Archive for January, 2016

Winter Wonderland: Happy Birthday Lewis (and Wolfgang, Wilhelm and Wilhelm)

Wednesday, January 27th, 2016

This Winter, we are posting about Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland books.

And today is Lewis Carroll’s birthday. But it’s also Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s birthday, F. W. J. Schelling’s birthday and Kaiser Wilhelm II’s birthday!


These four famous men had more in common than just a shared birthday. Here’s some of those commonalities:

Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and adopted Lewis Carroll as a pen name.

Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph von Schelling was born Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling. The “von” was added when he was ennobled.

Kaiser Wilhelm II was born Frederick Wilhelm Viktor Abrecht von Preußen. The “Kaiser” and “II” came later.

Kaiser Wilhelm II was the eldest grandchild of Queen Victoria.

Alice Liddell, the real-life Alice from Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was courted by Queen Victoria’s youngest son.

Mozart dedicated an aria to his pet Pomeranian and Queen Victoria was crazy about Pomeranians (although the breed of dog she imported from Florence – the Italian Vopino – is now classified as a Spitz and not a Pomeranian).

Schelling gave lectures concerning India, its mythology and philosophy and Victoria was Empress of India.

W. J. Schelling was a German philosopher.

Kaiser Wilhelm was a German ruler.

Mozart spoke German (but he was Austrian).

Lewis Carroll visited Germany on the only trip he took abroad.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was the greatest master of the Classical style.

Schelling was one of the greatest Idealists (along with Fichte and Hegel).

Lewis Carroll is the epitome of a Victorian-era icon.

Kaiser Wilhelm II liked wearing fancy medals, had a crush on his cousin, and was a hunting enthusiast.

Carroll suffered from many ailments. A fever as a child left him deaf in one ear. Whooping cough at age 17 led to a chronic weak chest. And he had a stammer.

Wilhelm II had a withered arm from birth.

The characters from Carroll’s Wonderland books were immortalized by illustrator John Tenniel.

Kaiser Wilhelm is pictured in one of Tenniel’s most famous political cartoons.


Wilhelm watches Bismarck leave the ship of state in Tenneil’s “Dropping the Pilot”

Mozart was a master of any art form he put his pen to, and could play in virtually any musical style.

Schelling radically changed his philosophical outlook so many times, it was hard to pin him down.

Besides being a writer, Carroll was a deacon, photographer, mathematician and logician.

Kaiser Wilhelm II was famously spurned by John Bull and Marianne and shunned on the world stage.

Carroll was spurned by the Lidell family and restricted access to their children.


Wilhelm shunned by Britain and France


Mozart was a child prodigy, writing his first composition at age 5, and taking Europe by storm before he was 10.

Schelling was a very gifted child, learning Greek and Latin by age 8, admitted into the theological seminary at age 15, and writing his first philosophical work at 19.

As an adult, Lewis Carroll enjoyed the company of precocious children.

When Wilhelm was 4 years old, he bit his uncle in the leg.

Winter Wonderland: Meet the Real Alice

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016

This winter, we’re posting about Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland stories. Today’s post is about Alice Liddell, the inspiration for Carroll’s lead character.

If you’re even a remote fan of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, then you’ve heard the origin story: Lewis Carroll enjoyed the company of children, especially young girls, and struck up a friendship with three young daughters of Henry Liddell, the dean of his college. One of these, Alice, became the inspiration for the Alice stories. Carroll first told the Liddell girls the Wonderland story on an outing and Alice told him that he should write it down.

The friendship between Carroll and Alice Liddell ended shortly after the book was published. For reasons unknown (Carroll’s diary pages on the incident have been removed, and Alice’s mother destroyed Carroll’s letters), Alice’s mother began to limit Carroll’s access to her, and they grew apart. There has been much speculation about what led to the split – some of it sinister – but the truth remains unknown.

Young Alice

The rest of Alice’s story is less well known.

At age 20, Alice was rumored to have been courted by Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria. But Alice was a commoner and marriage was not a possibility.

Alice instead married cricketer Reginald Hargreaves. But it’s clear that Alice’s and Prince Leopold’s relationship remained important to the two of them. Alice named her first son Leopold (and the Prince was her godfather) and Leopold named his daughter Alice.

Alice lived the life of a landlady – painting, drawing, doing woodcarvings (one of which can be seen on a door of St. Frideswide’s church in Oxford) and taking care of the estate.

It wasn’t a peaceful life though. Two of Alice’s sons died in the First World War. When her husband died, she couldn’t afford to take care of her home, and needed money to pay death duties. Luckily she had held on to the original manuscript for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland all those years, and she was able to auction it off for an entirely unexpected whopping sum of £15,000 – serious money in those days.

On the centenary of Carroll’s birth in 1932, Alice was invited to New York by Columbia University to attend a Carroll conference and to receive an honorary degree. It was an odd experience for Alice, who was so much in the public eye for a story that really had very little to do with her. After her trip to New York, Alice did her best to stay away from the public, although it was difficult to keep all the journalists and letters at bay.

Alice died in 1934 at age 82.


Older Alice

Winter Wonderland: Adaptations

Thursday, January 14th, 2016

It’s Wintertime finally (it’s taken a long time to reach us in the Northeast US), and the PhLog will be posting over the dark months about the raucous and silly Wonderland books by Lewis Carroll.

Today’s post is about the many – so many – adaptations of these books.

Ever since Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865, people have been adapting it for stage and screen.

As early as 1886, the story appeared onstage as a musical pantomime.

A photo from the 1898 revival of the 1886 play.

A photo from the 1898 revival of the 1886 play.

An early British film was the first adaptation on screen. It’s a little rudimentary by modern standards, but it does pretty much tell the story. And unlike our bloated modern movies, it’s a blissful 8 minutes long.

And there were at least two more silent film adaptations, in 1910 and 1915.

And just as soon as talkies hit the scene, Wonderland wasn’t far behind. In 1931, Carroll’s words were heard on screen for the first time.


Of course the Disney version in 1951 was an iconic version for generations of Alice fans.


And the spoofs! There have been so many spoofs!


Yes, yes, “blunder” instead of “wonder.” How clever.

You can watch the Betty Boop one here:

1960s drug culture reinterpreted the stories, most notably in this classic Jefferson Airplane song.

But our favorite adaptation is also one of the creepiest: Czech animator Jan Svankmajer’s Alice, complete with taxidermy animals!

What’s your favorite adaptation of the Alice stories? Share as a comment!

Give Me That (Very) Old Time Music

Thursday, January 7th, 2016

The University of California, Santa Barbara has created a digital archive of more than 10,000 cylinder recordings of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Why not take a moment or two and journey back to another time and listen to the voices of long-dead performers and speakers?

How about some early American vaudeville?

How about a sample of Central European music?

German comedy, anyone?

Here’s a curated collection of some rarities from the dawn of the recording industry.

And it’s not just music – you can hear some voices of historical figures you never thought you’d hear.

How about William Jennings Bryan talking about immortality?

Legendary Ernest Shackelton talking about his Antarctic voyage?

How about Theodore Roosevelt on social and industrial justice?

Or Sarah Bernhardt acting up a storm?

Time travel is easy!