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Mar
11

Wasp in a Wig: Telegraph Magazine

Wasp in a Wig: Telegraph Magazine: by Lewis Carroll, published September 4th 1977

‘The Wasp in a Wig’ was first published in the UK in this 1977 Sunday Telegraph colour supp, along with illustrations by Ralph Steadman. Inside the magazine there are further illustrations by Hugh Casson, Patrick Proctor and Peter Blake.

From the Christie’s Cataolgue, April 2005:

While Dodgson was in the final stages of preparing Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, his sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, he made a sudden revision by dropping a large episode where Alice comes across an old wasp wearing a wig. It was at the proofing stage while the book was in galley sheets when Dodgson made the decision to drop the episode with several strokes of his characteristic purple ink.

“The meeting with the Wasp echoes Alice’s encounter with the White Knight. It too dwells on the subject of age and aging, the Wasp also serving as a mouthpiece for Charles’s thoughts and feelings, disguised here, not by armor, but by a wig” (Cohen, Lewis Carroll, p. 216). The first of the Wasp’s five-stanza explanation of how he came to wear the wig reads: “When I was young, my ringlets waved And Curled and crinkled on my head: And then they said ‘You should be shaved, And wear a yellow wig instead.'” The interaction between the two shows a rare side of the ordinarily impatient Alice. In his introduction to the first published edition (1977) of The Wasp in a Wig, Martin Gardner explains the significance of the episode: “There is no episode in the book [Through the Looking-Glass] in which she treats a disagreeable creature with such remarkable patience. In no other episode, in either book, does her character come through so vividly as that of an intelligent, polite, considerate little girl. It is an episode in which extreme youth confronts extreme age. Although the Wasp is constantly critical of Alice, not once does she cease to sympathize with him.”

Prior to 1974, the only reference to this missing portion among Carroll literature is found in Stuart Dodgson Collingwood’s biography of his uncle, where he states that Through the Looking-Glass originally contained thirteen chapters, instead of the published twelve, the omitted chapter being the Wasp in the Wig episode. Scholars have questioned whether it really comprised a chapter or was rather an episode. More significantly, with the context these proofs provide, they now agree on its intended placement–just following the White Night chapter. Prior to the discovery of these proofs it was believed the Wasp episode appeared much earlier in Through the Looking-Glass: adjacent to the railway carriage scene.

What prompted Carroll to omit this episode is explained in a letter from the book’s illustrator, John Tenniel, to the author while illustrating Through the Looking-Glass. He was not happy with the subject and wrote Carroll on June 1, 1870, that “a wasp in a wig is altogether beyond the appliances of art” and that if you want to shorten the book there is your opportunity.” Tenniel had exerted his opinions on other occasions with Carroll before: it was Tenniel, not Carroll, who insisted the first edition (1865) of Alice be scrapped due to the poor printing of the illustrations (the surviving copies remain one of the greatest rarities in English literature).

When they came to light at auction in 1974, after missing for over a century, the “discovery” of the present set of proof sent shock waves throughout the world of Carroll scholars and admirers alike. After fruitless attempts of finding any trace of the suppressed material, the draft was presumed lost, and some Carroll scholars even doubted it ever had ever existed. In 1977, the episode was published, with Mr. Armour’s generous permission, by the Lewis Carroll Society of America. The publication prompted an enormous amount of attention, and numerous articles surrounding the publication of the lost episode appeared in the U.K. and America press at the time, including the Smithsonian (December 1977), Time magazine (6 June 1977), and the Telegraph: Sunday Magazine (4 September 1977).

You can read the whole of the lost chapter here: http://www.alice-in-wonderland.net/alice4.html

This copy bought from Stella and Rose books for a tenner.

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