Now that The Looking Glass House is approaching publication, I’ve been looking out some of Alice’s letters and photographs. The letters in this picture are written are written to her husband Reggie Hargreaves, and this photograph, which I love, is of Alice and her son Alan. Alice looks very grand and rather put out by having a camera – once again – trained on her. So much so that she wouldn’t even look up from her copy of The Times!
So different from when she was Lewis Carroll’s muse, alluringly gazing out at us.
But, to me, it is easy to equate the heroine of Alice in Wonderland with this strict, grand old lady. In the book which she inspired, Alice is precocious, inquisitive and, at times, pretty rude. Not such a huge jump, some 60 years later, to an old lady whose childhood characteristics had ossified into something harder.
She is gentler in the letters, telling her husband that their new home would be “wonderland come true to Alice at last,” and always signing off as “your loving wife .”
My mother (Alice’s granddaughter) remembers sitting on her knee and receiving sweets.
Perhaps, like all of us, she wasn’t just one person but many. She was after all, two people in her own lifetime – fictional Alice bestriding the world as a seven year old girl, and real Alice who lived an obscure gentlewoman’s life in the New Forest.