ABOUT JERICHO - ARTS

Jericho through the looking glass

Tenniel's original illustration of the Mad Hatter's tea party in Alice in Wonderland
Tenniel's original illustration of the Mad Hatter's tea party in Alice in Wonderland

Posted - May 02, 2010

Links with Lewis Carroll

Many readers will know canalboat resident Mark Davies, and his book, A Towpath Walk in Oxford, with its detailed section on Jericho’s historical relationship with the canal. Mark’s new book, Alice in Waterland: Lewis Carroll and the River Thames in Oxford, also has a section on Jericho – highlighting the hugely influential role of Thomas Combe, the OUP Superintendent from the 1840s until his death in 1872, in transforming Carroll’s original handwritten manuscript into the children’s story which became famous throughout the world.

Combe was also the reason why Jericho hosted the Christ Church don’s first ever public sermon in Oxford, and additionally he and his wife, Martha, introduced Carroll to a number of Pre-Raphaelite artists, including John Millais, William Holman Hunt, and Gabriel Rossetti. Through this connection, Carroll, an accomplished early photographer, was subsequently able to take pictures of these men and their families, in Jericho and elsewhere.

But this is a publication which will appeal to anyone interested in Oxford’s Victorian history and literature in general, and is the first book ever to concentrate on the fundamentally important role played by the River Thames in the creation of both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

It was on rowing trips with Alice Liddell and her sisters that Lewis Carroll invented many of the tales which were later incorporated into his two books; it was on the river bank on 4 July 1862 that Wonderland had its birth; and it was from particular incidents on or near the Thames that Carroll drew inspiration for many well-known episodes.

Combining excerpts from Carroll’s diaries and the ‘Alice’ books with contemporary images, memoirs, and fiction, Alice in Waterland sets the Oxford scene of the time, and sheds new light on the real places which stimulated Carroll’s imagination and on the real individuals who inspired such characters as the Hatter, the Sheep, and the Red Queen.

Fully endorsed by the Lewis Carroll Society, the book has also attracted praise from Philip Pullman: ‘This is a splendid book – fully informative and balanced about Dodgson’s life and (Alice-related) preoccupations, and marvellously detailed when it comes to the river and Oxford. It is a really important addition to the literature of Lewis Carroll and Oxford.’

Alice in Waterland should be available to the public for the first time at the Jericho Community Boatyard Ltd stall at the Jericho Street Fair, price £9.99, and at many Oxford outlets soon after. For more information see www.oxfordwaterwalks.co.uk.

Did you know?

Why Jericho still has such a mix of houses?

Jericho’s intriguing mix of housing today owes a lot, to the Residents’ Association in the 1960s and 1970s which together with the then Vicar and some local councillors resisted plans to bulldoze the whole area and turn it over to offices and light industrial use.

Margaret Thatcher used to live here?

In her Oxford days, she lived at 12 Richmond Road. It is alleged she shared the house with two red-hot communists who lived on a diet of sausages. This may account for her later views on socialists and known dislike of sausages.