A winter wonderland

24th January 1997 at 00:00
LOOKING IN WONDERLAND Scotland Street School Museum of Education, Glasgow Until February 23.

Like the real-life Christopher Robin who was immortalised in A A Milne's Winnie the Pooh books, the Alice on whom Lewis Carroll based his stories admitted in old age that the demands of her fame had become exhausting.

Writing to her son in 1935 (when she was 80 years old), some 70 years after Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was first published, the former Miss Liddell told him: "I know it sounds ungrateful but I am tired of being Alice in Wonderland."

She had just returned from a trip to New York where she had been mobbed by Alice-hungry fans demanding photos and autographs. On the voyage back to England, the ship Alice was travelling in had flown a special Cheshire Cat flag in her honour.

The accepted story of how the first Alice book came to be is well known. Oxford University maths lecturer Charles Dodgson (who wrote text books under the name Lewis Carroll) had gone on an afternoon boating trip with a colleague and the three young daughters of his university's dean.

Growing bored, the middle child, Alice, asked for a story and thus one of the most enduring and influential works of children's literature was born.

Although a brilliant writer, Carroll was no great shakes at drawing, so John Tenniel, a well-known political cartoonist, was asked to illustrate the book. More than 100 other artists have tried their hand at Alice since then, but none has been able to top the original.

Tenniel (who used the blond-haired daughter of another university dean for his model, rather than the dark-haired Alice) went on to illustrate Carroll's second Alice book, Through the Looking Glass, but having completed a total of 92 brilliant drawings for the combined volumes, found that he had no stomach left for book work and never tackled another.

Now a selection of his original illustrations can be seen in Looking in Wonderland, an exhibition at the Scotland Street School Museum of Education in Glasgow.

The exhibition is neatly arranged in three sections: the first concentrating on Tenniel's work and how, using wood engravings, it was transferred into print; the second showing a selection of the many different versions of Alice that have been published since 1865, with a range of the Alice-inspired goods that have come onto the market over the past 100 years or so; the third given over entirely to child's play, where Alice can be read, Alice can be hear, White Rabbits can be coloured in and head gear tried on in the Mad Hatter's Hat Shop. A Mad Tea Party Table and Through the Looking Glass set also feature.

A family activity book is available and workshops have been arranged for children both in and out of school time. Details: the Scotland Street School Museum of Education, Telephone 0141 429 1202

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