June 14, 2010

Alice Pleasance Liddell

"But then, shall I never get any older than I am now? That'll be a comfort, one way -- never to be
an old woman -- but then -- always to have
lessons to learn!"

Henry George Liddell, son of Rev. Henry George Liddell and Charlotte Lyon, was born 6 Feb 1811 in Binchester, England and died 18 Jan 1898 in Ascott, England. He married Lorina Hanna Reeve, daughter of James Reeve and WHO, 2 Jul 1846 in Lowestoff, England. She was born 11 May 1823 in Lowestoff and died 25 Jun 1910 in WHERE.

Henry and Lorina settled in Westminster where he became headmaster of the Westminster School. In order to make their existence more pleasant, the Liddells organized musical parties and dramatic entertainment at Westminster School for the cultured and distinguished people of London, thus getting themselves known in the right circles. The fame of Westminster School rose under Henry's headship.

In 1856 Henry replaced Thomas Gaisford as dean of Christ Church. He had been a distinguished scholar there, gaining a double first in classics and mathematics, which resulted in his appointment as a tutor. He also held the post of sub-librarian jointly with Robert Scott. The two men compiled the monumental work, A Green-English Lexicon, which is still used by students of Greek.
The Liddell family met Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (pictured right) in 1855 when Dodgson first befriended their son Harry and later took Harry and his sister Ina on several boating trips and picnics to the scenic areas around Oxford. After Harry went off to school, his sisters Alice and Edith joined the party. Dodgson entertained the children by telling them fantastic stories to while away the time. He also used them as subjects for his hobby, photography.

On 4 Jul 1862, in a row boat travelling on The Isis from Folly Bridge, Oxford to Godstow for a picnic outing, Alice asked Dodgson (who wrote under the pen name Lewis Carroll) to entertain her and sisters Lorina and Edith with a story. Dodgson regaled them with fantastic stories of a girl named Alice and her adventures after she fell into a rabbit hole.

The story was not unlike those Dodgson had spun for them before, but this time Alice asked Dodgson to write it down for her. He agreed to her request, and immediately began a reconstruction of the impromptu tale, jotting down ideas while he still had the essence of the story in mind. Over a period of several months, the story was written out in his own neat hand, with gaps left for illustrations he added later. The sheets of the book, entitled Alice's Adventures Under Ground, were bound in green leather, and the finished manuscript was given to Alice Liddell as an early Christmas gift in 1864.

Although well disguised, the Liddell sisters appear in Alice's Adventures: Loring is the Lory in the "Pool of Tears" and Edith is the Eaglet. All three appear in the Dormouse's tale at the "Mad Tea-Party"; they are the three little sisters who lived at the bottom of a treacle well, named Elsie (L.C. or Lorina Charlotte), Lacie (anagram of Alice) and Tillie (short for Matilda, the children's pet name for Edith).

Friends of Dodgson, who had seen or heard the story, strongly advised him to publish it. So he rewrote it for publication, taking out references that identified the Liddells and Oxford, and adding new episodes such as the Mad Tea Party. It was first published in July 1865 with illustrations by John Tenniel, the famous Punch cartoonist. A second book about the character Alice, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, followed in 1871. A facsimile of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, the original manuscript that Dodgson gave Alice, was published in 1886.

The extent to which Dodgson’s Alice may be identified with Alice Liddell is controversial. But there are at least three direct links to her in his two books: First, he set them on 4 May (Liddell's birthday) and 4 Nov (her “half-birthday). In Through the Looking Glass, the fictional Alice declares that her age is “seven and a half exactly”, the same age as Liddell's on that date. Second, he dedicated them “to Alice Pleasance Liddell”. Third, there is an acrostic poem at the end of Through the Looking Glass. Reading downward, taking the first letter of each line, spells out Liddell’s full name. The poem has no title in Through the Looking Glass, but is usually referred to by its first line, “A Boat Beneath a Sunny Sky.”

A boat beneath a sunny sky,
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July –

Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear –

Long has pales that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die.
Autumn frosts have slain July.

Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.

Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.

In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:

Ever drifting down the stream –
Lingering in the golden gleam –
Life, what is it but a dream?

The relationship between Dodgson and the Liddells suffered a sudden break in Jun 1863. There was no record of why the rift occurred, since the Liddells never openly spoke of it, and the single page in Dodgson’s diary recording 27-29 Jun 1863 was missing. It has been long suspected that Mrs. Liddell disapproved of Dodgson’s interest in Alice, seeing him as an unfit companion for an 11-year-old girl.

Children of Henry and Lorina Liddell:

Edward Henry “Harry” Liddell was born 6 Sep 1847 in Westminster, England and died 14 Jun 1911. He married Minny Corry on 13 Jun 1876. She died 10 Oct 1905. He remarried to Ethel Sophie Gresham Leveson-Gower on 6 Feb 1907.

Lorina Charlotte “Ina” Liddell (pictured here with Alice) was born 11 May 1849 in Westminster and died 29 Oct 1942. She married William Baille Skene on 7 Feb 1874.

James Arthur Charles Liddell was born 28 Dec 1850 in Westminster and died in Westminster of Scarlet Fever on 27 Nov 1853.

Alice Pleasance Liddell was born 4 May 1852 in Westminster. She died 16 Nov 1934 in Westerham, England. Alice grew up primarily in the company of her sisters Lorena and Edith, with whom she later made a grand tour of Europe.

She married Reginald Gervis Hargreaves in Westminster Abbey on 15 Sep 1880. He was born 13 Oct 1852 in Hardington, England and died 15 Feb 1926. After their marriage, Reginald inherited a considerable fortune and Alice became a noted society hostess. They had three sons: Alan Knyveton Hargraves, Leopold Reginald “Rex” Hargreaves and Caryl Liddell Hargraves. Alan and Leopold were both killed in action in WWI.

After Reginald’s death, the cost of maintaining their home, “Cuffnells, was such that Alice found it necessary to sell her copy of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. It became the possession of Eldridge R. Johnson and was displayed at Columbia University on the centennial of Carroll’s birth. Alice was present, aged 80, and it was on this visit to America that she met Peter Llewelyn Davies, one of the brothers who inspired J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan.

Edith Mary Liddell (pictured left with Lorina and Alice) was born 1854 in Westminster and died 26 Jun 1876. Edith became engaged to Aubrey Harcourt of Nuneham and died, possibly of measles or peritonitis, shortly before they were to be married.

It has been said that Alice became a romantic interest of Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria, but the evidence is sparse. It’s true that Leopold’s first child was named “Alice” and that he acted as godfather to Alice’s son, Leopold Reginald Hargreaves. One of Leopold’s biographies suggests it’s more likely that Alice’s sister Edith was the true recipient of Leopold’s attention.

Rhoda Caroline Anne Liddell was born 1859 in Oxford, England and died 19 May 1949.

Albert Edward Arthur Liddell was born 1863 in Oxford and died 28 May 1863.

Violet Constance Liddell was born 10 Mar 1864 in Osford and died 9 Dec 1927.

Sir Frederick Francis Liddell (pictured left) was born 7 Jun 1865 in Oxford and died 19 Mar 1950. He married Mabel Alice Magniac on 23 Jul 1901. Mabel died 15 May 1959.

Lionel Charles Liddell was born 22 May 1868 in Oxford and died 21 Mar 1942. He married Florence Ella Magniac on 26 Apr 1902. Florence died 15 Feb 1942.

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