Alice Pleasance Hargreaves (Liddell)
Daughter of Very Revd Henry George Liddell and Lorina Reeve
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Historical records matching Alice Liddell (inspiration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)
About Alice Liddell (inspiration for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)
Alice Pleasance Liddell (/ˈlɪdəl/; 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 by Lewis Carroll, whose protagonist Alice is said to be named after her.
Alice Liddell was the fourth child of Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and his wife Lorina Hanna Liddell (née Reeve). She had two older brothers, Harry (born 1847) and Arthur (born 1850, died of scarlet fever in 1853), and an older sister Lorina (born 1849). She also had six younger siblings, including her sister Edith (born 1854) with whom she was very close.
At the time of her birth, Liddell's father was the Headmaster of Westminster School but was soon after appointed to the deanery of Christ Church, Oxford. The Liddell family moved to Oxford in 1856. Soon after this move, she met Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who encountered the family while he was photographing the cathedral on 25 April 1856. He became a close friend of the Liddell family in subsequent years (see Relationship with Lewis Carroll below).
Liddell 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. She and her family regularly spent holidays at their holiday home Penmorfa, which later became the Gogarth Abbey Hotel, on the West Shore of Llandudno in North Wales.
When Alice Liddell was a young woman, she set out on a grand tour of Europe with Lorina and Edith. One story has it that she became a romantic interest of Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria, during the four years he spent at Christ Church, but the evidence for this is sparse. It is true that years later, Leopold named his first child Alice, and acted as godfather to Alice's second son Leopold. (A recent biographer of Leopold suggests it is far more likely that Alice's sister Edith was the true recipient of Leopold's attention.) 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. At her funeral on 30 June 1876, Prince Leopold served as a pall-bearer.
Alice Liddell married Reginald Hargreaves, also a cricketer, on 15 September 1880, at the age of 28 in Westminster Abbey. They had three sons: Alan Knyveton Hargreaves and Leopold Reginald "Rex" Hargreaves (both were killed in action in World War I); and Caryl Liddell Hargreaves, who survived to have a daughter of his own. Liddell denied that the name 'Caryl' was in any way associated with Charles Dodgson's pseudonym. Reginald Hargreaves inherited a considerable fortune, and was a local magistrate; he also played cricket for Hampshire. Alice became a noted society hostess and was the first president of Emery Down Women's Institute.
After her husband's death in 1926, the cost of maintaining their home, Cuffnells, was such that she deemed it necessary to sell her copy of Alice's Adventures Under Ground (Lewis Carroll's earlier title for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland). The manuscript fetched £15,400, nearly four times the reserve price given it by Sotheby's auction house. It later became the possession of Eldridge R. Johnson and was displayed at Columbia University on the centennial of Carroll's birth. (Alice was present, aged 80, and it was on this visit to the USA that she met Peter Llewelyn Davies, one of the brothers who inspired J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan). Upon Johnson's death, the book was purchased by a consortium of American bibliophiles and 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.
For most of her life, she lived in and around 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 (a memorial plaque, naming her "Mrs. Reginald Hargreaves" can be seen in the picture in the monograph).
Origin of Alice in Wonderland
On 4 July 1862, in a rowing boat travelling on the Isis from Folly Bridge, Oxford to Godstow for a picnic outing, 10-year-old Alice asked Charles Dodgson (who wrote under the pen name Lewis Carroll) to entertain her and her sisters, Edith (aged 8) and Lorina (13), with a story. As the Reverend Robinson 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. The story was not unlike those Dodgson had spun for the sisters before, but this time Liddell asked Mr. Dodgson to write it down for her. He promised to do so but did not get around to the task for some months. He eventually presented her with the manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground in November 1864.
