April 16, 2011 by
James Saint Cloud, author of
The Alice Code: The Case for Queen Victoria’s Authorship of Alice in Wonderland. (Being readied for publication.)
Introduction by Mark Burstein, President of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America:
- Our next speaker, James Saint Cloud, has a somewhat unconventional view, that Mr. Dodgson was a most loyal subject of the Crown, who obeyed the request of HM Queen Victoria to serve as a red herring as it were, as she herself is the true author of the Alice books. This idea started with a gentleman named Howard Thornton, who wrote an extraordinarily droll, very funny book called Oedipus in Disneyland, published in 1972 under the name Hercules Molloy. I’ll be discussing that work in a bit more detail later this afternoon, but suffice to say that its satirical premise is that the Alice books were the secret sex diaries of Her Majesty.
- As we all know, jokes often contain truths, and that sometimes what is first spoken in jest is actually quite revealing. In the present instance, Howard, under the pseudonym David Rosenbaum and the
ContinentalHistorical Society, reconfigured his case and published a volume called ’s , leaving out the naughty bits. This was in 1984, and it attracted a kerfuffle in the media, such as the Washington Postand the L.A. Times. Howard, as David Rosenbaum, even gave a talk to our West Coast Chapter the following year. In recent times, this meme has gained another acolyte, our next speaker, James Saint Cloud, who is writing a novel, The Alice Code, a fictionalized account of how it happened.
- James holds a degree in Comparative Literature from the , is a national pioneer in the field of holistic health education, and provides a training in classical memory skills.
Lewis Carroll has created a masterpiece of puzzles. So very many mysteries to wonder at. Shall I ask you for your favorites, or the ones that puzzle you the most? What would you choose?
Alice offers her own opinion in Chapter Two: “Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle! . . . I wonder if I’ve been changed in the night?”
Have you ever thought to sort the mysteries into categories? Let’s give it a try.
Category One might relate to John Tenniel’s amazing art. Why are Alice’s ears readily visible in Through the Looking Glass, though in Wonderland they’re seen only once? (In the Pool of Tears. Why there?)
Is there a reason the Cheshire Cat rises higher each scene it’s in? And the Mad Hatter’s face grows smaller over time, when you compare it with his hat?
Why are there holes in the barristers’ wigged heads in the courtroom scenes? (Most clearly to be seen when Alice upsets the jurors' box.)
Category Two of the mysteries we might call “The Author’s Secret Life.” The author moves around inside a private world, relating to personally-relevant events we have no vision for on a landscape we are not privy to. It’s like speaking pig-Latin in front of a three-year-old. “I know what’s going on but you’re not meant to have a clue.”
Consider for example the Mock Turtle’s lessons, that lessen from day to day.
“And how many hours a day did you do lessons?” said Alice . . .
“Ten hours the first day,” said the Mock Turtle: “nine the next, and so on.”
“What a curious plan!” exclaimed Alice.
“That’s the reason they’re called lessons,” the Gryphon remarked: “because they lessen from day to day.”
This was quite a new idea to Alice, and she thought it over a little before she made her next remark. “Then the eleventh day must have been a holiday?”
“Of course it was,” said the Mock Turtle.
“And how did you manage on the twelfth?” Alice went on eagerly.
“That’s enough about lessons,” the Gryphon interrupted in a very decided tone . . .”
What is this holiday they talk about? Was it simple cessation of days one through ten, or was it something more? What was the twelfth about, Alice’s “eager” question that provokes the Gryphon’s “decided” response? Does it seem it refers to some situation they know well that we’re not being told about?
Category Three includes passages we might be tempted to label “Gibberish,” as for example the math in Chapter Two where
Alice is wondering if she’s been changed in the night and making tests of her identity: “I’ll try if I know all the things I used to know. Let me see: four times five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is—oh dear! I shall never get to twenty at that rate!”
Tangled math indeed. And why is “twenty” a goal she has? Did she simply pull it from the air?
