Mike Batt’s Snark

※ 1987: The Hunting Of The Snark – Royal Albert Hall (1h)

«In 1987 Mike Batt recorded this concert of the early stage album of his “Snark” project. This is not a film of the eventual 1991 West End show, which was much more fully produced and had many more songs and more story. This early concert starred John Hurt, Roger Daltrey, Justin Hayward, Deniece Williams, Captain Sensible, Julian Lennon, Midge Ure, and Billy Connolly, with Batt conducting the London Symphony Orchestra. Music/lyrics/orchestrations by Mike Batt. Based on the poem (as recited in the narration) written by Lewis Carroll.»

※ 2010: The Hunting Of The Snark – Live at Cadogan Hall (9m40s)

Mike Batt’s Snark project


※ 2020-07-22, Interview: John Murray Lunchtime Show with Mike Batt. The whole show on k107FM is worth listening to, but if you are very impatient and want to learn more about Mike Batt’s Snark musical right away, start at 01:18:45 in the podcast:

If anyone's bored, my office have just posted my "Director Showreel". It's about 5 years old but someone found it! Anyway who knows, you might want me to direct your music spectacular feature!

— Mike Batt (@Mike_Batt) September 2, 2020

Mike Batt – Director Showreel (YouTube, 2020)


Mike Batt – A Songwriters Tale (YouTube, 2012)


A “Mike Batt Fans” theme for the Firefox browser:

With dark search text on white background:

Wikipedia | Mike Batt page (in German) | more Snark music

2018-10-15, update: 2022-10-09

The Mathematical World of C.L. Dodgson

Had no idea Carroll diagrams existed! A new rabbit hole to disappear down, methinks🐰@GreshamCollege

— Small Press (@smallpressbooks) October 21, 2019

The Mathematical World of C.L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) vía @YouTube

— Profesor Raul Alva G (@Prof_Raul_Alva) October 21, 2019

On voting:

2019-10-22: Below you find text (2018-05-13) moved from to this blog article.

Carroll/Dodgson tried to fight against apodictic assertiveness and oversimplification not only by means of nonsense poetry but also by means of mathematics. He expected decisions to have a solid base – like fair voting:

One small part of Dodgson’s work, though, has impressed social scientists: his analysis of the mathematics of voting. His interest in the topic was sparked by the deliberations of his colleagues at Christ Church over such matters as how to choose a new belfry. Dodgson’s pamphlets on voting were largely ignored until 1958, when a British economist, Duncan Black, noticed that there had been nothing so good on the topic since just after the French Revolution., 2009

Ostensibly, [Dodgson] was pondering the best way for the governing body of Christ Church, Oxford, where he was a tutor in mathematics, to decide on the design for a controversial belfry, and to pick new members of the college. […] For college elections, Dodgson first proposed a version of Borda’s method, and also a version of Condorcet’s (though he appears not to have known about Borda’s and Condorcet’s work). Later, he developed an interest in politics beyond the walls of Christ Church, and, in the eighteen-eighties, he tried to find ways to secure equitable representation in Parliament for minorities., 2010

Dodgson’s method of taking votes on more than two issues (1876) attempts to find winners in case initially there is no winner. The method was applied at Christ Church college for a small number of candidates. However, for large lists of choices, the rearranging of candidates (until a winner is found) requires a computing power which surely was not available then. And in 2006 it still was a challenge (see McCabe-Dansted below).

2019-10-22, updated: 2022-09-05

On Borrowing

One of the surest tests [of a poet’s superiority or inferiority] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.

T. S. Eliot, p. 114 in The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism, 1920

Likewise, a good illustrator welds the theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different and sometimes even funnier than that from which it is torn.

And Lewis Carroll may have borrowed from Thomas Gray.


All art is infested by other art.

(Leo Steinberg, in Art about Art, 1979)


Gustave Doré was an inspired master thief too:Segments from:
※ Plate I (mirror view) of Gustave Doré’s illustrations to Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote (1863),
※ Matthias Grünewald’s Temptation of St Anthony (c. between 1512 and 1516, a panel of the Isenheim Altarpiece, now located at Musée Unterlinden, Colmar, France).

The borrowing never ends:

2018-02-18, update: 2022-09-05

The Beaver’s Lesson

The Butcher reasoning with the Beaver.

This is the illustration (partially inspired by various works of other artists) to the chapter The Beaver’s Lesson.



2017-09-26, updated: 2022-09-04

Lime Twig

I was walking on a hillside, alone, one bright summer day, when suddenly there came into my head one line of verse — one solitary line — “For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.” I knew not what it meant, then: I know not what it means, now; but I wrote it down: and, some time afterwards, the rest of the stanza occurred to me, that being its last line: and so by degrees, at odd moments during the next year or two, the rest of the poem pieced itself together, that being its last stanza.

Source: From Lewis Carroll’s notes, found in Alice on Stage, The Theatre, April 1887.
See also:

That walk over the hills near Guildford took place on 1874-07-18. I think that leaving such a nice origination story to his readers is part of Carroll’s skillful marketing of his Snark ballade.

Oliver Sturm, who translated The Hunting of the Snark into German (Die Jagd nach dem Schnatz. 1996, ISBN 978-3-15-009433-4, p. 85) called that a “Leimrute für Kritiker” (“lime twig for critics”).

