Biography of Alice in Wonderland Alice Liddle Hargreaves Part 2

About the girl who inspired Alice in Wonderland Alice Liddle Hargreaves, biography and history of Lewis Carroll's muse.


ALICE LIDDELL HARGREAVES (1852-1934), Alice in Wonderland

By the time the book was published, Dodgson's friendship with Alice had begun to cool. Alice's mother, believing that Dodgson's attentions to her daughter were potentially scandalous, had discouraged their relationship. Mrs. Liddell destroyed letters that the eccentric bachelor had written to Alice, and in so doing no doubt destroyed evidence that might have clarified Dodgson's relationship with the girl. Despite Mrs. Liddell's vigilance, the Rev. Dodgson's affection for Alice was doomed to fade when she reached puberty. He wrote, "About nine out of ten of my child-friendships got shipwrecked at the critical point `where the stream and river meet' and the child-friends, once so affectionate, become uninteresting acquaintances, whom I have no wish to see again." Some theorists have intimated that Dodgson finally broke with the Liddell family after he proposed to Alice and was turned down. There is no evidence of this apart from Liddell family tradition.

Alice grew up, and at age 20 experienced the pains of a frustrated love affair. In 1872 Prince Leopold, fourth in line of succession to the throne, matriculated at Christ Church. Leopold and Alice met, discovered that they shared the same interests in languages and music, and fell in love. Again, Alice's mother stepped in to squelch the affair, since a marriage between Leopold and Alice would have antagonized Queen Victoria. Alice had to accept the fact that Leopold's life was not his own.

The man Alice eventually did marry, on Sept. 15, 1880, was named Reginald Hargreaves. He was very much the country squire, fond of the great outdoors. Alice couldn't have picked a man more basically opposite to the avuncular Charles Dodgson. In 1888, after meeting Hargreaves, Dodgson wrote in his diary, "It is not easy to link in one's mind the new face [Hargreaves] with the olden memory--the stranger with the once-so-intimately known and loved Alice." Alice and her husband settled into his family estate at Cuffnells in Hampshire. There she gave birth to three sons, Alan, Caryl, and Leopold--the namesake of her royal suitor. Dodgson flatly refused to stand as godfather to Leopold.

Alan and Leopold were both killed in W.W.I, and after her husband's death in 1926, Alice's fortunes rapidly declined. In 1928 she timorously approached Sotheby's, noted London auctioneers, with the original 92-page holograph manuscript of Alice. The manuscript was acclaimed as a major literary find, and she received a then phenomenal $74,259 for her treasure, which was purchased by an American. The manuscript has since found its way into the British Museum in London.

In 1932, at the age of 80, Alice traveled to the U.S. to attend a Lewis Carroll centenary celebration. She received a doctor of letters degree from Columbia University, and on her return trip to England her Cunard liner displayed a special banner in her honor--a grinning Cheshire cat. Two years later she died quietly at her home in Kent.

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