Dodgson Answers Revealed

Here are the answers from last week’s trivia-fest.

1) Which of the following words was NOT invented by Dodgson:

  • Chortle
  • Snark 
  • Galumph
  • Telarian

The answer is “telarian.” Both “chortle” and “galumph” come from Dodgson’s famous nonsense poem “Jabberwocky,” while a “snark” is a mysterious animal in his The Hunting of the Snark: an Agony in Eight Fits. “Telarian,” on the other hand, comes from the Latin word tela, or web, and refers to web-making, like a spider.

2) Which of the animals in the caucus race of Alice in Wonderland is a reference to Dodgson himself? 

John Tenniel, “Sit down, all of you, and listen to me.” 1954.183. Collection of the Rosenbach

It’s the dodo, a reference to his own name.  Dodgson’s interest in the dodo was no doubt influenced by his visits to the Oxford Museum of Natural History, which houses the best surviving dodo specimens, as well as some iconic artistic depictions of the bird. Going back to the caucus-race image above, the duck is for his friend Robinson Duckworth, while the eaglet and lory bird are references to Alice Liddell’s sisters Edith and Lorina.

3) Dodgson is famously associated with Christ Church College, Oxford,
where he attended university and then became a mathematics lecturer.
But which Public School did he attend before entering Oxford?

Dodgson attended Rugby for three years, beginning in February 1846. He did well academically, but did not enjoy it. Looking back in 1855 he wrote:

During my stay I made I suppose some progress in learning of various kinds, but none of it was done con amore, and I spent an incalculable time in writing out impositions this last I consider one of the chief faults of Rugby School. I made some friends there, the most intimate being Henry Leigh Bennett (as college acquaintances we find fewer common sympathies, and are consequently less intimate) but I cannot say that I look back upon my life at a Public School with any sensations of pleasure, or that any earthly considerations would induce me to go through my three years again.

4) The Rosenbach owns Dodgson’s passport, which he used on his one and only trip outside of Britain. Where did he travel?

Dodgson’s trip was to Russia; he accompanied Henry Liddon, the dean of St Paul’s college, Oxford. The pair spent a month in Russia and on their cross-European train trip  they also stopped in France and Germany.

 5) When Alice recites “How doth the Little Crocodile,” in Chapter 2 of Alice in Wonderland, she is parodying which famous poem by Isaac Watts?

Alice is mis-remembering “How doth the Little Busy Bee”, which was first published in 1715, but remained a fixture into the Victorian period.

How doth the little busy bee
Improve each shining hour,
And gather honey all the day
From every opening flower!

How skilfully she builds her cell!
How neat she spreads the wax!
And labors hard to store it well
With the sweet food she makes.

In works of labor or of skill,
I would be busy too;
For Satan finds some mischief still
For idle hands to do.

In books, or work, or healthful play,
Let my first years be passed,
That I may give for every day
Some good account at last.

6) Which of these is a pamphlet written by Charles Dodgson? 

  • On the Means of Improving the Quality and Increasing the Quantity of Food
  • Lawn Tennis Tournaments, The True Method of Assigning Prizes with a Proof of the Fallacy of the Present Method
  • Logic and Utility : The Tests of Truth and
    Falsehood, and of Right and Wrong; Being an Outline of Logic, the
    Science of Reasoning, and of the Utilitarian or Happiness Theory of
  • The Type Printing Instrument : Descriptions and Opinions of the Press

Dodgson wrote the piece on Lawn Tennis Tournaments. The other pamphlets are real Victorian creations, but not by Dodgson.

7) At the mad tea party in Alice in Wonderland the Dormouse tells the tale of Elsie, Tillie, and Lacie, who live in this unusual location.

The sisters live at the bottom of a well, a treacle well to be exact. In the Dormouse’s story, “treacle” refers to a sugar syrup and Alice says that “There’s no such thing” as a treacle well.  But an older meaning of the word treacle was a healing liquid, from the Latin theriaca, and sacred wells were also known as treacle wells. There was an actual “treacle well,” in Binsey, about a mile and half from Oxford. The well, known as St. Margaret’s Well, was associated with St Frideswide,  a 7th century holy woman known for her cures. Here are some pictures of the treacle well as it looks today:

St. Margarets Well
© Copyright Des Blenkinsopp and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


Treacle Well
© Copyright Des Blenkinsopp and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

The names of the sisters are themselves references to Alice Liddell and her sisters: Lacie is an anagram of Alice; Elsie is a play on the initials of Lorina Charlotte; and Tillie refers to Edith, whose family nickname was Matilda.

8) Dodgson first used the pen name “Lewis Carroll” when he published this poem in 1856.

His poem “Solitude” was published in the magazine The Train under the pen name Lewis Carroll. Dodgson actually gave the editor, Edmund Yates, several options. Here is Dodgson’s diary entry for February, 11, 1856

Wrote to Mr. Yates sending him a choice of names: 1. Edgar Cuthwellis (made of transposition out of ‘Charles Lutwidge’). 2.  Edgar U.C. Westhill (ditto). 3.Louis Carroll (derived from Lutwidge=Ludovic=Louis and Charles [Carrollus] 4. Lewis Carroll (ditto.)

9)  Unlike the Cheshire Cat, Alice’s own cat never physically appears in Alice in Wonderland, although it is referred to several times. What is her cat’s name?

Alice’s own cat is named Dinah.

10) Much of Dodgson’s handwritten material is in this unusual color ink, which he began using in 1870.

He wrote in purple!

So, how did you do? If you want to brush up, remember our Alice in Wonderland exhibitions will be open through May 15!

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