I was probably three or four years old when my parents first read me Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - dreamed up by Lewis Carroll 144 years ago today - from a large book of stories, poems and puzzles which happened to contain Carroll’s masterpiece in serialised form throughout the volume accompanied by John Tenniel’s famous illustrations.
Alice’s creator once wrote:
“Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes…”
And she haunted me, too. Over the years, I collected many different editions of this book and its even better sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There with illustrations by all manner of artists from Arthur Rackham to Walt Disney.
I became fascinated by Carroll and his alter ego, the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson; I joined The Lewis Carroll Society , eventually became its secretary and was the founding editor of the Society’s newsletter, Bandersnatch.
One of my dearest friends from my Carrollian days was the fine literary scholar, bibliographer and bookseller, Denis Crutch.
It was from Denis that I bought the most treasured item in my Alice collection - an 1870 edition of the book, inscribed by the author to one of his child friends, Ada Chambers Butler.
“I’m sure I’m not Ada,” [Alice] said, “for her hair goes in such long ringlets, and mine doesn’t go in ringlets at all…”
Only when the men finally arrive to carry me off to the debtor’s prison, will I ever consider parting with this particular volume - and I doubt I'll do so then since I can think of no better companions in adversity than Alice and her weird Wonderlanders!