And what is the use of a book, without pictures or conversations?

Alice and her sister

Alice and her sister

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do. Once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, “and what is the use of a book,” thought Alice, “without pictures or conversations?”

— Lewis Carroll

Probably the most famous opening lines in English literature, the opening lines from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was written for Alice Liddell. She and her two sisters, Lorina Liddell and Edith Liddell, were on a boat trip on the river near Oxford, with Reverend Robinson Duckworth and the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. To keep the girls from getting bored, Charles Dodgson told them a story about a little girl called Alice who followed a White Rabbit down a rabbit hole.

The three girls were the daughters of Henry George Liddell, Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and Dean of Christ Church. Henry George Liddell was also headmaster of Westminster School.

The journey started at Folly Bridge near Oxford and ended five miles away in the village of Godstow.

Alice asked to be given a copy of the story she had been told. Charles Dodgson consented and two years later, 26 November 1864, gave her the handwritten manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, with illustrations by himself.

Simultaneously he had been negotiating with the publisher Macmillan for a published copy. This was published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, with illustrations by John Tenniel (then a political cartoonist). This was published December 1865, with a publication date of 1866.

The sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, again with illustrations by John Tenniel, was published by Macmillan in 1871.

Also see

Life of Lewis Carroll in Guildford

Legacy of Lewis Carroll

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