A contradictory undertaking

February 24, 2011


Will this lead to a state of limbo?

A pun to hand in Wonderland

January 27, 2010

On this day (27 January) 178 years ago, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born in Cheshire, England. Better known as Lewis Carroll, he became a mathematician and author, among other things. Today he is remembered chiefly for the playful and protean prose he penned, especially his Alice books, and for his enduring nonsense verse, such as The Hunting of the Snark.

In honour of his birthday I offer a clutch of Carrollian clippings, beginning with an excerpt from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which inspired the title of this blog.

“Let the jury consider their verdict,” the King said, for about the twentieth time that day.
“No, no!” said the Queen. “Sentence first — verdict afterwards.”
“Stuff and nonsense!” said Alice loudly. “The idea of having the sentence first!”
“Hold your tongue!” said the Queen, turning purple.
“I wo’n’t!” said Alice.
“Off with her head!” the Queen shouted at the top of her voice.

Commenting on this much-beloved book, Carroll wrote:

I think a child’s first attitude to the world is a simple love for all living things. And he will have learned that the best work a man can do is when he works for love’s sake only, with no thought of fame or gain or earthly reward.

Speaking of rewards, Carroll knew well the satisfaction of a good pun, incorporating many of them into his books and puzzles. Here is one of the latter:

John gave his brother James a box:
About it there were many locks.

James woke and said it gave him pain;
So gave it back to John again.

The box was not with lid supplied,
Yet caused two lids to open wide:

And all these locks had never a key—
What kind of box, then, could it be?


And last, some links,
for laughs and thinks:

Solution to the puzzle above.
A useful and instructive poem.
Eight or nine wise words about letter writing.
Centenary exhibition at the Harry Ransom Center.
Jabberwocky translations, parodies, and explanations.
Lewis Carroll at the Victorian Web, including: Through Bergson’s Looking-Glass and “Lewis Carroll”: A Myth in the Making.
John Tenniel’s illustrations for the Alice books.
Other artists’ illustrations of Wonderland.
The Lewis Carroll Society.
Wikipedia page.