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Saturday, March 22, 2014

On Googling Lewis Carroll


So, I'm rereading a Kerry Greenwood novel and one of the chapters opens with a quote from Isaac Watts's How Doth The Little Busy Bee. And I remembered that it was one of the poems Lewis Carroll sent up in Alice In Wonderland. Alice, a very proper middle class Victorian child who has a nurse and a governess, has been taught a bunch of poems she gets completely wrong in the crazy world of Wonderland. This particular one came out as How Doth The Little Crocodile. Trying to remember the words, I Googled it and stumbled  across this article. Written in 1903, it is still very useful if you want to get the jokes Carroll was making. At the time the novel was written, every member of his child audience would have read the original poems he was sending up and rolled around laughing (and believe me, those poems fully deserved to be sent up!) - and the originals are quoted along with the Carroll parodies. 

When I reread the two Alice books some time ago, I thought, how very Victorian! Kids today would miss most of the in-jokes, though there was plenty of fun there even if you didn't get the references -well, I read them when I was six or seven(Alice is seven, she mentions this to Humpty Dumpty, I think, or was it the Caterpillar?). I enjoyed them enough to name my first doll Alice. And that was without getting any of the in-jokes at all. 

But it's worth it, if you're curious, to check out that web page. I think I already knew some of the references, but not all. 

I still love the absurd world of Carroll. Who would have thought a mathematician could be so good at this sort of thing?

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