Scenes from a carriage


One of John Tenniel’s illustrations for Through the Looking-Glass (1871).

The collaboration with Carroll, and the production of this clairvoyant illustration gave Tenniel the chance to accuse the killer, whose identity he knew – because he had, at some level, shared in the crime. His capped (or crowned) Guard wears the Diamond and stares, eyeless, at the girl: because he is, or stands for, the Red King. He is checkmated. The Goat accuses him, a Tarot Devil, representing ‘ravishment, force, fatality’. So Tenniel is able to put into his depiction of Alice the details of the murders that the police have never made public. The hands of the victims were always tied in front of them – as Alice’s are, within her muff. They were all strangled with a knotted scarf, such as the one that Alice wears. And a single feather was knotted into their hair. I rest my case.

There’s further divination by Iain Sinclair of Tenniel’s carriage scene in his 1991 novel Downriver but you’ll have to search out the book if you want the rest. The picture above is scanned from my 1908 edition of the two Alice novels which has the sharpest reproductions of Tenniel’s illustrations I’ve seen, not least because they’re printed on quality paper. Later editions often print second- or third-generation copies with the cross-hatched areas reduced to black smudges.


Oedipus by Max Ernst from Une semaine de bonté (1934).

Tenniel’s carriage scene has always been linked for me with this collage by Max Ernst from his Surrealist masterwork, Une semaine de bonté. Sinclair’s proposed murder scenario gives the two pictures an additional resonance when you notice the body on the floor of Ernst’s carriage. Is this Oedipus’s father, recently slain by his son, or some other victim?


Lithograph by Max Ernst from Lewis Carroll’s Wunderhorn (1970).

Salvador Dalí illustrated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1969 which perhaps prompted Ernst’s own set of mysterious Alice-inspired lithographs a year later. I’ve yet to see a complete set of the Ernst prints, if anyone has a link then please leave a comment. The artist’s collage novel is a lot easier to find since it’s one of the many great books that Dover Publications keep in print.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Through the Psychedelic Looking-Glass: the 2011 calendar
Alice in Acidland
Return to Wonderland
Dalí in Wonderland
Virtual Alice
Psychedelic Wonderland: the 2010 calendar
Charles Robinson’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Humpty Dumpty variations
Alice in Wonderland by Jonathan Miller
The Illustrators of Alice

4 thoughts on “Scenes from a carriage”

  1. Hi John! I’ve just found the 36 lythographs by Max Ernst from Lewis Carroll’s Wunderhorn (but it seems the first three prints are absent). This is the link:
    I’ve dedicated a video about Salvador Dalí illustrated Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and you can watch it here:
    I’ve also found very interesting the photographs of Abelardo Morell including Tenniel’s ilustrations:
    and the photographs of Clavijo-Telepnev:

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