Through the Looking Glass by John Tenniel. Wood-engraving by the Dalziels. "He had a tall red night-cap on, with a tassel, and he was lying crumpled up into a sort of untidy heap, and snoring loud."— Illustration to the fourth chapter of
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
Tenniel's Red King is undoubtedly another avatar of Lewis Carroll, albeit a curious one. He is small, curled up on the ground asleep in "a sort of untidy heap." "He's dreaming now," Tweedledee tells Alice, "and what do you think he's dreaming about?" Alice is understandably indignant to be told that she is the subject of the King's dream, and that she could cease to exist when he wakes up. When pressed, she responds, "if I'm only a sort of thing in his dream, what are you, I should like to know?" "Ditto, ditto," the Tweedle brothers' reply.
Lewis Carroll had long been interested in dream states:
An early journal entry, 9 February 1856, finds [Carroll] debating "dreaming" versus "consciousness""; in April 1857 he notes that the name of his new poem "Melancholetta," he "invented in a dream," (Diaries, 2: 38 and 3: 45). Dream themes occur ... notably in Through the Looking Glass's closing poem, ending with the question "Life, what is it but a dream?", which places Carroll as one with Edgar Allen Poe, 1809-1849, whose "A Dream Within a Dream" had become widely known in England after 1850, with the New York edition of his Complete Poetical Works, which is known to have been on [Carroll's] shelves (Stern: Lots 401, 841). In Carroll's earliest (1864) draft of his Alice story, Alice's Adventures Underground, Chapter 4, final paragraph - though deleted in his modifications for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - has Alice's older sister musing over the younger child's recounted tale, "in a dream within a dream, as it were." The dream psychology of his day, such as it was, also helped fill Carroll's bookshelves (Lots 899, 903), and he was confident in studying and checking his own dreams against "the literature," as on 15 May 1879 (Diaries 7: 175).... [Dyer 5, note to Verse 1: "dream"]
In Carroll's final major children's books, Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893), the mechanism of dream-states would be elevated to even greater prominence, and would form the means by which his narrator - one among many authorial avatars in the books - would slip seamlessly between the two disparate worlds, of "above ground" and "below ground," and of Victorian England and the children's Fairyland.
Carroll, Lewis. Lewis Carroll's Diaries. The Private Journals of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Vol. 7. Ed. Edward Wakeling. England: The Lewis Carroll Society, 2003.
_____. Sylvie and Bruno. London: Macmillan, 1889.
_____. Sylvie and Bruno Concluded. London: Macmillan, 1893.
Dyer, Ray. Lady Muriel. The Victorian Romance by Lewis Carroll. Annotated Scholar's Edition. Leicester: Troubador, 2016.
Last modified 9 May 2021