Our April 13th talk in Milton Village Hall was given by Mark Davies: “Alice’s Adventures in Oxford – Lewis Carroll and the River Thames”.
35+ members and guests enjoyed another enjoyable, entertaining and instructive evening, where Mark gave the story of the creation of Lewis Carrol’s enduring classic some intriguing and engaging perspectives.
We were presented with a true detective story – tracing some of the origins of Lewis Carroll’s two books based on Alice’s adventures.
Mark showed how both ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ and ‘Through the Looking Glass’ were developed by Carroll from stories he told to entertain the Liddell sisters during lengthy boat trips along the Thames. He also showed how these stories were full of characters cleverly disguised but actually very recognisable to the girls. We saw how things that happened in the stories were inspired by real life events and places they visited along the river.
We learned that Lewis Carroll, who as Charles Dodgson was Professor of Mathematics at Christ Church college, met the Liddell family in 1855 when Henry Liddell was appointed Dean of Christ Church and moved there with his young family. Carroll with his friend Robinson Duckworth accompanied some or all the Liddell siblings on a total of 19 boat trips between 1856 and 1863
Mark’s research drew on sources including Carroll’s own diaries and uncovered the significance of many places along the Thames from Godstow to Nuneham.
Lewis Carroll self-published ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ with his own illustrations because the real Alice had implored him to write the stories down and others convinced him there would be a wider appreciative readership. But no one, not even the imaginative Lewis Carroll himself, could have dreamt that the Alice stories, now associated with the wonderful Tenniel illustrations, could have become as famous worldwide as they are today.
A measure of the interest shown was the fact that every one of the copies the associated book “Alice in Waterland” which Mark had brought with him were sold at the end: a first for the group, one might say.
See Mark Davies’ Book Alice in Waterland here
About Mark Davies
Mark is an Oxford local historian, guide, and author with a particular interest in the history and literature of the city’s waterways, having lived on a residential narrowboat in Oxford for nearly thirty years.
His relevant publications are Alice in Waterland: Lewis Carroll and the River Thames in Oxford and Alice’s Oxford on Foot.
Mark has helped to organise Oxford’s annual ‘Alice’s Day’ since the first one in 2007, provides the only Alice-specific guided tours and boat commentaries in Oxford, and is on the committee of the Lewis Carroll Society.
Read more here.