivings about the representation of Alice, the drawings would help Carroll’s novel become an iconic children’s story, influencing artists, movie adaptations, and even a horror game. In order to celebrate this momentous triumph of children’s literature, maybe you shouldn’t drop LSD and travel “down the rabbit hole” as they used to say, but do brew a cup of tea to enjoy while you watch one of the countless film adaptations of the book, or just read that old copy you still have in your basement from your childhood.
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