Previous Meeting of the Society - Alice in Volgaland

Our autumn meeting  was held on  Saturday 15th October at the  Parish Rooms in Daresbury where our guest speaker was Mark Davies.

Mark is an Oxford local historian, guide and author with a particular interest in the history and literature of the city's waterways, having lived on a residential narrowboat in Oxford for nearly thirty years. He has helped to organise Oxford's annual 'Alice's Day' since the first one in 2007, provides the only Alice-specific guided tours and boat commentaries in Oxford, and is on the committee of the Lewis Carroll Society.  His relevant publications are Alice in Waterland: Lewis Carroll and the River Thames in Oxford and Alice’s Oxford on Foot, and he has lectured on the Oxford background to the Alice stories as far away as India.  You can learn more about him and his Oxford walks at, and learn about our member, Stephen Martin's, visit to Oxford for the Alice Day by following Alice Day.

Henry Liddon was Lewis Carroll’s friend and associate at Christ Church, Oxford from the early 1850’s until Liddon’s death in1890.  You can read a detailed two part biography of Liddon by Keith Wright in the Autumn 2011 and Spring 2012 editions of the Daresbury Chronicle.  Just follow this link  Henry Parry Liddon.

Mark's talk was based on the entries from their diaries following their journey to Russia starting on 13th July 1867 at Dover across to Brussels and then on to  Cologne, Berlin, Danzig (Gdansk) and Konigsberg (Kalingrad).
Then on 26th July the train through to St Petersburg and on to Moscow and Nizhny Novogorof then back to St Petersburg via Moscow.   The talk was filled with various amusing and illuminating extracts from their diaries.  E.g.

Liddon: 18 July St Petersberg:

“Spent the greater part of the morning in going about to shops for photographs for Dodgson.”

 Liddon: 7 August 1867: Nizhny Novgorod

 “It is a peep at the East – the only one I have ever had in my life. For the first time, too, I came upon the traces of the false Prophet, but in a country where the Cross, not the Crescent, is in the heart of the people.”

Carroll: 3-6 August and 8-19 August 1867: Moscow

 “bulging gilded domes, in which you see as in a looking-glass, distorted pictures of the city” 

There has always been speculation that Dodgson conceived the idea of Through Looking Glass on this trip so the above comment is particularly interesting. Mark included the illustrator John Proctor in his talk.  Proctor was a British artist, cartoonist and illustrator, well known in his day for political cartoons in magazines such as Judy and Moonshine, rivals to Punch.  He was a graphic journalist for the Illustrated London News and was a special artist in St Petersburg, Russia in 1874 covering the royal wedding of Prince Alfred and Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna.

In 1868 Lewis Carroll approached Proctor to illustrate Through the Looking-Glass, as John Tenniel was initially unavailable. Proctor responded saying he was too busy and ultimately Tenniel decided to do the illustrations.
The talk concluded with some examples of Lewis Carroll publications in Russian  one being  Sonja in a Kingdom (or Land) of Wonder.