The Raven and the Writing Desk

The Raven and the Writing Desk by Francis Huxley.

Published by Thames & Hudson Ltd. 1976 first edition.

ISBN: 0500011559

The title of this study of Lewis Carrol’s word play refers to the Mad Hatter’s question to Alice: “Why is a raven like a writing-desk?”

After undergoing continual badgering for an answer, Carrol added some to the preface of the 1896 edition:

“Enquiries have been so often addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter’s Riddle can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer, viz: ‘Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front!’ This, however, is merely an afterthought; the riddle as originally invented, had no answer at all.”

Other answers have been given since:

“Because there is a B in both”

“Because they both have inky quills”

“Because Poe wrote on both.”

This book claims:

Lewis Carroll wrote for children as though they were grown-ups, but the Nonsense that made them laugh has long been recognised to be disquietingly profound. This book is an enquiry into the nature of Nonsense which pursues the whole range of Carroll’s thought, explains much which has remained obscure and includes evidence from his life and career.

I’m afraid I found it pompous and dull and couldn’t get past the first chapter. Maybe it improves further in…

Bought for £15 in Cecil Court. Available on amazon: Raven and the Writing-desk


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February 2010
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