>>>Great Britain through the looking glass

Great Britain through the looking glass

Wales, Oxford, the Isle of Wight and the north east of England all served to inspire Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland.
O
ne thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it.” So begins Alice Through the Looking Glass – the follow-up to Alice in Wonderland and the basis for Walt Disney’s animated adaptation of the much-loved fable. The city of Oxford played a major role in the creation of this famous story. It was here in this English university city that Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his penname of Lewis Carroll, first met Alice Liddell. Her father, the Reverend Henry Liddell, had moved to Oxford to take up the post of chaplain at Christ Church College, where Carroll lectured in mathematics. “Oxford is the undisputed home of Wonderland”, David Gibb, spokesperson for TheStoryMuseum, assures us. “Its influence is all pervasive; if you look carefully you can find Wonderland all over Oxford.”
The beach at Whitby, a possible setting for the “The Walrus and the Carpenter”.

Mummified and stuffed animals

The Natural History Museum at the University of Oxford exhibits the mummified remains of a dodo in its collection. The dodo, long extinct, appears in Alice in Wonderland. In Sunderland, it’s claimed that Carroll’s poem “The Walrus and the Carpenter” was inspired by a stuffed walrus on display in the city museum.

If film director Tim Burton had wanted to find inspiration in the places where Carroll lived, he would have had to have started at the beginning, just as the White King told Alice to do. More specifically, Tim Burton would have started with the River Thames. It was there that Deacon Dodgson invented a story to entertain the three children who were on the river in a rowing boat. Alice liked the tale so much that she asked him to write it out for her. And so, a legend was born.
Next stop Darlington, an industrial town in the north east of England, in search of the Cheshire Cat is one of the story’s best known characters. The sculptured head of a smiling cat stands in the church of St Peter’s in Croft-on-Tees, Lewis Carroll lived here when his father when his father was rector of the village. And the name of the cat comes from Cheshire, the county where Carroll was born. These days, Daresbury, the village in which he was born, is the location of the Lewis Carroll Centre, which houses a permanent exhibition of the author and academic’s professional work. To see his personal documents and possessions, however, requires a trip to Guildford. In later life, Carroll moved into the family home here, The Chestnuts, to live with his unmarried sisters, and it was in this town where he died and was buried.
Only the head and feet of the extinct Madagascar dodo are preserved in the Natural History Museum at Oxford University.
The route that follows the places where Carroll lived around Britain also includes the Isle of Wight, where he spent his holidays. He liked to stroll along the beach at Sandown or visit the photographer Julia Margaret Cameron in Freshwater Bay. Alice’s family, meanwhile, spent their summers not far from the Isle of Wight in the seaside town Llandudno, North Wales. Their old house, Pen Morfa,is now the St. Tudno Hotel.Then, after she married, Alice finally settled in the New Forest in the town of Lyndhurst, of which she said: “It was Wonderland finally come true.”
Lewis Carroll includes Alice’s Shop in Through the Looking Glass under the name of the Olde Sheep Shop.
In his graphic novel Alice in Sunderland, author Bryan Talbot suggests that Carroll spent years working through in his mind the characters and plots of the two books. Talbot highlights the time Carroll spent in the north east of England. In one period, his sister Mary was living in Sunderland and Carroll himself was teaching mathematics in Whitby, where he published his first poem. Nearby, Sir Hedworth Williamson, a relation of Alice’s, lived in Whitburn Hall. Carroll used to play cricket there, and white rabbits lived in the grounds. As the Cheshire Cat advised the story’s protagonist, you’ll always get somewhere “if only you walk long enough”. And, if you walk long enough in Britain, you’re sure to end up running into Alice in Wonderland.

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