Letters reveal Carroll’s missing character

THE weird and wonderful creatures in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass have captivated millions of children, but it has now emerged that one waspish character did not make the final books.

A letter put up for auction earlier this week in Britain shows author Lewis Carroll penned a whole chapter of Through the Looking Glass detailing a meeting between Alice and a grumpy “wasp in wig”.

Celebrated illustrator John Tenniel, who constructed the pictures which accompanied Carroll’s words, wrote to the author to tell him: “Don’t think me brutal, but I am bound to say the ‘Wasp’ chapter doesn’t interest me in the least. I can’t see my way to a picture. If you want to shorten the book, I can’t help thinking — with all submission — that there is your opportunity. In an agony of haste. Yours sincerely, Tenniel.”

He also said the subsequently erased character “is altogether beyond the appliances of art”.

The author took the advice and the chapter was scrapped from the book, which features the Red and the White Queen, Tweedledum and Tweedledee and the Walrus and the Carpenter.

According to the Times newspaper in London, the letter, dated July 1, 1870, is one of the few original examples of correspondence to survive between Cheshire clergyman, Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, and Tenniel, the half-blind artist who would go on to gain a knighthood for his 50-year stint as political cartoonist for Punch.

The letter was being sold at Bloomsbury Auctions for an estimated price of £15,000-£20,000 (€18,000-€24,000) by the family of a American collector, having been in the same private collection for 30 or 40 years. The return of the original has tempted some experts to wonder whether more of the men’s correspondence has survived than previously thought.

“We don’t really have much of their correspondence, so as a biographer, it is very exciting to think that someone somewhere may well have more letters like this,” said Carroll’s biographer Jenny Woolf.

More in this section

IE_logo_newsletters

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox