Posts Tagged ‘Wonderland’

Winter Wonderland: The Art of John Tenniel

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

We’re posting about Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland books this winter, and today’s post is about the artist who gave the books their iconic illustrations.

It’s nearly impossible to think about Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland without immediately visualizing the classic illustrations of Carroll’s preferred artist, John Tenniel. They’re essential to the experiencing of the story. How else are you going to imagine what a Cheshire Cat looks like?

But it didn’t start out that way. Carroll did the original illustrations himself, but an engraver friend wisely suggested that he scrap those images and find a professional to do the job instead. Carroll then wisely reached out to John Tenneil.

John Tenneil was an artist and illustrator and at one point, a member of Charles Dickens’ amateur theatrical troupe. As a young man he lost sight in his right eye due to a fencing accident with his father. In stoic British Victorian fashion, Tenniel never told his father how serious the wound was so not to upset him.

Tenniel studied at the Royal Academy of Arts. By the the time Carroll approached him about illustrating his book, he was an acclaimed illustrator and political cartoonist. And not just any cartoonist — Tenniel was the chief cartoonist for Punch, which was pretty much the highest rank a Victorian cartoonist could hope to achieve.

"The Black-and-White Knight", caricature of Tenneil by Linley Sambourne, Punch, June 24, 1893

“The Black-and-White Knight”, caricature of Tenneil by Linley Sambourne, Punch, June 24, 1893

Carroll was a bit of a micromanager when it came to the illustrations, going as far as to describe everything in detail and may even have given Tenniel specific people to model his drawings after. But they had a fruitful collaboration, and Tenniel was given quite a bit of freedom in the end. One little Easter egg: in an homage to his father, a dancing-master, Tenniel worked all 5 positions of classical ballet into the illustrations.

The work Carroll and Tenniel did together was unique. The layout of the text and images was innovative and unusual for the time. Images were inserted into the text or were of atypical dimensions, so the text appears to dance around them.

For a political cartoonist with a relish for the anarchic that lends itself so well to his Wonderland illustrations, it is a little surprising what an establishment figure Tenniel became. He was knighted in 1893 (something Carroll wasn’t) and was had several distinguished commissions, including one to paint a mural in the House of Lords.

Winter Wonderland: A Signature Drink

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

This Winter, we’re posting about Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland books, and this theme lends itself wonderfullymiriam to a signature drink. So the call went out across New York City to every borough and burrow and we assembled our team of mixologists once more to create another UPG signature cocktail.

Our friend and bon-vivant Miriam was again our hostess, joined by her trusty Dormouse Mark. For the occasion, Miriam donned a top hat (and she is a woman who really knows how to wear a hat).

“No Room! No Room!”

There was plenty of room.

Our drinking committee consisted of some new faces and old: UPGers Jay and Meg were joined by UPG’s Customer Service Guru Amber (who was accompanied by her boyfriend Victor), and another first-timer, expert imbibee Peter.

We arrived at Miriam’s at 6 o’clock sharp (the time of the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party), and in case anyone was late, Miriam had stopped her clocks at 6.

Because it’s always 6 o’clock at the Mad Hatter’s tea party.


“I’ve Had Nothing Yet!”

Miriam got us started with a pre-cocktail glass of absinthe, pretty much to assure that we’d be in a Mad Hatter mood before beginning. It worked.


For an accompaniment to the absinthe, Miriam provided treacle pudding (from Tea & Sympathy), in homage to the Dormouse’s story about the little girl who lives in a treacle well. Because why not? (Pretty much the answer to any suggestion when you’re drinking absinthe.)


The Pool of Tears

Our first drink was a bust.

Miriam wanted something deep and green, and began with a green chartreuse base. Unfortunately, everything we added either radically changed the color or was decidedly un-tasty. Amber wanted a clean cup, so we all moved one place on.


Chartreuse FAIL

Fortunately, the second drink was much more successful. So we are happy to present to you:

The Man-Hatter


3 parts rye, preferably a bourbon-y rye such as Bulleit
2 parts hibiscus tea (brewed very strong)
a generous dash of Angostura bitters
a twist of lemon


This take on the Manhattan replaces the vermouth with hibiscus tea, which enforces the rich red color and keeps the flavor a bit less sweet than a standard Manhattan.

It’s a simple drink to prepare. Pour three parts rye over ice (preferably a rye with bourbon notes). Add two parts hibiscus tea. Make sure to brew the tea stronger than for normal use so it’s not too watery.

Add a healthy dose of bitters, shake over ice and strain into tea cups or serve from a teapot.

Stir with a flamingo stirrer, of course.


A variant of this drink is the “Mad-Hattan,” served without the stirrer.

This drink could be made hot as well, but the idea of something cold in a tea cup felt a little more Mad Hatter-ish to us.


“Who Stole the Tarts?”

Mark took care of cooking duties for the evening. We were plied with finger sandwiches of all kinds: cucumber and cream cheese, smoked turkey and arugula, and goat cheese and watercress. Plus there were lemony deviled eggs (a la Humpty Dumpty *spoiler*), sautéed mushrooms (in honor of the caterpillar), and plenty of bread and butter, just like the Mad Hatter likes. Mark had considered rabbit as an appropriate dish — White Rabbit? March Hare? — but ultimately decided not to pursue it. But he did make homemade pigs in blankets as a tribute to the Pig Baby from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The food was served on fan dishes, in honor of the White Rabbit, who drops his fan when Alice surprises him in the hallway.




Winter Wonderland: Lewis Carroll – Churchman

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

This Winter, we’re posting about Lewis Carroll and his Wonderland stories.

Charles Dodgson (pen name, Lewis Carroll) was a born into the church. His father was a vicar, and Dodgson followed in his footsteps by studying at his college, Christ Church, Oxford. When Dodgson went on to teach there, he was ordained as a deacon (one of the conditions of teaching) and was expected to be ordained to the priesthood.

However, Dodgson never took the final step to become a priest. It is unclear why. Did his stammer make him uncomfortable with the idea of preaching? Did he have religious doubts? In his diary he wrote that he was a “vile and worthless” sinner, so did he not feel fit for the job? No one knows, although as with most aspects of Carroll/Dodgson’s life, there are numerous conjectures and theories. In any case, Dean Henry Liddell (father of the “real Alice”) granted Dodgson permission to refrain from being ordained as a priest, in defiance of the college rules.

Although he declined being ordained, Dodgson maintained his faith throughout his life, and stayed associated with Christ Church for the rest of his career.

Dodgson’s legacy lives on in his childhood church, All Saint’s Church in Daresbury, Cheshire, where his father was perpetual curate. On his the centenary of Dodgson’s birth, the church honored him with “Wonderland”-themed stained windows.

The windows feature Carroll and Alice at the nativity (!), with an array of Wonderland characters such as the Mad Hatter, the Caterpillar, and the White Rabbit at the bottom. And these may in fact be the only church windows to feature a dodo.


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!