What is a Doll?

How long have we had this love affair with Dolls?

Pearls of Wisdom:

New World Dictionary describes a doll as - "a child's toy, puppet, marionette, etc. made to resemble a human being."

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Through the Looking Glass and what Alice Found There

Alice Pleasance Liddell ( 4 May 1852 – 16 November 1934), known for most of her adult life by her married name, Alice Hargreaves, inspired the children's classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, whose protagonist was named after her.

Alice Pleasance Liddell was born on May 4th 1852, to Henry George Liddell, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and his wife Lorina Hanna, she was the fourth of their 10 children and had large blue eyes and a cherubic oval face.
She had two older brothers and an older sister, plus six younger siblings. Two of her brothers died young. Alice grew up primarily in the company of the two sisters nearest to her in age: Lorina, who was three years older, and Edith, who was two years younger.

Alice and her sisters Lorina and Edith.

When Alice Liddell was a young woman, she set out on a grand tour of Europe with Lorina and Edith. Edith died on 26 June 1876, possibly of measles or peritonitis (accounts differ), shortly before she was to be married to Aubrey Harcourt, a cricket player. Alice Liddell married Reginald Hargreaves, also a cricket player, on 15 September 1880, at the age of 28 in Westminster Abbey.

They had three sons, but two were killed in action in World War I. After her husband's death, the cost of maintaining their home, Cuffnells, was such that she deemed it necessary to sell her copy of Alice's Adventures Under Ground. The manuscript fetched £15,400, nearly four times the reserve price given it by Sothesby’s auction house. Eventually the book was presented to the British people "in recognition of Britain's courage in facing Hitler before America came into the war." The manuscript now resides in the British Library.

"I can't go back to yesterday, because I was a different person then." Lewis Carroll

"Self portrait"

Alice in Wonderland grew out of Charles Dodgson's (writing under the pen name Lewis Carroll) imagination, as he invented stories for the entertainment of children..
Having been the eldest son with eight younger brothers and sisters. He had a natural affinity for children. He also spoke naturally and easily to them, a relief to him since he suffered from a bad stammer.

Charles Ludwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) 31 years old, by O.G. Rejlander at 28 March 1863

The family met Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, while he was photographing the cathedral on 25 April 1856. He would take the family on boat trips and picnics to the scenic areas around Oxford to while away the time, entertained with stories and used them as subjects for his hobby, photography. It has often been stated that Alice was clearly his favorite subject in these years, but there is very little evidence to suggest that this is so. Dodgson's diaries from 18 April 1858 to 8 May 1862 are missing.

Origin of Alice in Wonderland

Kister china "Alice" ca. 1862

Alice Liddell as a young woman.

Alice as the "Queen of the May" photographed by Lewis Carroll.

Advice from the carterpillar...Illustration by John Tenniel.

Alice in Wonderland began as a tale spun when on July 4, 1862, Dodgson and his friend Robinson Duckworth, a priest at Christ Church, rowed the three Liddell children up the Thames from Oxford to Godstow for a midday picnic on the banks of the river. The fairy-tale of Alice's Adventures Underground was told to the children during this occasion. Much of the story was based on another picnic a couple of weeks earlier when they had all been caught in the rain; As the Reverend Duckworth rowed the boat, Dodgson regaled the girls with fantastic stories of a girl, named Alice, and her adventures after she fell into a rabbit-hole and into a strange land.

Hairstyles that mimicked the Alice character in the book were also popular in the 1850's. The headband and hairstyling is similar on the dolls made by different factories. Although the book "Alice in Wonderland" was first published in 1865 the headbands are dated from 1850 on.

Poured wax "Alice doll" doll from my collection with brown glass eyes and pierced ears with glass earrings. Wooden limbs and cloth body ca. early 1800's

Alice and her older sister Lorina

The story was not unlike those Dodgson had spun for the sisters before, but this time Liddell asked him to write it down for her. Alice Liddell, age 10 at the time, was Dodgson's favorite of the three Liddell girls, so he named his heroine after her. He promised to do so but did not get around to the task for some months. Dodgson had decided to rewrite the story as a possible commercial venture, and was persuaded by friends to seek a publisher.
Eventually Dodgson presented her with the manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground in November 1864.

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party

My beautiful Alice by Lee Middleton as a Toddler: She came with her friend the White Rabbit. She has a beautiful life like face and is forever enjoying her "Happy Unbirthday Party" with her friends in my doll room.

From my collection "Alice's Mad Tea Party" and Guests...Alice Doll by Lee Middleton

The Liddell family with Lewis Carroll at one of their many outings with the poet/author.

