Lewis Carroll's sequel to "Alice in Wonderland". If the first book was a dreamlike fantasy, then "Looking Glass" is the nightmare that follows it. The characters are more bizarre and more menacing, the situations Alice gets into are more dire, and some of the images would scare the scales off a Jabberwock. Some of the final chapters have an intense quality to them that suggest that Carroll could have made a good living today as a horror novelist.

Epilogue to Looking Glass

    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 paled 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?

    Lewis Carroll (1832- 1898)


Written by of the English mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, the good Reverend Dodgson had a friend, a young girl name Alice Liddell, for whom he wrote the stories.

Alice Pleasance Liddell (1852-1934) was the middle of three daughters of Dean Liddell, Dean of Christ Church in Oxford, and was a distant relative of Queen Elizabeth II. The easy and light rhyme has an added twist. It's an acrostic where the initial letters of each line spell out the letters of Alice Pleasance Liddell in the twenty-one lines of the epilogue.

You may be familiar with Carroll’s well-known and entertaining caricatures of poems that were very popular during the Victorian era. "How doth the little crocodile..." as a clever parody of Isaac Watts' old childrens' rhyme "How doth the busy little bee...". This poem serves as the epilogue to Through the Looking Glass, in which the author speaks in the first person. "Life," he concludes, "what is it but a dream?". It is a looking back to the summer day, long, long gone of the boat ride years before when Dodgson first told the Alice in Wonderland story to the Liddell sisters.

As for Alice, she eventually married Reginald Hargreaves and sometimes toured to speak in celebration of Lewis Carroll. Charles Dodsen died on January 14th, 1898 of a severe bronchial infection, thought to be worsened by the new asbestos fires he installed in his rooms to replace the hazardous coal fires.

Sources:

Alice Liddell - the original Alice:
mural.uv.es/anma/bioalice.htm
accessed August 22, 2003.

Public domain text taken from The Poets’ Corner:
http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/carrol01.html#12

Untitled:
www.geocities.com/athens/delphi/7086/0127_f.htm
Accessed August 22, 2003.


CST Approved

Through the Looking Glass (And What Alice Found There) was written by English clergyman and Oxford lecturer in mathematics, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll. Written in 1872 for the amusement of Carroll’s young friend Alice Liddell, it is the companion piece to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Child of the pure unclouded brow And dreaming eyes of wonder! Though time be fleet, and I and thou Are half a life asunder, Thy loving smile will surely hail The love-gift of a fairy-tale.1

One winter afternoon, with snow falling outside the window, “Alice was sitting curled up in a corner of the great arm-chair, half talking to herself and half asleep”2, telling the black kitten about The Looking Glass House. It was visible through the mirror hung over the mantle, and seemed to be the same as Alice’s house, at least as far as she could see. She wished she could get through the glass and see what was on the other side! The next thing she knew, the mirrored glass “was beginning to melt away, just like a bright, silvery mist." 3 Alice climbed up on the chimney piece to investigate.

Alice stepped through the glass and into the room beyond. The parts of this room which could be seen from the old room were quite common and uninteresting, but the rest were very different—less tidy, for one, and the books were all printed backwards ( YKCOWREBBAJ), and there were tiny little chess men walking around and talking down in the hearth. Alice picked up and talked to the white queen and king, but finding that they couldn’t see or hear her, she decided to explore the rest of the house:

She was out of the room in a moment, and ran downstairs—or, at least, it wasn’t exactly running, but a new invention for getting downstairs quickly and easily, as Alice said to herself. She just kept the tips of her fingers on the hand-rail, and floated gently down without even touching the stairs with her feet; then she floated on through the hall, and would have gone straight out at the door in the same way, if she hadn’t caught hold of the door-post. She was getting a little giddy with so much floating in the air, and was rather glad to find herself walking again in the natural way. 4

Alice leaves the house and explores the garden, where the flowers are awake and can talk (“in most gardens... they make the beds too soft—so that the flowers are always asleep.”5) She sees the Red Queen, now grown taller than Alice herself, and on the advice of the flowers, catches up with her by walking away from her (which makes perfect sense, since she is in a mirror-image world):

