Ward's Book of Days.

Pages of interesting anniversaries.

What happened on this day in history.

MAY 4th  

On this day in history in 1852, was born Alice Liddell.

Alice Liddell was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.  

Alice was the daughter of Henry Liddell, dean of Christ Church, Oxford, the fourth child of ten siblings. Dean Liddell was the acquaintance of a young mathematics student, Charles Dodgson, who later wrote under the name of Lewis Carroll. Alice and two of her sisters were given over to the care of a governess, Miss Prickett, nicknamed by the children ‘Pricks’ and the model for the Red Queen in Alice Through the Looking Glass.  The young Dodgson was rather keen on ‘Pricks’ and often accompanied her, and the children, on excursions.  

Dodgson had an unfortunate stammer and was not able to communicate well. He did, however, tend to relax whilst in the presence of children and his stutter became more manageable. For this reason, ‘Pricks’ often delegated him to entertain the children. On one occasion, on a picnic outing in a rowing boat on the Thames, Dodgson diverted the children with a fantastic story of a girl, who happened to be called Alice, who fell down a rabbit hole and suffered a series of calamities. Alice, fascinated by this tale, asked Mr Dodgson if he would write it down for her.  

Dodgson proceeded to write a manuscript Alice’s Adventures Underground, as was the work’s original title and presented it to Alice. Later he wrote a more elaborate version and sent it for publication, using the penname Lewis Carroll.  

When Alice was older, she was for a brief period romantically involved with Queen Victoria’s son, Prince Leopold. She eventually married Reginald Hargreaves, at a lavish ceremony in Westminster Abbey. The couple had three sons, two of whom were killed in the First World War. Due to financial constraints, Alice was obliged to sell her original manuscript at auction where it fetched £15,400.  

In 1932, the centenary of Dodgson’s birth, the original manuscript was exhibited at Columbia University. Alice was present for the occasion and was introduced to Peter Llewellyn-Davies, the inspiration for J M Barrie’s Peter Pan. When the manuscript’s owner died, it was purchased by a group of American collectors and presented to the British Library, with a citation ‘in recognition of Britain’s courage in facing Hitler before America came into the war’.  

Alice is buried in the churchyard of St Michael and All Angels [High Street, Lyndhurst, Hampshire, SO43 7BB]. Nearby her grave is a plaque, which reads ‘The grave of Mrs Reginald Hargreaves, the Alice in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland’.

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