The Most Influential Muse of all Time
By C M Rubin (Co-Author The Real Alice In Wonderland – A Role Model for the Ages) - (An article to coincide with the 2011 UK release of her book.)
Throughout history, the muse has provided an essential element required to inspire and motivate artists to create their very best work. From Manet’s Victorine Meurent, to Dali’s Gala Diakonova, to Lennon’s Yoko Ono - the complex psychology of the special connection between artist and muse has been discussed and debated in terms of its importance in the overall creative process. Then there are the muses that continue to influence and promote the legacy of that art throughout the course of their lifetimes and long afterwards.
In the lives of the great muses, there has never been a muse more recognized for the role she played as inspiration than that of Alice Liddell in the creation of Charles Dodgson’s (Lewis Carroll’s) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. On many occasions, Lewis Carroll reminded his followers that his inspiration had come from a 10 year old girl, the magical Alice Liddell, who had encouraged his story telling for years, and in particular the story he told about Alice in Wonderland during a summer day’s picnic on July 4, 1862. The real Alice was the daughter of Henry Liddell, the author of the celebrated Greek English Lexicon and the powerful Dean of Christ Church College, Oxford, where Dodgson taught mathematics. After hearing the story, Alice was continuously persistent that Dodgson write it down for her, which he eventually did. He ultimately presented it to her (hand written and hand illustrated) as a Christmas gift 18 months later. In 1883, Carroll stated clearly in a letter to Alice’s mother that without Alice, he “might possibly never have written at all.”
Years before that golden afternoon, Dodgson was acting very much as the Liddell family photographer taking many portraits of Alice and her siblings. No picture taken by Dodgson (who became one of the most respected child photographers of his day) is more famous than his photograph of Alice — the portrait of Alice Liddell as “The Beggar Maid”. Alfred Lord Tennyson declared it the most beautiful photograph that he had ever seen. Indeed, it was then and still is today one of the most famous photographs of all time. The gifted model, after all, was exceptionally beautiful, with an intensity and maturity that seems surreal for a child aged only seven at the time. She was a girl capable of inspiring a previously unpublished children’s book author to write the greatest children’s story of all time.
As the books became more famous, so did the author, and so did Alice Liddell. During her teenage years, her beauty and fame inspired Julia Margaret Cameron’s acclaimed series of photographs entitled Alethea (1872). As a wife and mother, eminent writers and artists would visit Alice Liddell Hargreaves’ home in Hampshire, England to meet the Alice of Wonderland fame. In 1883, Alice gave Carroll permission to publish the original manuscript given to her as a Christmas gift, provided that the proceeds were given to children’s hospitals. This led to Alice becoming even more engaged as a spokesperson both for these new causes and the “Alice” books.
On April 3, 1928, Alice Liddell Hargreaves was forced to sell the original manuscript given her by Lewis Carroll at a highly publicized Sotheby’s auction. The publicity surrounding the sale drew much attention to Lewis Carroll’s Alice. Many people protested and tried to stop the manuscript from being sold to an overseas buyer (including the British Museum), believing that the book was a national treasure and belonged in England. Alice’s gift from Carroll was sold for 15,400 pounds sterling to Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach an American rare book dealer. The price paid by Rosenbach was up to that time, a record in an English auction. This instantly made Alice Liddell Hargreaves an international celebrity. Dr. A.S.W. Rosenbach ( who purchased the manuscript) befriended her, and 4 years later in 1932 entertained Alice at his grand home in Philadelphia. (It is interesting to note that some of the people Alice Pleasance Liddell became close to during this time in Philadelphia were involved in the decision to buy back the original manuscript and return it to the British people on November 6, 1948). During the same year, (1932, the centenary of Carroll’s birth), the President of Columbia University in New York City honored Alice in front of the world as “the moving cause of this truly noteworthy contribution to English literature.” In 1933, Paramount Pictures involved Alice Liddell Hargreaves (the original Alice in Wonderland) in the publicity surrounding the production and subsequent release of their major motion picture based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Indeed, the International media never stopped their pursuit and coverage of Lewis Carroll’s Alice (Alice Liddell Hargreaves) until her death in 1934.
On Wednesday, June 6 2001, Alice Liddell Hargreaves’ granddaughter, Mary Jean St. Clair, auctioned her grandmother’s personal Alice In Wonderland collection publicized by Sotheby’s as being the largest Alice In Wonderland collection in the world. Many of the most valuable treasures in this collection, including the hundreds of editions of the “Alice” books, were gifts to Alice Liddell Hargreaves from Lewis Carroll. There were viewings, major media stories, glitzy PR events, and bidders from all over the world.
Auctioneer Philippe Garner stated: “It seemed that a very substantial number of people wanted to own some little piece of her.” The collection sold to buyers worldwide for millions of dollars.
There are over 20,000 books, films, operas, plays and video games based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. It is estimated that over 8 billion people have read or seen presentations of the “Alice” books. Lewis Carroll is behind only the Bible and Shakespeare in the number of quotations from the “Alice” books that appear in everyday published discourse. In addition to the new adaptations of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Carroll’s and Liddell’s lives continue to inspire numerous new books, works of art, and film projects. In my mind, it is this ongoing fascination with not just the books, but the story behind the story, that make Liddell the most influential muse of all time.
C. M. Rubin (aka Cathy Rubin) is a child and family health advocate, an author of children's books and non-fiction books, and a producer of factual films. Her books include, Eleanor, Ellatony, Ellencake, and Me, and Ellie: The Perfect Dress For Me. Both books have won numerous children's book awards, including: I Parenting Media Award, Family Fun Best Picture Book, Borders Original Voice, Book of the Week - Home News Tribune, Arizona Young Reader Nominee 2005, Pick of the Month - Bookviews, Children's Choice Award, Teacher's Choice Award, Bronze Gold Ink Award.
C.M. Rubin's most recent book, The Real Alice in Wonderland -- A Role Model for the Ages, was co-authored with her daughter, Gabriella Rose Rubin. It is a comprehensive biography about the life of her relative, Alice Pleasance Liddell, who was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland (1865), and the sequel, Through the Looking Glass (1871).
C. M. Rubin now lives in New York City and Fairfield, CT. She was born in Georgetown, Guyana, and was educated in various parts of the world, including Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. C.M. Rubin and her works have appeared in numerous newspapers and magazines around the world, including the New York Times, Parent Magazine, Vogue Magazine, Entertainment Weekly, US Magazine, the Hollywood Reporter and Family Magazine. In addition she has been a featured guest on national radio and television shows both in the US and the UK. She is also a weekly contributor to the Huffington Post, Education News and Education Views. Visit her blog at www.cmrubinworld.tumblr.com or her website at www.cmrubinworld.com