[The New Belfry of Christ Church, Oxford] is of the best of Dodgson’s Oxford squibs, a good humored but cutting attack on Dean Liddell (the father of Alice) and the wooden cube built to contain the Cathedral bells during operations to build a new tower. Though it can still be found today behind the stone walls of the tower, the wooden cube was always a temporary plan but Dodgson was impatient and the Governing body were slow.
The Bell in The Hunting of the Snark might be interpreted as a symbol for time and time pressure. But it also might have been used by C.L. Dodgson to continue lampooning Dean Henry Liddell‘s “bonnet-box” project, a meekly geometric belfry to go up on the cathedral at Christ Church.
“Other maps are such shapes, with their islands and capes!
But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank:
(So the crew would protest) “that he’s bought us the best— A perfect and absolute blank!”
This was charming, no doubt; but they shortly found out
That the Captain they trusted so well
Had only one notion for crossing the ocean,
And that was to tingle his bell.
This is about Henry Holiday’s illustration to the final chapter of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, published more than 140 years ago. This also is about Thomas Cranmer. He and the Baker (the ambivalent hero in The Hunting of the Snark) perhaps hoped that after having left their 42 articles behind, the Boojum won’t get them.
The Hunting of the Snark needs to be read at least twice. The book is an excellent example for crossover literature: Children read it as a nonsense story. It is “dark”, but funny nevertheless. However, mature readers (at age hundred-forty or so) might feel, that it ends with a reference to the burning of Thomas Cranmer in 1556.
The image serves to compare two illustrations:
Henry Holiday’s illustration to the chapter The Vanishing in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark (1876). The complete illustration is on the upper left side. A 135° couterclockwise rotated detail from that illustration has been rendered on the upper right side of this comparison image.
Source: 1st edition of The Hunting of the Snark (April 1876).
Faiths Victorie in Romes Crueltie (published by Thomas Jenner, c. 1630). Immediately to the right side of the fire, Thomas Cranmer is depicted burning his hand.
License: CC BY-SA 4.0.
Source: Folger Digital Image Collection
The rotated detail from Henry Holiday’s illustration neither is a “claw” nor a “beak”. I assume that it depicts a fire. And there is a hand in both fires. Carroll and Holiday almost too successfully made sure that the readers of The Hunting of the Snark don’t understand that too early.
In his Illuminated Snark, John Tufail assumed that the night sky in the front cover of The Hunting of the Snark could be a map. Together with my assumption that Henry Holiday drew inspiration from several paintings by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger, John’s paper helped me to find the Ditchley Portrait. That again helped me to find the painting by an anonymous artist depicting Elizabeth I at old age.
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