Category Four is Inconsisency. Doesn’t Alice contradict our sense of the story line in Chapter Two? Wasn’t the sun well up when Alice took her tumble down the rabbit hole? Then why does she state she’s “been changed in the night?”
Speaking of inconsistency, Charles Dodgson provokes our curiosity with things it’s claimed he said. I wonder if you know...
Jean Gattégno, in his book Lewis Carroll: Fragments of a Looking Glass, reports that Charles Dodgson began to separate himself from his Lewis Carroll pseudonym as he neared sixty years of age, claiming only those books “written in his own name” as truly his. Dodgson even had a leaflet printed in 1890, related to works not published in his own name (Gattégno’s reference is The Lewis Carroll Handbook by S. H.
“Mr. Dodgson is so frequently addressed by strangers on the quite unauthorized assumption that he claims, or at any rate acknowledges the authorship of books not published under his own name, that he has found it necessary to print this, once and for all, as an answer to all such applications. He neither claims nor acknowledges any connection with any pseudonym, or with any book that is not published under his own name. Having therefore no claim to retain, or even to read the enclosed, he returns it for the convenience of the writer who has thus misaddressed it.”
Gattégno quotes Collingwood’s biography of Dodgson, saying that . . .
“On one occasion the secretary of a ‘Young Ladies’ Academy’ in the United States asked him [Dodgson] to present some of his works to the School Library. The envelope was addressed to ‘Lewis Carroll, Christ Church,’ an incongruity which always annoyed him intensely. He replied to the Secretary, ‘As Mr. Dodgson’s books are all on Mathematical subjects, he fears that they would not be very acceptable in a school library.’”
Gattégno quotes Dodgson’s diary entry for November 8, 1897:
“A letter came, addressed to ‘L. Carroll, Christ Church, Oxford.’ So many such now come, that I have decided to refuse them, and gave it, unopened, to Telling, to return to the Post Office. All such will now go back to the writers, through the Dead Letter Office, with endorsement ‘not known.’”
(Jean Gattégno, Lewis Carroll: Fragments of a Looking Glass. Thomas Y. Crowell Company, New York. 1976.)
This raises the question: If Mr. Dodgson meant just what he said, that he’d not written the Alice books — who did?
The theory of Queen Victoria’s authorship of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass was first made public by the
Victoria was Queen at 18 years of age. Portrait of Victoria by Xavier Winterhalter
In 2004 I made the acquaintance of the Society’s president, Dr. Howard A. Thornton, with whom I formed a collaboration to create a work of fiction partially based on his research, with the premise that Queen Victoria authored Alice as her secret autobiography while in seclusion on the Isle of Wight after her husband Albert’s death, employing Charles Dodgson as a faux-author, out in front.
My novel, The Alice Code: The Case for Queen Victoria’s Authorship of Alice in Wonderland, is nearing readiness for publication thanks to assistance from a number of individuals associated with the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association, including Desta Garrett, Lin Lacombe, and my excellent editor Vicki Weiland.
In possession of Dr. Thornton’s material I did research of my own, scouring biographies of Victoria with the purpose of holding Victoria up to the looking glass of Alice. As the scenario continued to ring true I began to ponder the why’s and wherefore’s of Victoria’s potential authorship.
I invite you to join my two literary sleuths, Jason and Molly, as they encounter John Tenniel in my book — first deciding Lewis Carroll has built his theme around the Queen, then concluding the Queen herself has authored it. Go step by step with them as they present the case. Only then may one ask the why of it, to go sleuthing for the inner messages it hides.
To what purpose, such a scheme to obscure true authorship? What story so urgent to be told, that must also be so well concealed? Might it be Victoria had information to impart to someone off in the future? Given a capable interpreter the book would provide that information on demand at the proper time. A carefully laid time-capsule-message for the intended recipient; but only non-sense for the rest of us. “There’s nothing written on the outside,” as the White Rabbit says. I made this the basis for my plot.
