October 1, 2012

Here is a picture of a reproduction of a page in a story illustrated and written by the hand of Reverend Charles Dodgson as a Christmas present for Alice Liddell. Alice had insisted that he write down this particular story, the one about another Alice and the Queen of Hearts and the White Rabbit and all. On this page, Dodgson is telling what happens just after the caterpillar has left her alone by the mushroom, and she has nibbled on the mushroom, thereby causing her to begin shrinking. Dodgson writes:

‘She was a good deal frightened by this very sudden change, but as she did not shrink any further, and had not dropped the top of the mushroom, she did not give up hope yet. There was hardly room to open her mouth, with her chin pressing against her foot, but she did it at last, and managed to bite off a little bit of the top of the mushroom.’

Now, after Dodgson’s friend, George MacDonald, read the story, he encouraged Dodgson to publish it as a book, much to our delight. Dodgson turned himself into Lewis Carroll and added the March Hare and the Mad Hatter and another verse to ‘Beautiful Soup’ and other things, too, like pigs and peppers. As to Alice by the mushroom, he wrote:

‘She was a good deal frightened by this very sudden change, but she felt that there was no time to be lost, as she was shrinking rapidly; so she set to work at once to eat some of the other bit. Her chin was pressed so closely against her foot, that there was hardly room to open her mouth; but she did it at last, and managed to swallow a morsel of the left-hand bit.’

Why is Carroll’s version better than Dodgson’s?

Because Alice stops shrinking in Dodgson’s version, but continues shrinking and is in peril of shrinking away to nothing in Carroll’s version.

Moral: Edit, edit, edit.

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