This book of colourful nonsenses and creative wordplay was another Christmas holiday treat to myself. It is an enjoyable light read to close what has been a nonsense year. As with most Wordsworth Classics, the presentation of the text is excellent and includes the original illustrations.
For the first time to my knowledge, the Introduction actually recommended reading the book first, so as not to learn of the surprises ahead of time. Why all introductions don't do this, I'll never understand.
"...because the pleasures of reading are inseparable from the surprises, secrets and revelations that all narratives contain, we strongly advise you to enjoy the book before returning to the Introduction"
The author of the Introduction also rails against the academisaiton of literature, a particularly valid grudge when it comes to classic children's tales.
He also observes how Lewis Carrol upbringing may have been filled with the type of nonsensical comedy that Carrol employed to full effect in his stories. Here is Lewis Caroll's father writing back to his eight-year old son, who asked him to bring back a screwdriver:
. . I will not forget your commission. As soon as I get to Leeds I shall scream out in the middle of the street, Ironmongers—Ironmongers — Six hundred men will rush out of their shops in a moment — fly, fly, in all directions — ring the bells, call the constables — set the town on fire. I will have a file and a screw-driver, and a ring, and if they are not brought directly, in forty seconds I will leave nothing but one small cat alive in the whole town of Leeds, and I shall only leave that, because I am afraid I shall not have time to kill it.
Then what a bawling and a tearing of hair there will be I Pigs and babies, camels and butterflies, rolling in the gutter together — old women rushing up the chimneys and cows after them — ducks hiding themselves in coffee cups, and fat geese trying to squeeze themselves into pencil cases — at last the Mayor of Leeds will be found in a soup plate covered up with custard and stuck full of almonds to make him look like a sponge cake that he may escape the dreadful destruction of the Town . . .
Alice in Wonderland ****
Through the Looking Glass ***1/2
From the book:
(as Alice is shrinking) And she tried to fancy what the flame of a candle is like after is is blown out...
'I can't explain myself, I'm afraid sir,' said Alice, 'because I'm not myself.'
'Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here.'
'That depends a good deal on where you want to get to', said the Cat.
'I don't much care where -' said Alice.
'Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.' said the Cat.
'- so long as I get somewhere,' Alice added as an explanation.
'Oh you're sure to do that ,' said the Cat, 'if you only walk long enough.
“Crawling at your feet,' said the Gnat (Alice drew her feet back in some alarm), `you may observe a Bread-and-Butterfly. Its wings are thin slices of Bread-and-butter, its body is a crust, and its head is a lump of sugar.'
And what does it live on?'
Weak tea with cream in it.'
A new difficulty came into Alice's head. `Supposing it couldn't find any?' she suggested.
Then it would die, of course.'
But that must happen very often,' Alice remarked thoughtfully.
It always happens,' said the Gnat.”
Off with their heads.
It's all her/his fancy that ....
'There's nothing like eating hay when you're faint', he remarked to her, as he munched away.
'I should think throwing cold water over you would be better,' Alice suggested...
'I didn't say there was nothing better,' the King replied. 'I said there was nothing like it.' Which Alice did not venture to deny.
Everybody has won and all must have prizes.