Curiouser & Curiouser: The Story Behind Alice in Wonderland
“Curiouser and curiouser!” Cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English).” -
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll
One of the most consistently popular designs in our collection of patterns is inspired by the characters from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
The design was originally created in about 1920 by Charles Francis Annesly Voysey (1857-1941), an English textile and furniture designer. Reproduced onto a wide range of materials including wallpaper and tiles, Voysey’s Alice in Wonderland design became a fashionable feature in the nurseries and bedrooms of Edwardian children.
The characters Carroll created are some of the best loved in all of children’s literature, and today, a new generation of Alice in Wonderland fans can enjoy Voysey’s designs on our collection of fashion bags and home furnishings.
We thought it would be interesting to delve a little deeper into the life of Carroll and the origins of his classic book.
In the summer of 1862, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – later to become better known by his pen-name Lewis Carrol - took his friend’s young daughters out for an afternoon boat trip and picnic on the river near Oxford.
To keep Lorina, Edith and Alice entertained, he made up a fantastical story about the adventures of Alice, a girl who follows a nervous white rabbit holding a stop watch down into a rabbit hole – finding herself emerging in a magical subterranean world.
The girls loved the story so much that the real-life Alice insisted Dodgson write it down for them. He did, and so one of the best known and best loved heroines of children’s literature came into being.
Dodgson was a mathematics lecturer at Christchurch College in Oxford, and his inspiration for Alice was Alice Liddell, the 10-year-old daughter of H G Liddell, Dean of Christchurch.
Initially, the story Dodgson wrote for Alice was titled, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, but he revised and expanded it, eventually publishing it as Allice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 using the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.
Although it was not an overnight success, the book grew steadily in popularity and was followed up six years later by a sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.
Carroll’s book has enchanted generations of children – and adults too, who continue to look for hidden meaning within its text.
Even if you’ve not read Carroll’s original book, you’ll almost certainly be familiar with Alice’s journey and the nonsensical characters she meets along the way. The Caterpillar who gives Alice the mushroom she can eat to shrink herself or turn herself into a giant. The March Hare, the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse who invite her to a chaotic tea party. The Queen of Hearts with whom Alice plays an unusual game of croquet where the mallets are live flamingos, and the balls are hedgehogs. And the enigmatic Cheshire cat, who at one point disappears until only his grin is left, causing Alice to remark that "she has often seen a cat without a grin but never a grin without a cat".
Just a few of the surreal characters Alice encounters in what turns out eventually to be a dream. Not surprisingly, Alice and the bizarre and eccentric creatures she meets in Wonderland have inspired many other authors and artists. The story has been reimagined for the small screen and for the cinema – most notably by Disney in 1959, and more recently in 2010 by Tim Burton with his darker interpretation of the story starring Jonny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.
Every year, thousands of avid Carroll fans from all over the world flock to Oxford and to Christchurch College. They walk in the footsteps of Alice and her sisters as they stroll through its ancient hallways and manicured grounds, searching for the clues to Carroll’s inspiration. These are all around – from the tiny door In the Cathedral Garden said to have been the door through which Alice entered Wonderland, to the pair of brass fire irons in the Great Hall, shaped like long-necked ladies, and said to have given Carroll his idea for Alice growing tall after eating the left-hand portion of the mushroom offered to her by the Caterpillar!
Follow Us into Wonderland!
You don’t have to squeeze into a rabbit hole to meet your favourite characters from Wonderland – just visit our website!
Our Alice in Wonderland collection features all the weird and wonderful creatures you know and love from Carroll’s book. All the characters are captured beautifully in Voysey’s design and are lovingly reproduced onto a wide selection of bags and cushions. Whether you’re looking to treat yourself, or you’re searching for an Alice in Wonderland gift for someone else, take a trip to Wonderland now! Shop Now.
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