Lewis Carroll's two great Alice stories Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass have entertained and amused both small children and grown adults alike for nearly a century and a half. Set in Victorian England, these wild, remarkable flights of fancy have had a lasting appeal to the world over and are surprisingly modern in their outlook. With Alice's adventures, which take her down a rabbit-hole to Wonderland or through a mirror into a fantastical game of chess, Carroll tells stories that are amusing and witty, but also surprisingly insightful and profound. Many of Carroll's phrases and expressions "Curiouser and curiouser," or "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast" have entered the language of everyday use.
In Quotable Alice, David W. Barber, whose books include
Bach, Beethoven and the Boys and Better Than It Sounds: A Dictionary of Humorous Musical Quotations, brings together the best and most memorable of Carroll's pithy expressions from the Alice books. With the text is a selection of the famous illustrations John Tenniel created for the original editions.
About the Author
David Barber is a journalist, author, composer and performer who lives and works in Toronto.
The enchanting tale of Alice following a White Rabbit into Wonderland began as a story told aloud to amuse a real little girl, Alice Pleasance Liddell, and her two sisters during a boating picnic on the River Thames one summer afternoon in Oxford, England, in 1862.
Later, the Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson a shy, stammering mathematician and Oxford don wrote down the story, calling it Alice's Adventures Under Ground. That simple, handmade original later came to be published, under the pen name Lewis Carroll, as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. For the formal publication, by Macmillan in 1865, Dodgson's own rudimentary sketches were replaced by the now-familiar and much more detailed pen-and-ink drawings of Sir John Tenniel. (For a more detailed biography of Lewis Carroll, see page 107.)
Since that remarkable "golden afternoon," Carroll's two great Alice stories Alice in Wonderland(as it's now more commonly known) and its 1871 sequel, Through the Looking-Glass have entertained and amused both small children and grown adults alike for nearly a century and a half. (By happy coincidence a different Alice had helped inspire Looking-Glass, eight-year-old Alice Raikes, whom he'd met in 1868 on a visit to his uncle Skeffington Lutwidge, in London.)
Though set in Victorian England, these wild, remarkable flights of fancy have a lasting appeal the world over and are, in many ways, surprisingly modern in their outlook. With Alice's adventures, which take her down a rabbit hole to Wonderland or through a mirror into a fantastical game of chess, Carroll tells stories that are absurdly amusing and witty, but also often surprisingly insightful and profound. (Even those who may not have experienced the Alice books as small children were often later to discover them during the usual adolescent period of existential angst. In that mindset, she fits right in.)
Many of Carroll's phrases and expressions "Curiouser and curiouser," or "sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast" have entered the language of everyday use (well, at least in some circles). With any luck, this little book may help that continue.
Alice herself has grown to become one of the most endearing, and enduring, characters in English literary fiction and dozens of other languages. This caused Carroll some chagrin, though it should not have been a surprise. Like other authors Conan Doyle and his Sherlock Holmes being another notable example Carroll turned out to be wrong about his own appeal. Like Doyle, he had hoped to be remembered for his more serious works Doyle for his overblown historical novels, Carroll for his treatises on mathematics and logic. But posterity often has a way of making its own choices, on which authors are generally not consulted.
In compiling the most entertaining and memorable of these quotations, I've taken some liberties with their order, avoiding a strict chronology in favor of what I hope is a more interesting arrangement that groups similar quotes together to create a more appealing "flow" (though I've kept the two books separate to avoid unnecessary confusion). And if you need help finding a particular quote, there's an index at the back.
Readers may note how often Carroll returns to certain themes, such as learning, education and logic (he was, after all, a teacher) and of course their opposites (or is that corollaries?), namely absurdity and nonsense. There's much about word meanings and wordplay (witness Humpty Dumpty's imperious "When I use a word.."), manners ("Make a remark: it's ridiculous to leave all the conversation to the pudding!") and a surprising number about dismemberment and death. (When Alice tells Humpty Dumpty her age is seven and a half and "one can't help growing older," his reply is a little chilling, when you think about it: "One can't, perhaps," he says, "but two can. With proper assistance, you might have left off at seven.")
I've also taken the liberty, to a certain degree, of modernizing and simplifying some of Carroll's spelling and punctuation, generally just to make the excerpts easier to read. The most notable change comes in Carroll's eccentric rendition of can't and won't and similar words, which he spelled as ca'n't and wo'n't. (Technically, and logically, he's quite correct: the first apostrophe replaces the 'n' of can or the 'uld' of would, the second replaces the 'o' of 'not.' But however correct it might be, that spelling remains somewhat like Carroll himself overly fussy and pedantic. And besides, it never really caught on.) As Carroll might have said it's too much like cant, and I won't have it.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
All the best bits from the book, fun to read and memorize for quoting.