Alice, Alice, Alice....

The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.

`Who are you?' said the Caterpillar.

This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, `I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.'

can still remember the effect these words, and most of the rest in Wonderland had on me way, way back when... it was the first time I had ever come across something by an adult that clearly had once been a little kid too, in a world that did not appear to make very much sense at all, but where clearly there were rules and They - adults and even teenagers - knew and I did not.
The fact that they were written by a mathematician at Oxford a century before I was born became a standing lesson in stereotypes and in history.

It also made it very clear that there was more to life than suburban dreams and being an "adult", which even then did not appear to be something most people enjoyed very much, very often.

The first version of the story featured illustrations drawn by Dodson himself, including this one of Alice. Unconvinced as to his own excellence, he would decide to work with John Tenniel, a prominent political cartoonist and illustrator.

There was definitely a dynamic tension to their collaboration. As one might expect, Tenniel's Alice was not the same as Mr. Dodson's. Neither was his conception of the others that Alice would meet in her journeys.

Mr. Dodgson tried to convince Mr. Tenniel to take a more "realistic" approach to the animals and other characters Alice meets on her journeys but to little avail.

They would also argue about size and placement, and whether the illustration was too big, or the text was too long and all the other things that authors and illustrators argue about to this day.
But for all their differences, when Dodson found out that Tenniel was upset by the first edition - because he felt that the images had been printed too faintly - Dodson had as many as could be found recalled and pulped, and the book was printed again.

Now it's impossible to imagine a Wonderland populated by anyone else. Tenniel's illustrations of the White Rabbit, the Hatter and all the others have found there way into the days and dreams of generations of children...
Over a century later, they remain the definitive versions, and most of the interpretations ever since owe much to his vision.

One of the pleasures I find in reading Alice so many years later is that with every passing year, it's clearer just how much Mr.Dodson was drawing on life.
What seemed fantastic and deliciously surreal when I was young reads differently after meeting more than one Red Queen, having taken tea with several Hatters and tried, also in vain, to get the attention of any number of rabbits running behind schedule...

You can download Alice's adventures @

You can have it read to you @

There's a lot of great information - maybe more than you want to know - about the books, the author and the times @

and here's a site that's collected all kinds of illustrations
done over the years by artists ranging from Dali to Ralph Steadman
and some more conventional artists as well @

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