Sunday 27 January 2013


Today is the 181st birthday of Lewis Carroll, depicted, left, by one of his illustrators, Harry Furniss.

The pseudonymous alter ego of the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Lewis Carroll single-handedly transformed children's literature with the adventures of his child muse, Alice, wandering through the logical conundrums and nonsensical confusions of Wonderland and Looking-glass World.

One of the enduring pleasures of the books is the rhymes and songs that are scattered through their pages. As far as most of us are concerned, we are unaware that Carroll wrote these verses as parodies of a popular trend in improving poetry that was so beloved by the Victorians. Ironically, the moral-laden originals are now largely forgotten (despite having been written by Wordsworth and his ilk) in favour of Carroll's fun versions...

Thirty-five years ago, I compiled and presented/performed a radio programme entitled The Tune's My Own Invention with my late friend the composer, pianist, singer and authority on Victorian music, Antony Miall. Together we charted the story of some of the composers who, over a century, had set Carroll's words to music such as William Boyd, who in 1870 published Songs from 'Alice's Adventures in Wonderland'.

Here, to mark this special day, is a snippet from our programme featuring Boyd's setting for one of Carroll most entertaining verses, 'You Are Old Father William'.

Tony is playing the piano and is the one who sounds young; whereas, I'm the one who sounds a good deal older than my then 29 years!