There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea at it: a Dormouse was sitting between them, fast asleep, and the other two were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and talking over its head. `Very uncomfortable for the Dormouse,’ thought Alice; `only, as it’s asleep, I suppose it doesn’t mind.’
The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: `No room! No room!’ they cried out when they saw Alice coming. `There’s plenty of room!’ said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large arm-chair at one end of the table.

Alice and the Cheshire Cat illustration from "Alice in Wonderland" Lewis Carroll.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with illustrations by John Tenniel, was published in 1865, under the name Lewis Carroll. A second book about the character Alice, Through The Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There, followed in 1871.

"Alice Doll" German ca. 1860... Hair modelled in glazed porcelain, with painted chestnut hair. The arms and little black boots are also porcelain. He head turns in a pivot. Motschmann type body in fabric and papier mache has a bellows for voice system. All original clothes, from the collection of Patrizia Bonato, Venice.

To the earliest childlike dolls belong "Alice in Wonderland" emerging as the main figure out of a fairy-tale from English poet Lewis Carroll. According to the model of John Tenniel illustrated the first edition of this book, the hair was combed to the rear and was held by a hair band.

In 1932, when she was 80, Alice published her memoirs. She also went to New York because of the centenary of Dodgson’s birth and was made a Doctor in Literature by Columbia University. This was her last engagement on behalf of Wonderland, because at that age she got really exhausted of being ‘Alice in Wonderland’.

Late in life, she lived in Lyndhurst in the New Forest. After her death she was cremated and her ashes were buried in the graveyard of the church of St. Michael & All Angels, Lyndhurst.
Alice died on 15 November 1934.

The extent to which Dodgson's Alice may be identified with Liddell is controversial. The two Alices are clearly not identical, and though it was long assumed that the fictional Alice was based very heavily on Liddell, recent research contradicted this assumption. Dodgson himself claimed in later years that his Alice was entirely imaginary and not based upon any real child at all.


  1. Muchísimas gracias fue maravilloso leer esta entrada sobre Alicia, acompañada de las laminas, fotografías y muñeca. Precioso, nos encanto.

  2. That was a wonderful post...thank you!

  3. Hi! I'm new to your blog & have been enjoying it very much. For some reason, I can't read the red print on the background and I have good vision! LOL! The photos are wonderful and I especially love your Alice doll and the Tea Party. So sweet! I will visit you again and have added you to my blog list. I hope that's okay. I'd love for you to visit me too. :o)

  4. Great to have you back. The real mystery to me is how he managed to produce one of the greatest books ever and then rubbish - have you ever tried to read say the Snark? Love the dolls.

    Sorry about the Anon but blogger is playing up for me. Phillip

  5. Dear friends...Thank you so much for your comments. I was away for a while mourning the passing of a dear friend and blogger, it broke my heart; but we must move on.
    I will not be posting as often as I will like to spend more time in research of intersting things to tell you about.
    Thanks again for following, and I apologize for some glitches in the blog that are keeping some from reading the text on this post. I hope it gets fixed soon.

  6. Dear Marta:

    I love this post and I love your back.

    This is beautiful. Alice fascinated me since I was a child. I love the books.

    Your dolls mad tea party is amazing. I'll take a chair in that table.

    Thank you for this post.

    Un beso.

  7. Dear sweet Alberto...Thank you for visiting! I also love Alice and all the characters. It was fascinating getting the information for this post, and especially the pictures of beautiful Alice Liddell. I am still looking for a "Cheshire Cat" for my Mad Tea Party, and you are always welcome to be our guest! Its good to be back.

  8. As a child I was reading Alice in Wonderland in a book full with pictures. I loved it.
    Now I see this wonderful blog and I remember it again. What a beautiful pictures of Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell. These dolls, how beautiful are they.

  9. Dear Kleurrijk, I am so pleased you enjoyed the post. Alice is also my favorite children's story, and it makes it more special when its based on a real person.
    Thanks for your nice comment!

  10. Marta, I am so sorry to hear of the passing of your dear friend.

    I am late in reading this, but was showing your post to my granddaughter who loves Alice in Wonderland. She was shocked to see Alice dolls with dark hair!

    Take care and I hope to see another post from you soon.


  11. Thank you Bama... I hope it was easier reading the blog this time. Some of my friends were having problems with the text.
    I am so glad you showed the post to your grandaughter...Yes most people think of Alice as blond! Isn't that a surprise!
    Thank you for kind comment.