Good Afternoon everyone,
I am very pleased to receive today for the first time in From Pemberley to Milton an author whose work I have admired for a long time! Alexa Adams is not affraid to take chances to try diferente approaches in JAFF, she captivated me with The Madness of Mr. Darcy, which was a bold move, and now she surprised me once more with the release of Darcy in Wonderland, a mash up between Pride & Prejudice and Alice in Wonderland.
Today she visits us to share Alice’s real story…
Thank you so much, Rita, for hosting me today. It’s a pleasure to be here.
In Darcy in Wonderland, Alice Darcy is a creature of two worlds, being both Lewis Carroll’s creation and the youngest daughter of Pemberley. Of course, Carroll’s character provided a great deal of guidance for how she would behave, even in a more orderly setting, but as a mother of a rather curious and fantastically imaginative six-year-old, my own daughter was also a huge source of inspiration. My husband, who is always the first one to read my work, was highly amused by the similarities between them, easily imagining our child getting herself into similar scrapes, but did you know that Carroll’s Alice was also modeled off of, or at least written for, a real child?
“Mama!” she cried, her eyes wide with excited recognition. “You shall never believe what has happened!”
“You mean other than my daughter running off without telling anyone where she was going?”
“Oh! Sorry, Mama. I did not mean to visit Mrs. Reynolds. My feet took me here without my brain giving the matter much attention.”
Alice Pleasance Liddell (1852-1934) was the daughter of Henry Liddell, the Dean of Christ Church, Oxford from 1855 to 1891, at which point he became Vice-Chancellor of the university. Charles Dodgson (1832-1898), who wrote under the pen name Lewis Carroll, was a new lecturer of mathematics at Christ Church when the Liddell family relocated there. He met them while pursuing one of his many hobbies – photography – on a spring day in 1856, and an intimate friendship with the family quickly developed. He was particularly close with the children. At first his special friend was the eldest son, Henry, whom he took on many boating trips and picnics in the surrounding countryside along with the eldest daughter, Lorina (or Ina). When Henry departed for school, the next two daughters, Alice and Edith, became the chosen participants in these excursions.
Much of the relationship between Dodgson and the Liddell family is clouded in mystery and rumor, but the origins of the Alice stories are recorded fact. On the 4th of July, 1862, Dodgson took Ina, Alice, and Edith on a picnic in the company of the Reverend Robinson Duckworth, who rowed the boat down the Thames to and from their destination. Having often regaled the girls with fantastic stories, Alice requested that Dodgson do so again, and he spun tale of a young girl named Alice and her adventures down a rabbit hole. Alice requested he write the story down, and more than two years later he presented her with the original manuscript, now at the British Library, entitled Alice’s Adventures Underground.
Alice, seeing his height stabilized, climbed onto her father’s enormous chest and sat down upon it, looking terribly unhappy. “It was much pleasanter at home,” she lamented, “where one is not always growing larger and smaller!”
“Or being ordered about by mice and rabbits,” Darcy added with perfect empathy.
“I almost wish we had never gone down that rabbit hole!” she continued.
“Almost! Good Lord, Alice! This entire episode has been an unmitigated disaster.”
“Well, it is rather curious, you know, living this sort of life.”
“Curious indeed!” he snorted, causing a strong enough gust to raise Alice’s hair.
“When I used to read fairy tales,” she continued, unfazed, “I fancied those kinds of things never happened, and now here we are in the middle of one! Maybe they will write a book about us,” she wondered, brightening at the idea. “Imagine, being in a book! There ought to be one, do you not think so? When I grow up, I will write it, if I ever do grow up. I feel smaller than ever next to you.”
“And I feel ancient,” groaned Darcy, carefully adjusting his inside arm so that it ached less acutely.
Much like Austen, Dodgson did not write his first novel with the intention of publishing. It wasn’t until the story proved popular with the children of friends beyond the Liddells that he decided to pursue a wider audience. He had previously published and had some success with his poetry, so it is not surprising that the final version of the story features several playful verses, almost all parodying famous poems of the time.
The mystery surrounding the Dodgson-Liddell relationship involves its sudden dissolution between the 27th to 29th of June, 1863. The page for this period is missing from Dodgson’s diary, presumably removed by either his nieces or nephew (another odd similarity to Austen, whose sister burned much of her personal writings). The Liddell’s themselves never referenced the rift. Speculations are aplenty as to what caused this abrupt break in what was hitherto a close and trusting relationship. The most sensational is that Dodgson proposed marriage to the then eleven-year-old Alice. Other the theories include Ina having developed a romantic obsession with him or his using the girls as a means to court their governess. The one thing that seems consistent is that some inappropriate romance grew amongst the players involved. Six months later, Dodgson visited the Liddell’s once more and something like peaceable relations were restored, though the same level of intimacy was never regained.
Alice married a wealthy cricketer, Reginald Hargreaves, in 1880 at Westminster Abbey. She became a noted society hostess and had three sons, the second of which was named after Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany, who stood as his godfather (Leopold named his first child Alice). The two eldest of the Hargreaves died fighting in World War I. When Reginald died in 1926, Alice sold the original manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Underground for an astounding £15,400 in order to be able to afford the ongoing maintenance for Cuffnells Park, the family’s estate. She was 82 when she died.
There is a very interesting film version of Alice in Wonderland from 1949 that sets the fictional story within the true tale of its creation. Few books have been so often portrayed on film, and through these movies, countless written interpretations, and theatrical versions, Alice Liddell’s fame lives on. I think it arguable that never before or since has a child’s simple request to hear a story had such a lasting impact on popular culture.
Original illustrations by K. Wiedemann: www.wiedemannillustrations.com
Thanks again, Rita! It’s been a lot of fun.
You can contact her on the Alexa at:
And you can find the Darcy in Wonderland at:
Alexa Adams would like to offer one copy of Darcy in Wonderland (ebook or paperback) to one of my readers.
This giveaway is international and open until the 20th of August. To participate all you have to do is comment on this post and if you want to increase your chances of winning comment on the review I’m posting tomorrow. I will consider entrances from both posts.
Good Luck everyone!