[ Alice ] explained, as well as she could, that she had lost her way.
”I don’t know what you mean by your   way,” said the Queen: “all the ways about here belong to me--but why did you come out here at all?” she added in a kinder tone. “Curtsey while you’re thinking what to say. It saves time.” 6

Suddenly, Alice finds herself being pulled along by the Red Queen, who had begun running at a furious pace. Curiously enough, they don't get anywhere:

"...here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep it the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!" 7

While walking with the queen, Alice looks out over the countryside and notices that it is marked like a large chessboard. The Red Queen tells Alice that she can play as a pawn in place of the White Queen’s infant daughter, Lily. She gives Alice some last minute advice (“Speak in French when you can’t think of the English for the a thing—turn out your toes as you walk—and remember who you are!8) and then leaves her, as a pawn, to make her first move.

_____________

In the six years between the publications of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Charles Dodgson had been teaching Alice Liddell how to play chess.9 Each of the chapters in Through the Looking Glass describes a move on the chessboard:

[ The chess problem ] is correctly worked out, so far as the moves are concerned. The alternation of Red and White is perhaps not so strictly observed as it might be, and the “castling” of the three Queens is merely a way of saying that they entered the palace: but the “check” of the White King at move 6, the capture of the Red Knight at move 7, and the final “checkmate” of the Red King, will be found, by anyone who will take the trouble to set the pieces and play the moves as directed, to be strictly in accordance with the laws of the game.10

White Pawn (Alice) to play, and win in eleven moves.

1. Alice meets R. Q.                       1. R. Q. to K. R.’s 4th
2. Alice through Q.’s 3rd (by railway)     2. W. Q. to Q. B.’s 4th (after shawl)
    to Q.’s 4th  (Tweedledum and
    Tweedledee)
3. Alice meets W. Q. (with shawl)          3. W. Q. to Q. B.’s 5th (becomes sheep)
4. Alice to Q.’s 5th (shop, river, shop)   4. W. Q. to K. B.’s 8th (leaves egg
                                                                           on shelf)
5. Alice to Q.’s 6th (Humpty Dumpty)       5. W. Q. to Q. B.’s 8th (flying from 
                                                                           R. Kt.)
6. Alice to Q.’s 7th (forest)              6. R. Kt. to K.’s 2nd (ch.)
7. W. Kt. takes R. Kt.                     7. W. Kt. to K. B.’s 5th
8. Alice to Q.’s 8th (coronation)          8. R. Q. to K.’s sq (examination)
9. Alice becomes Queen                     9. Queens castle
10.  Alice castles (feast)                10. W.Q. to Q. R. 6th (soup)
11. Alice takes R. Q. & wins

________________

For whatever reason, people always think that Tweedledum and Tweedledee and Humpty Dumpty are in Alice in Wonderland, but they’re not; Alice meets them in Looking-Glass land. It is in this book that Alice makes the acquaintance of the Rocking-horse-fly, Snap-dragon-fly, and Bread-and-butter-fly, learns about living backwards from the White Queen and about unbirthdays from Humpty Dumpty, witnesses The Lion and the Unicorn fighting for the crown, and is captured by the White Knight. When Alice reaches the 8th square on the chessboard, she becomes a queen.

