“How queer everything is to-day! And yesterday things went on just as usual. I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night? Let me think: was I the same when I got up this morning? I almost think I can remember feeling a little different. But if I’m not the same, the next question is, Who in the world am I? Ah, THAT’S the great puzzle!’”
Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
Dear Mr Carroll I mean Hodgson,
Sorry to wake you up. No doubt, you feel like you’re travelling through Wonderland and have drunk all of Alice’s magic potions at once.
However, quite to the contrary, you’ve woken up in the 21st Century. That’s all. So, no doubt you’ll be pleased to hear there’s no Queen of Hearts shouting: “Off with your head!” However, I make no promises about how well your watch will be working after your journey. Should you be experiencing any difficulties, I strongly advise against dunking it in a cup of tea. While tea might be therapeutic for the soul, it’s no good for watches. Causes rust. As much as you might like it here, you don’t want your watch to stop. Time needs to keep moving forward, no matter how much we fight against it.
Would you like a cup of tea? That would wake you up and help you feel more at ease.
In case you are wondering why I’m writing to you, I’m writing to a number of dead poets who have inspired me. While I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking for when I first set out on this journey, it would appear that rather than having all the answers and knowing it all, the older I get, the less I know and the more questions I find. Moreover, now that I am a parent myself, my children ask me even more complex questions and always expect me to know the answers. This can be very intimidating, especially as I’m not the sort who just shrugs such questions off or says: “Go ask your father!”
Instead, like an intrepid explorer, I set out with my butterfly net and hunt those answers down. Unfortunately, some of these answers have proved quite elusive and as much I’m enjoying the journey and all the scenery along the way, I’m not above taking short cuts. After all, why reinvent the wheel?
Speaking of wheels, if you step outside, you’d better keep your eyes open and walk with great caution. The motor car has replaced the horse and cart. I almost forgot to mention that. It goes very fast and can do a lot of damage!
By the way, the pace of life has also sped up quite a bit.
There have been a multitude of changes and I’d imagine reading this letter and waking up from the dead, could be very confusing. I promise we will take care of you and show you around but I don’t know how long you can stay. After all, this is all new to me too. When I started writing these letters, I never expected a reply and that you would actually appear.
Anyway, when I was a little girl, my mother used to read me Alice in Wonderland. I used to love the rabbit with his watch and many times when I’ve been late, I hear him talking in my head, saying: “I’m late! I’m late. Late for an important date!” I’ve also developed quite a love of tea parties. Indeed, I collect what I consider “antique” tea cups although these were made long after your tea partying days were over.
Now, I have two children of my own. Once upon a time, my daughter had a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party for her birthday. She dressed up as Alice and now that I’ve seen a photo of the original Alice Liddell who inspired the story, they actually look surprisingly alike.
Alice Liddell Aged 7.5 Photo: Lewis Carroll.
Indeed, I can quite imagine my daughter chasing a white rabbit down a hole and her curiosity overtaking all caution. She could well indulge in all that magic which made Alice shrink and grow and keep changing size until she was totally bamboozled. She’s a Cub Scout and they get up to all sorts of adventures but unlike your Alice, they’re usually prepared. Alice’s adventure was all terribly spontaneous and unplanned.
Our daughter aged 5.
When I started re-reading Alice in Wonderland, rather than seeing it through the eyes of a child, I was now the mother of the child disappearing into a strange world talking to mad strangers. As far as I was concerned, Alice’s adventures in Wonderland were a parent’s nightmare…hell! We tell our children not to go running off where we can’t see them. Not to talk to strangers. Yet, you can’t get much stranger than the likes of the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts. Wonderland is the last sort of place I’d like my daughter to wander into.
However, of course, Wonderland is just a dream and Alice wakes up right where she fell asleep.
So, I can’t really ask you about whether children should be going on such dangerous adventures without their parents or any form of adult supervision.
However, I can query you about the dangers of imagination. Do you really think it’s safe for children to conjure up such perilous, dangerous adventures in their heads when there’s always the risk that they will try to carry them out in real life? After all, kids can be very resourceful and when we keep telling them to reach for their dreams, they could well do exactly that! Drink poison! Get snatched! Break bones. Get hurt!
It’s not that I want my kids to do nothing but do they really need adventure? Why can’t they just find it in a book? Watch a bit of TV? (I’ll have to introduce you to one of those. I wonder what you’ll think…) If any modern child was even suspected of wandering into Wonderland, their parents would demand a massive Police search to save that child from themselves let alone all those creatures!
Or, is there something wrong with us peoples living in the 21st century? Has our vision for our children been so strangled by fear, that we barely let them live? I don’t know. I never said I had the answers…only questions!
That’s why I’m asking you! After, you’ve stuck your nose outside and re-aquainted yourself with the land of the living, you could let me know.
We’d like to invite you over for a little tea party in our garden. No Cheshire Cat but we do have two dogs. I promise they won’t eat you but you might end up throwing the tennis ball quite a bit. I’m afraid we have a rather ball-obsessed Border Collie.
We look forward to hearing from you!
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was was born 27th January, 1832. He was an English writer, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon, and photographer.
Carroll first told the story of Alice on July 4, 1862, during a boating picnic trip on the Isis branch of the Thames.
Shortly before his 66th birthday, Lewis Carroll caught a severe case of influenza, which led to pneumonia. He died January 14, 1898, at Guildford, United Kingdom.
Carroll’s epitaph reads, “Where I am there shall also my servant be.”