Saturday 4 May 2024


Today, May 4th, has been intergalactically hijacked by STAR WARS fans with the popular meme 'May the Fourth Be With You', but for fans of Lewis Carroll, the date has an entirely different significance.
Carrollians have long designated today as 'Wonderland Day', marking, as it does, the birthday of Alice Pleasance Liddell, born on May 4, 1852. 

Alice was the fourth of the ten children of Dr Henry Liddell, at the time of her birth, Headmaster of Westminster School and then (from 1855) Dean of Christ Church, Oxford. It was there that Alice, her family (and, in particular, her brother Harry and two of her sisters, Lorina and Edith), met a young mathematics don, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson who was an enthusiastic – and pioneering – champion of the new 'art' of photography and who wrote entertaining poems, puzzles and stories under the pseudonym, 'Lewis Carroll'. 

Alice Liddell – "Child of the pure unclouded brow. And dreaming eyes of wonder!" – would become Lewis Carroll's child-muse and provide the inspiration for a curious fantasy originally entitled, in manuscript, Alice's Adventures under Ground and, later and much amplified, published in 1865 as the book we now know as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
'Hidden in plain sight' in the book are two date-specific allusions to Alice Liddell's birthday....
In the book's sixth chapter, 'Pig and Pepper', Alice encounters the Cheshire Cat...
[Alice asked] "What sort of people live about here?"
"In that direction," the Cat said, waving its right paw round, "lives a Hatter: and in that direction," waving the other paw, "lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad."
"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."
Shortly after, the author tells us...
After a minute or two [Alice] walked on in the direction in which the March Hare was said to live. "I've seen hatters before," she said to herself; "the March Hare will be much the most interesting, and perhaps as this is May it won't be raving mad--at least not so mad as it was in March."
So, the month of the year is now established as being May.
Then, in the following chapter, 'A Mad Tea-Party', we find this exchange...
The Hatter was the first to break the silence. "What day of the month is it?" he said, turning to Alice: he had taken his watch out of his pocket, and was looking at it uneasily, shaking it every now and then, and holding it to his ear.
Alice considered a little, and then said "The fourth."
"Two days wrong!" sighed the Hatter. "I told you butter wouldn't suit the works!" he added looking angrily at the March Hare.
"It was the best butter," the March Hare meekly replied.
"Yes, but some crumbs must have got in as well," the Hatter grumbled: "you shouldn't have put it in with the bread-knife."
Thus it is established (if you put any credence in such nonsense!) that the 'day of the month' of May is, indeed, 'The Fourth'!
Whether it's YOUR birthday (or your UN-Birthday) I hope you have a WONDER-filled Wonderland Day!
[Photographs: Lewis Carroll; Illustration: John Tenniel (enlarged and coloured) from The Nursery "Alice" (1890)]

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