Everything was happening so oddly that she didn't feel a bit surprised at finding the Red Queen and the White Queen sitting close to her, one on each side: she would have like very much to ask them how they came there, but she feared it would not be quite civil. However, there would be no harm, she thought, in asking if the game was over. "Please, would you tell me -- " she began, looking timidly at the Red Queen.
"Speak when you're spoken to!" The Queen sharply interrupted her.
"But if everybody obeyed that rule," said Alice, who was always ready for a little argument, "and if you only spoke when you were spoken to, and the other person always waited for you to begin, you see nobody would ever say anything, so that -- "
"Ridiculous!" cried the Queen. "Why, don't you see, child -- " here she broke off with a frown, and, after thinking for a minute, suddenly changed the subject of the conversation. "What do you mean by `If you really are a Queen'? What right have you to call yourself so? You can't be a Queen, you know, till you've passed the proper examination. And the sooner we begin it, the better."
"I only said `if'!" poor Alice pleaded in a piteous tone.
The two Queens looked at each other, and the Red Queen remarked, with a little shudder, "She says she only said `if' - "
"But she said a great deal more than that!" the White Queen moaned, wringing her hands. "Oh, ever so much more than that!"
"So you did, you know," the Red Queen said to Alice. "Always speak the truth -- think before you speak -- and write it down afterwards."
"I'm sure I didn't mean -- " Alice was beginning, but the Red Queen interrupted her impatiently.
"That's just what I complain of! You should have meant! What do you suppose is the use of child without any meaning? Even a joke should have some meaning -- and a child's more important than a joke, I hope. You couldn't deny that, even if you tried with both hands." 11

The Red Queen is quite a quarrelsome character, and the White Queen speaks all manner of nonsense. Both bombard Alice with questions ("What's one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one ?"), invite her to a dinner party given in honor of her coronation, and then promptly fall asleep in her lap.

And then (as Alice afterwards described it) all sorts of things happened in a moment. The candles all grew up to the ceiling, looking something like a bed of rushes with fireworks at the top. As to the bottles, they each took a pair of plates, which they hastily fitted on as wings, and so, with forks for legs, went fluttering about . . .
”I can’t stand this any longer!” [ Alice ] cried, as she seized the table-cloth with both hands: one good pull, and plates, dishes, guests, and candles came crashing down together in a heap on the floor.
“And as for you,” she went on, turning fiercely upon the Red Queen, whom she considered as the cause of all the mischief—but the Queen was no longer at her side—she had suddenly dwindled down to the size of a little doll, and was now on the table, merrily running round and round after her own shawl, which was trailing behind her.
At any other time, Alice would have felt surprised at this, but she was far too much excited to be surprised at anything now. “As for you,” she repeated, catching hold of the little creature in the very act of jumping over a bottle which had just lighted upon the table, “I’ll shake you into a kitten, that I will!”12

CHAPTER XI WAKING

      ------and it really was a kitten, after all.13

______________ ______________________ ________________

This ‘and then she woke up’ ending is a bit weak, in my opinion, especially considering all the brilliant wordplay and fantastical imaginings that precede it, but given Lewis Carroll’s incredible contribution to children’s literature, I am willing to overlook this flaw. Both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass are available here on E2 and throughout the web, thanks to Project Gutenberg. My advice is to find a copy that is accompanied by Sir John Tenniel’s fabulous illustrations,14 and enjoy.


1 Through the Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There, The Best of Lewis Carroll, © Castle, a division of Book Sales, Inc., p. 165. 2 ibid, p. 169. 3 ibid, p. 176. 4 ibid, p. 183. 5 ibid, p. 187. 6 ibid, pp.189-190. 7 ibid, p. 193. 8 ibid, p. 194 9 http://www.online-literature.com/carroll/lookingglass/ 10 Through the Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There, Preface, p. 165. 11 ibid, pp. 273-274 12 ibid, pp. 287-289. 13 ibid, p. 291. 14See http://65.107.211.206/graphics/tenniel/lookingglass/gallery4.html

There are three characters in this little story.

The girl.

The camera.

And the mirror.

The camera is aimed at the girl in the mirror. The girl is watching the camera through the mirror. The scene is set.

The light is a bluish green, a shitty institutional florescent little light above the mirror. It works about half the time. The times it doesn’t, it gives a creepy dark green glow on everything. The times it does, well, this is what you get. The bluish green. The areas hit by light are institutional as well. From the cream-white walls painted over who knows how many times to the crappy little sink you can’t help but drop everything down. From the cap to the Bactine bottle to thousands of bobby pins.

The mirror is the door to a cheap plastic medicine cabinet. It's half stocked. Primarily allergy and pain drugs. These aren't the girl's. She doesn’t believe in medicating, unless its absolutely necessary. The mirror has rounded, metal lined corners. Suitably institutional.

