Bring back some good or bad memories


July 26, 2014

Meet Alice Liddell, the Little Girl Who Inspired Lewis Carroll to Write “Alice in Wonderland”

Alice Pleasance Liddell (1852–1934) was the middle daughter of Henry George Liddell, Dean of Christ Church at Oxford. Alice, along with her sisters Edith and Lorina, first met Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) on April 25, 1856, as he and a friend were setting up to photograph Christ Church Cathedral from the garden of the Dean’s residence.

Over the next few years, Carroll would become a close friend of the Liddell family. Alice and her sisters were frequent models for Carroll’s photography, and he often took the children on outings.

On July 4th, 1862, Carroll and the Rev. Robinson Duckworth took the girls boating up the Isis. Alice later recalled that as the company took tea on a shaded bank, she implored Carroll to “tell us a story.”

According to Carroll, “in a desperate attempt” and “without the least idea what was to happen afterwards,” he sent his heroine “straight down a rabbit-hole.” Upon Alice’s urging, Carroll began writing down his tale. On November 26, 1864, he presented her with an elaborate hand-illustrated manuscript, titled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground.

When Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published a year later, Alice Liddell became immortalized as the inspiration for Carroll’s much-loved literary character. But unlike the fictional “Alice,” Alice Liddell grew up. By the time Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There was published, she was almost 20 years old, and Carroll’s close friendship with the Liddell family had weakened. His sequel can be seen as a fond farewell to Alice as she enters adulthood.

In 1880, Alice married amateur cricket player Reginald Hargreaves. She lived the cultured life of a country lady in Lyndhurst, England. She had three sons, two of whom were killed in World War I. To help pay taxes after the death of her husband, Alice put the original Under Ground manuscript up for auction in 1928. The manuscript fetched £15,400, nearly four times the reserve price given it by Sotheby’s auction house. It later became the possession of Eldridge R. Johnson and was displayed at Columbia University on the centennial of Carroll’s birth.

Alice was present, aged 80, and it was on this visit to the United States that she met Peter Llewelyn Davies, one of the brothers who inspired J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. Upon Johnson’s death, the book was purchased by a consortium of American bibliophiles and presented to the British people “in recognition of Britain's courage in facing Hitler before America came into the war”. The manuscript resides in the British Library.

After her death in 1934, Alice was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium and her ashes were buried in the graveyard of the church of St Michael and All Angels Lyndhurst. A memorial plaque, naming her “Mrs. Reginald Hargreaves” can be seen in the picture in the monograph. Alice’s mirror can be found on display at the New Forest Heritage Centre, Lydhurst, a free museum sharing the history of the New Forest.

Alice Liddell in Summer 1858. (Photo by Lewis Carroll)

Liddell dressed in her best outfit, 1858. (Photo by Lewis Carroll)

Alice Liddell, Summer 1858. (Photo by Lewis Carroll)

Alice Liddell as a beggar-maid, 1858. (Photo by Lewis Carroll)

Alice Liddell (right) with sisters Edith Mary Liddell and Ina Liddell, ca. 1859. (Photo by Lewis Carroll)

Alice Liddell, aged 7, in 1860. (Photo by Lewis Carroll)

Alice Liddell, aged 7, in 1860. (Photo by Lewis Carroll)

Alice Liddell, Ina Liddell, Harry Liddell and Edith Mary Liddell in Spring 1860. (Photo by Lewis Carroll)

Edith Mary Liddell, Ina Liddell and Alice Liddell in July 1860. (Photo by Lewis Carroll)

Alice Liddell, Edith Mary Liddell and Ina Liddell, ca. mid-1860s. (Photo by Lewis Carroll)

1 comment:



Browse by Decades

Popular Posts


09 10