The Beggar Maid
THE MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSE OF ALL TIME by C. M. Rubin
Throughout history, the muse has provided an essential element required to inspire and motivate artists to create their very best work. From Manet’s Victorine Meurent, to Dali’s Gala Diakonova, to Lennon’s Yoko Ono - the complex psychology of the special connection between artist and muse has been discussed and debated in terms of its importance in the overall creative process. Then there are the muses that continue to influence and promote the legacy of that art throughout the course of their lifetimes and long afterwards.
In the lives of the great muses, there has never been a muse more recognized for the role she played as inspiration than that of Alice Liddell in the creation of Charles Dodgson’s (Lewis Carroll’s) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. On many occasions, Lewis Carroll reminded his followers that his inspiration had come from a 10 year old girl, the magical Alice Liddell, who had encouraged his story telling for years, and in particular the story he told about Alice in Wonderland during a summer day’s picnic on July 4, 1862. The real Alice was the daughter of Henry Liddell, the author of the celebrated Greek English Lexicon and the powerful Dean of Christ Church College, Oxford, where Dodgson taught mathematics. After hearing the story, Alice was continously persistent that Dodgson write it down for her, which he eventually did. He ultimately presented it to her (hand written and hand illustrated) as a Christmas gift 18 months later. In 1883, Carroll stated clearly in a letter to Alice’s mother that without Alice, he “might possibly never have written at all.”
Years before that golden afternoon, Dodgson was hired as Liddell family photographer to take portraits of Alice and her siblings. No picture taken by Dodgson (who became one of the most respected child photographers of his day) is more famous than his photograph of Alice — the portrait of Alice Liddell as the Beggar Maid. Alfred Lord Tennyson declared it the most beautiful photograph that he had ever seen. Indeed, it was then and still is today, one of the most famous photographs of all time. The gifted model, after all, was exceptionally beautiful, with an intensity and maturity that seems surreal for a child aged only seven at the time. She was a girl capable of inspiring a previously unpublished children’s book author to write the greatest children’s story of all time.
As the books became more famous, so did the author, and so did Alice Liddell. During her teenage years, her beauty and fame inspired Julia Margaret Cameron’s acclaimed series of photographs entitled Alethea (1872). As a wife and mother, eminent writers and artists would visit her home in Hampshire, England to meet the Alice of Wonderland fame. In 1883, Alice gave Carroll permission to publish the original manuscript given to her as a Christmas gift, providing that the proceeds were given to children’s hospitals. This led to Alice becoming even more engaged as a spokesperson both for these new causes and the Alice books. In 1932, the President of Columbia University in New York City honored Alice in front of the world as “the moving cause of this truly noteworthy contribution to English literature.”
There are over 20,000 books, films, operas, plays and video games based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. It is estimated that over 8 billion people have read or seen presentations of the Alice books. Lewis Carroll is behind only the Bible and Shakespeare in the number of quotations from the Alice books that appear in everyday published discourse. In addition to the new adaptations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Carroll’s and Liddell’s lives continue to inspire numerous new books, works of art, and film projects. In my mind, it is this ongoing fascination with not just the books, but the story behind the story, that make Liddell the most influential muse of all time.
Portrait of Alice - Julia Margaret Cameron
ALICE LIDDELL AND LEWIS CARROLL
By Real Alice in Wonderland artist Tania Ianovskaia
My many artworks of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass were largely inspired by the paradoxes and metaphors found within Carroll’s writing. Although it’s often impossible to illustrate Lewis Carroll’s books realistically, my version of the Alice drawings are an attempt to capture some of the wordplay and playful methods used by Carroll.
I think that Alice Liddell had a special gift to see wonder in common life around her, a quality often found in artists and creators. She could also distinguish what is important and what is not, which made her the best friend for Lewis Carroll.
Tania Ianovskaia (left) with Author C. M. Rubin
Tania’s Alice-inspired work can be seen in The Real Alice In Wonderland book. More of Tania’s work, including her illustrated Alice in Wonderland, can be viewed on her website: http://www.taniaart.com
At the request of J.K. Rowling, the blockbuster Harry Potter films were set entirely in Britain. Many of the Hogwart’s School scenes were filmed at Oxford University, centered at one of Oxford’s most magnificent colleges, Christ Church. The historic locations used at the College included the setting for Hogwart’s staircase, where schoolchildren are greeted upon their arrival, the Great Hall, which became Hogwart’s dining room, and Oxford’s Bodleian Library, which provided the setting for Hogwart’s infirmary. Christ Church College, founded by Henry VIII in 1546, was also used by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) as the setting for his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass books.
The Christ Church math professor, Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll), became good friends with the children of Christ Church Dean, Henry Liddell, in the 1850’s and 60’s. He was especially close to Alice Liddell, the Dean’s fourth child who became Carroll’s inspiration for his heroine, Alice in Wonderland. Carroll used Alice Liddell’s familiar surroundings as the setting for the story which he wrote for her in 1864. The Great Hall (Hogwart’s dining room), where Carroll ate his meals, holds many Wonderland secrets. It is believed that the real “rabbit hole” is the door that the Dean used to get to the senior common room. Henry Liddell himself is thought to be Carroll’s inspiration for the White Rabbit
C. M. Rubin’s and Gabriella’s Rubin’s bestselling book, The Real Alice In Wonderland, features stunning photographs of many of the same Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland locations which inspired these blockbuster books (and films). The Authors, who are descendants of the real Alice, spent time in Oxford as guests of the current Dean of Christ Church researching their book, and discovered how large a part the college played in not only the creation of the Harry Potter films, but also in the creation of the Alice in Wonderland books. The Rubins’ story behind the story takes readers to many other Oxford locations, including Alice’s garden at Christ Church, the original Cheshire Cat tree, the river banks where Carroll was urged to create his story by Alice, and to the Oxford museums to view the many Wonderland treasures held there today.
Authors Gabriella and C.M. Rubin doing research at Christ Church.
A visit and tour of Oxford town and Christ Church College is a must for fans of Harry Potter and Alice in Wonderland, but first you can discover many of the sights and wonders in C. M. Rubin’s and Gabriella Rubin’s book, The Real Alice in Wonderland, on sale in bookstores nationally.Look Inside The Real Alice Book