To the left of the mirror are a counter top and a column of shelves, containing towels, make-up, hair gel, etc etc etc. All that girly crap nearly every girl has and not one has enough room for. The top shelves hold the various gifts of lotion and such that she'll never really look at again, much less use.

To the right is a towel bar. There's a little towel ring above it. There's a towel in each, one is the girl's and one is not.

On the left further away from the mirror is the girl's closet. A large pile of dirty clothing waits on the floor. A few good dresses and jackets are hung up above it. On the shelf above, clothes that she'll never wear wait for her.

On the right, further back, is the bathroom. Beyond that, the kitchenette. Beyond that, on both sides, is the room.

The room doesn’t matter. The bathroom doesn't matter. The kitchenette doesn't matter. The closet doesn't matter. Only the area immediately surrounding the mirror matters.

The girl sets the camera up on the second shelf up, double checking to make sure the view is what she would like. She turns it on. The glowing red eye glares angrily, impatiently. It wants the action to begin.

The girl looks into the mirror. Into that other world. She's lost for a few minutes in her own eyes. She can't put her finger on it, but there's something wrong in the way they're staring back at her. Two minutes go by. Three. Four. Finally, the little red dot catches her peripheral vision. It doesn’t like the wait. She figures that the mirror eyes won’t reveal their secrets any way.

She's already put a white hand towel folded up to the left of the sink. First to take its place on the towel is the thin purple ring she wears on her thumb. Next, she carefully takes the bead out of her lip ring. She places that and the ring on the towel. Next to go is the barbell in her tongue. The circular barbell in her septum. The rings in her nipples. The flesh tunnels in her ear lobes. Finally, the tiny little ring in her tragus. They line up on the towel like little soldiers off to war. She looks back in the mirror. With decorations gone, she's surprised by how she looks. It's been at least two years since there was no metal in her, on her. The two tattoos, she can't do anything about. By looking in the mirror, she is unable to see them, though. They go the way of the room and the closet, insignificant.

If it weren’t for the fact that her ears looked hole-punched, the little scar on her lip, the rest of the little scars, she could be just another ordinary girl. Not strange in the least. Perfectly ordinary.

Next to the towel, she had earlier placed an Exacto-knife. She figured it would be the best tool or weapon or whatever it should be called.

She’s done her research. The exact location she wants. She’s pictured it thousands of times, in her head, in her dreams. It's been weeks, months, nearly a year of this. These near constant images. Of course, dreams cannot tell everything. For the rest, she’s looked into in Gray’s Anatomy. To find which cut would be most effective.

She wants to create. That is part of it. The theatrics. The end result of a red spray on the impersonal walls. She knows she’s no good with a blank canvas or a lump of clay. So this is her creation. The tape will be her evidence. She just wants to create what she’s dreamt so many times. She wants it to look as perfect as the image in her head. Nothing she’s previously attempted has matched what she can only see in her mind, but this is closer. The walls are her canvas and her blood the paint.

Even the first time she dreamed this, she thought about how it was recreating something she had already been through. She’s never seen the end result, but it's been perfect every time.

She has two empty canvases awaiting. The walls and the videotape. She doesn’t think about that, though. Her mind is on the impatient red dot.

She tells herself that shejust wants to see it happen. Really, she just wants to watch.

There’s only her in the mirror with the white wall of the room behind her in the background. All her movements take place with her looking straight into her mirror eyes. Into that realm, as if it's only happening there – what she’s watching could never take place in real life.

As she picks up the knife, she doesn’t even have to pinpoint the little line she’s already decided upon. Now, it's all natural. Its happened so many times that it's habit. Her gaze is steady, and her eyes clear. There will be no tears. Without blinking or flinching, the blade enters. By the time she’s done, its already begun.

Getting weaker, she’s turned her gaze on the camera. The little red dot is the last thing she sees before the fall to the floor.

She misses the masterpiece she’s created. She’s on her back staring at the ceiling as her vision goes black. Hearing is gone by this point as well, she never heard her head hit the ground.

An artist’s work is never fully appreciated during their lifetime.

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