I then set to work imagining how Victoria might have proceeded to accomplish her goal. With whom would she collaborate, sworn to secrecy as they played their parts in it?
Charles Dodgson would know, perhaps lending bits and pieces of his own to the pot as the stew progressed, as Victoria might decide. And it seems certain the artist John Tenniel would know who the true author was, as he would surely be instructed in the most exacting way as to what he was to draw.
Tenniel would also likely be the messenger later, as required, with orders to reveal the secrets Alice holds to the one intended to receive. Sweeping aside the curtain of incredulity to reveal the small locked door and the garden just beyond. He would display the locks. And he’d produce the key.
Victoria’s contact with Dodgson? Not so very difficult. Victoria’s son Edward Albert the Prince of Wales is an obvious choice for a go-between. I wonder if you are aware, Edward Albert studied at Oxford for a time. His Mathematics Lecturer was a certain deacon with a stutter whose hobby was photography — Charles Lutwige Dodgson. Edward Albert might have made the connection, and made the connection with the artist John Tenniel as well. So far so good.
What about Alice Liddell, to whom Dodgson told stories out afloat that sunny afternoon? How does that play out? Dodgson’s friendship with Alice Liddell and her family is well chronicled. It is a family also well known to Queen Victoria.
Alice’s father Henry Liddell served as Prince Albert’s Domestic Chaplain. Alice’s cousin Georgina was a maid of honor when Victoria and Albert wed. Edward Albert the Prince of Wales was godfather to the Liddell’s son in 1863, named “Albert Edward
Robinson Duckworth, the man who rowed the boat on the River Isis when the story was “first told” was made tutor to the Queen’s eighth son, Prince Leopold, from 1866 to 1870.
And John Tenniel, the marvelous artist with only one good eye who drew from memory, never using a model for his art, what of him? “Sir” John Tenniel as time went by. Knighted by Victoria.
One by one, it isn’t much. Together, it begins to take some shape. Suffice it to say, Victoria would have performed a bit of choreography among trusted compatriots. You’ll have a score of questions come to mind, I’m sure. To which I make reply: Never underestimate the intention that a monarch sets, and the stratagem to see it done.
Victoria became Queen twenty-eight days after her eighteenth birthday, on the passing of her uncle King William IV. But she very nearly did not rule the British Isles; her mother almost did — through a Regency Bill that was passed when Victoria was eleven.
Victoria’s father the Duke of Kent died before Victoria was one-year-old, and she was brought up by her mother, the Duchess of Kent, a cantankerous character who formed a relationship with an ambitious and unscrupulous Irishman named John Conroy, who had served as stable master to the Duke.
John Conroy had a plan: To take control of the power of the throne of England by controlling the Duchess and her daughter Victoria. Conroy planned to accomplish this through passage in Parliament of a “Regency Bill,” securing control of the throne and the money that went along with it for Conroy and the Duchess — but only if the King would die soon enough, before Victoria turned eighteen.
The King was sick and old. Would he live long enough for Victoria to turn eighteen, to be crowned queen without interference by her mother and John Conroy? This was the question of the day, known to Victoria and to the public. It would determine the fate of Victoria and of England.
Meanwhile young Victoria was “stuck in the house,” essentially a prisoner. Never allowed to be alone. Her bed was in her mother’s room. Never going down stairs unless held by the hand. Kept busy with interminable lessons while the years lessened to her eighteenth birthday. Being told her food may be poisoned, so that it’s tasted by someone first at every meal. (The recent film “Young Victoria” starring Emily Blunt tells the story well and I recommend it highly.) Such is Victoria’s plight, confined in her mother’s house with John Conroy in command, hoping the old King will somehow stay alive until she turns eighteen and the Regency Bill becomes moot.
This is a major plot in the first Alice book. The metaphor for the Regency Bill is barely shrouded in Alice as Bill the Lizard goes down the chimney to get Alice out of the house, and Alice kicks him away. Even the wording of the title of Chapter Four provides the clue: “The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill.”
