On this day in history : 4th May 1852 – The birth of Alice Liddell – thought by some to be the inspiration behind Lewis Carroll’s ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’….
Alice Pleasance Liddell was the fourth child and second daughter of George Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford and Lorina Liddell….
On the 25th of February 1856, as newly appointed Dean of Christ Church, Henry moved his family into the Deanery…. At the time the sub-librarian of the college was one Charles Dodgson – who was to use the pen name of Lewis Carroll…. The window of his room overlooked the garden of the Deanery and he would watch the Liddell children play….
By early summer Dodgson had made the acquaintance of the family and as a keen photographer on the 3rd of June 1856 he photographed Alice, her elder sister, Lorina and younger sister, Edith…. After that the three girls would often go to visit him and a strong friendship was formed…. However, this was not something the girls’ parents were particularly comfortable with – eventually their mother was to ask Dodgson not to take any more photographs…. Which he understood, acknowledging that perhaps he had been intruding too much….
Henry and Lorina Liddell were to go away for a while and left the children in the care of their governess, Miss Prickett…. Some believe she and Dodgson were romantically involved – she certainly let him see the children and he would entertain them with some wonderful tales….
It was on the 4th of July 1862, whilst on a summer picnic and in a boat being rowed by the Reverend Robinson Duckworth, that Alice asked Dodgson to tell them a story…. He told them the fantastic tale of a little girl called Alice and of her adventures after falling down a rabbit hole…. Alice loved it so much that she begged him to write it down for her…. He eventually got around to doing so a couple of years later and gave her the manuscript ’Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’ in November 1864….
Dodgson was to rewrite the story under the name of Lewis Carroll and in 1865 it was published as ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ – with illustrations by John Tenniel…. ‘Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There’ followed in 1871….
For some reason Dodgson and the family completely broke all ties in June 1863 – there is no record as to why and it remains controversial…. Some think it was because he was becoming too close to Lorina, Alice’s older sister, or even Alice herself…. It is widely assumed Alice was the inspiration behind his writing but literary experts disagree to what extent the character is based on her…. Indeed Dodgson himself later said Alice was purely a fictional character….
As for Alice Liddell herself…. When she was around 20-years-old Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria arrived at Christ Church as an undergraduate…. It is rumoured that he and Alice were involved in a romance – but as she was a commoner marriage would never have been allowed…. Instead, in 1880, she married Reginald Hargreaves…. Dodgson did not attend the wedding but he did send a gift…. She was to go on to have three sons, two of whom were to die during World War One…. She maintained a friendship with Prince Leopold – naming her first born Leopold and indeed the Prince was godfather to him…. In turn Prince Leopold named his daughter Alice….
In 1928 Alice sold her manuscript as she needed to raise money in order to pay death duties…. A reserve of £4K was put on it by Sotheby’s but it actually fetched over £15K – an awful lot of money in the day….
Alice lived most of her adult life in and around Lyndhurst in the New Forest…. She died on the 16th of November 1934 and was cremated at Golders Green Crematorium…. Her ashes were buried at St. Michael and All Angels, Lyndhurst….