In the meantime, Dodgson had decided to rewrite the story as a possible commercial venture. Probably with a view to canvassing his opinion, Dodgson sent the manuscript of Under Ground to a friend, the author George MacDonald, in the spring of 1863. The MacDonald children read the story and loved it, and this response probably persuaded Dodgson to seek a publisher. 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. In 1886, a facsimile of Alice's Adventures Under Ground, the original manuscript that Dodgson had given Liddell, was published.
Relationship with Lewis Carroll
The relationship between Liddell and Dodgson has been the source of much controversy. Many biographers have supposed that Dodgson was romantically or sexually attached to her as a child, though there has never been any direct proof for this and more benign accounts assume merely a platonic fondness. The evidence for any given interpretation is small.
Dodgson met the Liddell family in 1855. He first befriended Harry, the older brother, and later took both Harry and Ina on several boating trips and picnics to the scenic areas around Oxford. Later, when Harry went to school, Alice and her younger sister Edith joined the party. Dodgson entertained the children by telling them fantastic stories to while away the time. He also 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.
"Cut pages in diary"
The relationship between the Liddells and Dodgson suffered a sudden break in June 1863. There was no record of why the rift occurred, since the Liddells never openly spoke of it, and the single page in Dodgson's diary recording 27–29 June 1863 (which seems to cover the period in which it began) was missing. Until recently, the only source for what happened on that day had been speculation, and generally centred on the idea that Alice Liddell was, somehow, the cause of the break. It was long suspected that her mother disapproved of Dodgson's interest in her, seeing him as an unfit companion for an 11-year-old girl.
In 1996, Karoline Leach found what became known as the "Cut pages in diary" document—a note allegedly written by Charles Dodgson's niece, Violet Dodgson, summarizing the missing page from 27–29 June 1863, apparently written before she (or her sister Menella) removed the page. The note reads:
"L.C. learns from Mrs. Liddell that he is supposed to be using the children as a means of paying court to the governess—he is also supposed soon to be courting Ina". (Leach, 1999)
This might imply that the break between Dodgson and the Liddell family was caused by concern over alleged gossip linking Dodgson to the family governess and to "Ina" (Alice's older sister, Lorina). In her biography The Mystery of Lewis Carroll, Jenny Woolf suggests that the problem was caused by Lorina becoming too attached to Dodgson and not the other way around. Woolf then uses this theory to explain why "Menella [would] remove the page itself, yet keep a note of what was on it." The note, she submits, is a "censored version" of what really happened, intended to prevent Lorina from being offended or humiliated at having her feelings for Dodgson made public.
It is uncertain who wrote the note. Leach has said that the handwriting on the front of the document most closely resembles that of either Menella or Violet Dodgson, Dodgson's nieces. However, Morton N. Cohen says in an article published in the Times Literary Supplement in 2003 that in the 1960s, Dodgson's great-nephew Philip Dodgson Jacques told him that Jacques had written the note himself based on conversations he remembered with Dodgson's nieces. Cohen's article offered no evidence to support this, however, and known samples of Jacques' handwriting do not seem to resemble the writing of the note.
After this incident, Dodgson avoided the Liddell home for six months but eventually returned for a visit in December 1863. However, the former closeness does not seem to have been re-established, and the friendship gradually faded away, possibly because Dodgson was in opposition to Dean Liddell over college politics. Other explanations involving romantic entanglements and broken hearts have also been put forward, but while there is some evidence to suggest these as possibilities, nothing definite is known. John Ruskin states in his autobiography Praeterita that after the rift between Dodgson and the Liddells, the sisters pursued a similar relationship with him.
Comparison with fictional Alice
Alice Liddell in other works
Henry George Liddell (/ˈlɪdəl/; 6 February 1811 – 18 January 1898) was dean (1855–91) of Christ Church, Oxford, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University (1870-74), headmaster (1846–55) of Westminster School (where a house is now named after him), author of A History of Rome (1857), and co-author (with Robert Scott) of the monumental work A Greek-English Lexicon, which is still used by students of Greek. Lewis Carroll wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland for Henry Liddell's daughter Alice.