We encounter Bill the Lizard again when he is serving as a juror at
The metaphor is completed as the Queen throws an inkwell at Bill — an action made famous by
That’s what Victoria thought of the Regency Bill. It may explain the holes in the wigged heads, being construed to represent Parliament.
You know how it turned out. The King did indeed stay alive until Victoria’s eighteenth birthday, May 24, 1837, so there was no regency. Then 28 days, June 20, the King passed on; Victoria was Princess when she went to bed and Queen of the British Isles as she awoke. Changed in the night.
One metaphor of many such, that I hope you will explore with me --- the ears and the cat's height and on and on. But you’ll want something more. How shall you believe the messenger until he makes clear the locks, and sets a key to them?
Let’s revisit the gibberish in Chapter Two:
“Four times five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is—oh dear! I shall never get to twenty at that rate!”
Do you see anything familiar here? What about those two dates so important to Victoria: May 24 and June 20?
4 times 6 is 24; Alice claims it’s 13. We’ll equate 13 with Victoria’s birthday, May 24, especially her eighteenth birthday when the potential Regency became moot.
4 times 5 is 20; but Alice gives 12. We’ll equate 12 with the 20th June when King William died before dawn and Victoria became Queen, changed in the night.
This tortured math is found in the chapter with the key on the table top. “Lessons” are mentioned there twice. Perhaps the Mock Turtle’s lessons form a lock the messenger might use. Let’s see.
Ten days of lessons that lessen, 10 to 1. We’ve been considering days 11 and 12 to occur AFTER the ten days of lessons, but why assume that’s so? Since this is about lessening, would they not lessen from above? A lessening chart may help:
Day 12: How did things go?
Day 11: A holiday
Day 10 to 1: Lessons.
Now we supply the “things used to know” from Chapter Two, beginning with day 13:
Day 13: (13=24) May 24, Victoria turns eighteen.
Day 12: (12=20) June 20, William dies; Victoria becomes Queen.
Day 11: A holiday
Day eleven as we lessen from day to day becomes May 24 again — Victoria’s birthday. Was it not a holiday? “Of course it was,” said the Mock Turtle. As is the birthday of every reigning sovereign! (May 24 was even a holiday in Ontario, Canada since 1845 — to honor Victoria specifically.)
Alice inquires, “And how did you manage on the twelfth?” Twelve equals twenty, the night of June 20 when King William died, the “twenty” Alice thought she’d “never get to,” but she did. How did the plans of John Conroy and the Duchess manage on the twelfth — once she was Queen? Not so well. That “decided it.” And the conversation with Gryphon and Mock Turtle — all the lessons on the way to becoming Queen — came to an end.
Now you see why Alice says, “Four times seven is—oh dear! I shall never get to twenty at that rate!”
Four times seven is twenty-eight, the number of days from Victoria’s eighteenth birthday to the day she became Queen, the night King William died. Oh, dear! She is sorry that her uncle has passed on. But glad she has escaped her mother’s plans the 20th day of June, the day she feared might never come.
“Who in the world am I? Ah, that’s the great puzzle!” Would she be queen or pawn? That would be the question for Victoria, and for England, until she turned eighteen.
Alice and Victoria, two young girls that share the same destiny: To be a queen. At the end of Looking Glass Alice entered the garden at last. “Oh, how glad I am to get here! And what is this on my head?” she exclaimed in a tone of dismay, as she put her hands up to something very heavy, that fitted tight all around her head. . . . It was a golden crown.”
Thank you for honoring me with this invitation to join you today for the 2011 annual meeting of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America.
When The Alice Code becomes available I shall be pleased to provide notice to you through your Society’s newsletter and to receive your comments. It is for those who truly enjoy pondering the mysteries of Alice that The Alice Code has been prepared.
James Saint Cloud
Link to the agenda page for the Society's April 2011 meeting in San Francisco: