Liddell, Alice (1852–1934)

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Liddell, Alice (1852–1934)

English woman who was the original Alice in Wonderland. Born Alice Pleasance Liddell on May 4, 1852; died in 1934 at Westerham, in Kent; one of four children of Dr. Henry Liddell (former head of Westminster School and dean of Christ Church, Oxford); her eldest sister was Lorina Charlotte Liddell ; her younger sister was Edith Liddell , known as Tillie, died in 1876 (age 22); married Captain Reginald Hargreaves, in 1880 (died 1928); children: Violet Hargreaves ; Norah Hargreaves ; Reginald Hargreaves.

The inspiration for the Alice in Wonderland stories of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (who wrote under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll), Alice Liddell was one of four children of Dr. Henry Liddell, the dean of Christ Church College in Oxford, England, where Dodgson was a young lecturer in mathematics. According to Dodgson's diaries, which cover his life from 1855 to 1898, he first met Alice on September 4, 1855, while out sketching, and was promptly enchanted by her. Living in close proximity to the Deanery, Dodgson nearly became part of the Liddell family, and as such he accompanied Alice and her siblings on outings, instructed them in their studies, and used them as subjects for his photography. At one point a rumor circulated that Dodgson's interest in the children masked his crush on their pretty governess, Miss Prickett, but he denied it. (There has since been much speculation among Dodgson aficionados that he was in fact in love with the child Alice, albeit perhaps not sexually.)

During boating excursions on the River Isis, Dodgson began telling the children fairytales of Alice's adventures, which he extemporized but never wrote down. "[T]hey lived and died, like summer midges," he wrote in his diary, "each in its own golden afternoon until there came a day when, as it chanced, one of my little listeners [Alice] petitioned that the tale might be written out for her." Dodgson's first effort at putting the stories into writing was Alice's Adventures Under Ground, but the title was changed to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland so that it would not be mistaken for a book about mines. He presented Alice Liddell with a copy of the manuscript, including the original character illustrations, as a Christmas present in 1864. The book was published a year later with great success and was later adapted for the stage by Savile Clarke (first performed at the Prince of Wales' Theatre in London in 1886). A follow-up of Alice's adventures, Through the Looking-Glass, was published in 1872.

Alice Liddell, who, from a picture taken by Dodgson around 1865, looks to be an extraordinary creature, went on to marry Captain Reginald Hargreaves, who had also been a mathematics student of Dodgson's, and settled in Wraysbury, Berkshire, England. In This England (Winter 1985), there appears a letter from a 90-year-old woman by the name of Blanche Webber , recounting her childhood acquaintance with Alice and Reginald Hargreaves, whom she called marvelous people. She recalled that they attended the village church each Sunday with their three children and threw parties for the villagers at Christmas and in the summertime. Webber had revisited Wraysbury in 1980 and

found that the Hargreaves house ("Remenham") had been turned into apartments, and the family graves in the churchyard were untended and overgrown. "I felt very sad to see it so neglected," she wrote. "These people deserve something better, considering the 'Alice' stories are known all over the world."


"Book Briefs," in This England. Winter 1985.

Commire, Anne, ed. Yesterday's Authors of Books for Children. Vol. 2. Detroit, MI: Gale Research.

"The Real Alice," in This England. Winter 1984.

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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