Tweedledum and Tweedledee

Tweedledum and Tweedledee — Illustration to the fourth chapter of Through the Looking Glass by John Tenniel. Wood-engraving by the Dalziels.

“They were standing under a tree, each with an arm round the other's neck, and Alice knew which was which in a moment, because one of them had 'DUM' embroidered on his collar, and the other 'DEE'. "I suppose they've each got 'TWEEDLE' round at the back of the collar," she said to herself.”

Student assistants from the University Scholars Program, National University of Singapore, scanned this image and added text under the supervision of George P. Landow. See below for commentary. [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 terrible eponymous twins of Tenniel’s illustration and Carroll’s chapter title were not of Lewis Carroll’s origination, as he admits with his allusion to “the old song” in Alice’s head. Whilst Carroll’s Through The Looking Glass has become the major populariser of the poem and song of the two brothers, with their attempted “battle” over a child’s “rattle,” and with the terrifying and disruptive “monstrous crow” included for extra effect, the materials date from almost two centuries earlier. The originator, and highly qualified man of letters, was poet and scholar John Byrom, 1692-1763, of Trinity College, Cambridge, an FRS, born in Manchester and associated with that city, where he eventually died.

Another source of material for Carroll - briefly alluded to by “the one marked ‘DUM’ ” - was the wax-works, for which Tweedledum cautions “you ought to pay, you know.” Madam Tussaud (1760-1850) had arrived in London from revolutionary France in 1802, and by 1808 was touring with over a hundred effigies in her soon to be increasingly popular and novel waxworks exhibit. A regular visitor to London from 1855, Lewis Carroll noted Madam Tussaud’s Waxworks in 1858 (see Diaries, 3: 172).

On the ground behind the two brothers, Tenniel depicts a large furled black umbrella, an iconic and for Carroll a lifelong popular accessory. For his home-based news magazine with his siblings, The Rectory Umbrella of 1849-50, the youthful future author of Through The Looking Glass had designed a cover having a large umbrella as the centrepiece, beneath which his poetic bard-come-early [?earliest] avatar is sheltering from a plague of air-born imps of mischief (see Snider). The umbrella will reappear, in an unusual fashion, in a later episode in the story.


Carroll, Lewis. Lewis Carroll’s Diaries. The Private Journals of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Vol. 3. Ed. Edward Wakeling. England: The Lewis Carroll Society, 1995.

Snider, Clifton. "'Everything is Queer To-day': Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Jungian Looking-Glass." California State University, Longbeach. Web/ 5 May 2021.

Last modified 5 May 2021