Kitty and the ball of yarn

Kitty and the ball of yarn. Illustration to the first chapter of Through the Looking Glass by John Tenniel. Wood-engraving by the Dalziels. Student assistants from the University Scholars Program, National University of Singapore, scanned this image and added text under the supervision of George P. Landow. You may use this image without prior permission for any scholarly or educational purpose as long as you (1) credit the site and (2) link your document to this URL in a web document or cite the Victorian Web in a print one.

Commentary by Ray Dyer

The pet cat Kitty in Through the Looking Glass, preceded by "Dinah" in Alice in Wonderland, was firmly based on the Oxford domestic reality of the family pet of the Liddell children at Carroll's college of Christ Church, much as "Alice," the fantasy heroine was named for the real Alice Liddell — not forgetting her sisters Edith and Lorina, who had shared the famous boating-outings on the Oxford river [the Thames, which becomes the Isis on its passage through Oxford] when the earlier tale of Alice's Adventures Under Ground was still in the oral stage of their friend Lewis Carroll's imagination.

The cat's name originated in a popular music-hall ballad of the time which the children would sing, about a rich merchant's daughter who married a Cockney milkman. For a fuller analysis of the importance for Lewis Carroll of the earlier pet/literary cat name, see Dyer 424-26).


Carroll, Lewis. Alice's Adventures Underground. London: Macmillan, 1886. Facsimile of Carroll's hand-written original ms, illustrated by himself, for Alice Liddell and her sisters, 1864.

—————. Lewis Carroll's Diaries. The Private Journals of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Ed. Edward Wakeling. Vol. 6 (1868-1876). England: The Lewis Carroll Society, 2001.

Dyer, Ray. Lady Muriel. The Victorian Romance by Lewis Carroll. Annotated Scholar's Edition. Leicester: Troubador, 2016.

Last modified 15 April 2021