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Deep into Alice’s burrow

Nonsense literature in the 19th century

D 19 août 2010     H 03:35     A Annie Lesca     C 0 messages

Edward Lear

We started our literary journey with a glimpse through Edward LEAR and his Nonsense Botania — not-as-meaningless as it might seem at first sight.

The flower which has the power of hanging people upside down

Alice’s menagerie and characters

Come and meet some of the strange characters Alice did meet underground, deep into the Rabbit’s burrow ! such was the theme of our trip, last week, through that nonsense English literature which is so "foreign" and odd to us.

The drawings of the menagerie and the characters were borrowed from Alice’s alphabet, by Margaret Johnson, 1884 (Boston)

The text of the introduction was quite difficult :

My wee lads and lassies, come listen and look
Come black eyes and blue eyes beep over te book
Here are twenty-six rhymes
with a picture for each
And a letter whose name
Mama knows how to teach
And this is the way that our Alice you see
Has learned all her letters from A down to Z
She says if you like
You may look at them too
So bring your bright eyes
And we’ll show them to you !

On the opposite, the short legends for the drawings seemed quite easy to understand. However, things were not that simple and we often had to open our dictionaries to figure out how entertaining some wordplays were... for English-speaking readers.

Alice a-dressing the Queen

The most successful was indeed "Z for the Zigzag the mouse’s tail made".

The tale Alice was told by the mouse’s tail

The mouse’s sad tale / tail :

Fury said to a mouse
That he met in the house.
Let’s both go to the law,
I will prosecute you.
Come, I’ll take no denial
We must have the trial
For really this morning
I’ve nothing to do.
Said the mouse to the cur
Such a trial dear sir
With no jury or judge
Would be wasting our breath.
I’ll be judge, I’ll be jury,
Said cunning old Fury :
I’ll try the whole cause,
And condemn you to death.

To go further

- A 2007 exhibit and the fantastic 108 slides about "the after life of Alice in Wonderland".

- The issue of escapism

- A couple of stained-glass windows in Oxford : the Memorial window and five adjacent panels.

- Humpty Dumpty the poet :

In winter, when the fields are white,
I sing this song for your delight -

In spring, when the woods are getting green,
I’ll try and tell you what I mean.’

In summer, when the days are long,
Perhaps you’ll understand the song :

In autumn, when the leaves are brown,
Take pen and ink, and write it down.

caricature of the school-master

Assignment for next time

- Read the synopsis of the twelve chapters

- and write down a short sentence about the characters who are missing in this alphabet. You may rely on these desciptions.

Dans la même rubrique

20 août 2010 – Talk versus gossip

15 août 2010 – Little boys’ & girls’ alphabet

16 août 2009 – Là-haut

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