The King and the Messenger

The King and the Messenger. Sir John Tenniel. Wood-engraving by Dalziel. Illustration for the seventh chapter of Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass (1871): "'You alarm me!' said the King. 'I feel faint — Give me a ham sandwich!'"

Commentary by Ray Dyer

We arrive here at yet another breakthrough image/scene in Lewis Carroll's inner journey, alongside his character Alice's ostensibly outer journey and adventure. As noted earlier with The Messenger in Prison, Carroll was inclined to permit himself the occasional nostalgic remembrance of the earlier and closely related book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Now, the supposedly new character, an Anglo-Saxon Messenger, is here named Haigha. Carroll somewhat coyly tells his readers that the King "pronounced it so as to rhyme with 'mayor,'" although we may deduce that "mayor" is really a further disguise, which rhymes with "mare" and so eventually with "hare." This cerebral process would be well understood by the intuitive and well-read Carroll, as also by those familiar with the Association Psychology of the Nineteenth-Century, with its fundamental associative linguistic pathways. The Anglo-Saxon Messenger can, in effect, be linked to the March Hare from the beloved earlier adventure, and supplies the emotional need of yet another of those revenants that Carroll indulged in. The young aspiring Romantic poet still lingered inside the mature author.

Whilst no serious numerology is deployed here, we may nevertheless note that Carroll, with his mathematical bent, and the three Tenniel illustrations repeating fond memories (this one, together with The King's Messenger in Prison, The King and Alice), taken together, also serve to reflect his own eternal-internal triangle, in which the real Alice, the literary Alice, and his own self, are all related. A similarly motivated "eternal triangle" could be found in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Ch. III, A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale, with the real Alice, literary Alice, and Dodo. The epithet "Dodo" is widely accepted by carrollians and others as referring to Dodgson, the Oxford mathematician behind the Lewis Carroll pen-name. Readers may find similar triplets of such emotionally related and significant names/characters throughout Carroll's works, especially in the two early Alice books and the two late Sylvie and Bruno books. That Lewis Carroll was probably largely aware of such personal internal psychological dynamics may be deduced from his professed early interest in his own dreams of 1856 and related matters. Interestingly, this was still several decades before dream theory received its valuable dynamic foundation of 1899 from Sigmund Freud.

In 2000 student assistants from the University Scholars Program, National University of Singapore, scanned the image above and added the text prior to Ray Dyer's commentary 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.]

Last modified 8 July 2021