Crossover Literature

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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.