I don’t think that Carroll misleads his readers when he said “I know not what it means“. He just made his poem as ambiguous as possible. The motive: Widening the interpretation space of his Snark poem. With that wider space, a book makes more readers happy (and therefore sells better, which is a nice side effect).

In case his readers (like me) think they have discovered some obfuscated meaning, it is the reader (again like me) who can be hold responsible for her or his interpretation, not the author. So, as for my interpretations, there still is the possibility that I am misleading myself.

This is why the Snark hunt never will end.

2017-12-17, update: 2022-07-16

Pursuit of Happiness

Part of C.L. Dodgson’s (Lewis Carroll’s) Snark marketing was to claim that he doesn’t know the meaning of The Hunting of the Snark. But there was a meaning which he liked

To Mary Barber

The Chestnuts, Guildford
January 12, 1897

My dear May,

        In answer to your question, “What did you mean the Snark was?” will you tell your friend that I meant that the Snark was a Boojum. I trust that she and you will now feel quite satisfied and happy.

        To the best of my recollection, I had no other meaning in my mind, when I wrote it: but people have since tried to find the meanings in it. The one I like best (which I think is partly my own) is that it may be taken as an Allegory for the Pursuit of Happiness. The characteristic “ambition” works well into this theory—and also its fondness for bathing-machines, as indicating that the pursuer of happiness, when he has exhausted all other devices, betakes himself, as a last and desperate resource, to some such wretched watering-place as Eastbourne, and hopes to find, in the tedious and depressing society of the daughters of mistresses of boarding-schools, the happiness he has failed to find elsewhere.

        With every good wish for your happiness, and for the priceless boon of health also, I am

Always affectionately yours,
C.L. Dodgson

To all meaning deniers in a nutshell: There is a meaning which partly is Carroll’s own meaning. Therefore The Hunting of the Snark has at least one meaning.


About “May”vs. “Mary”: In The Selected Letters of Lewis Carroll (1982, edited by Morton Cohen) and in all copies of this letter in the internet, C.L. Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) is being quoted as having addressed Mary Barber with “My dear May”, not with “My dear Mary”. I learned that “My dear May” is correct: Quora | Twitter


2018-04-29, update: 2022-07-16

From Horses to Frolicking Weeds

※ [top left]: Illustration to Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark (1876) by Henry Holiday: The Vanishing (detail from lower left side depicting some weeds which seem to have some fun with each other)
※ [top right]: John Martin: The Bard (ca. 1817, detail from lower left side, retinex filtered and vectorized, then slightly horizontally compressed)

overview | Twitter

2018-02-17, updated: 2022-06-22

Museé Unterlinden Retweets


Matthias Grünewald, Isenheim Altarpiece, 1512–1516:
※ Left: "Saint Anthony and Saint Paul the Hermit Meeting".
※ Right: "The Temptation of St. Anthony"

— Snark Sesquicentennial (@Snark150) July 4, 2019

※ Left: Henry Holiday – Illustration to the chapter "The Beaver’s Lesson" in Lewis Carroll’s "The Hunting of the Snark" (1876)
※ Right: Matthias Grünewald – from "The Temptation of St. Anthony" (1515), detail in mirror view.

— Snark Sesquicentennial (@Snark150) July 4, 2019

Two renderings of a segment from Matthias Grünewald‘s "Temptation of St. Anthony" (part of the Isenheim Altarpiece), where on the right side copy a part of the rendering has been low-pass filtered and decolorized.

— Snark Sesquicentennial (@Snark150) July 4, 2019

※ Top: Matthias Grünewald: Detail from "Visit of Saint Anthony to Saint Paul" (1512–1516)
※ bottom: Henry Holiday: Detail from an illustration to the chapter "The Beaver’s Lesson" in Lewis Carroll’s "The Hunting of the Snark".

— Snark Sesquicentennial (@Snark150) July 4, 2019



Segments from
※ (in mirror view) one of Gustave Doré's illustrations to Miguel de Cervantes' "Don Quixote" (1863),
※ Matthias Grünewald's "Temptation of St Anthony", c. between 1475 and 1480, Isenheim Altarpiece, Musée Unterlinden (@MUnterlinden), Colmar, France.

— Sesquicentennial Snark (@Snark150) April 17, 2021

Correction (Isenheim altarpiece): 1512 and 1516, not between 1475 and 1480.

— Sesquicentennial Snark (@Snark150) April 22, 2021

2019-07-04, uptated: 2022-06-20

A Double Rule of Three

He thought he saw a Garden-Door
 That opened with a key:
He looked again, and found it was
 A Double Rule of Three:
‘And all its mystery,’ he said,
 ‘Is clear as day to me!’

Lewis Carroll, Sylvie and Bruno and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded

After going in the wrong direction for a while, I understood that this is not about applying the Bellman’s Rule twice. I think that Lewis Carroll (like Charles T. Brooks) quite probably referred to cross multiplication.Rule of Three

Then again, I am not shure whether the direction which I took was that wrong. Carroll could have used Double Rule of Three with a double meaning:
※ the extension to the rule of three for cross-multiplication and
※ the double application of the Bellman’s rule.

More on the Rule of Three: Alfred Crowquill (pen name of Alfred Henry Forrester), Comic Arithmetic, London 1843, p. 96

2022-05-31, updated: 2022-06-12   (MG007)


He would answer to “Hi!” or to any loud cry,
  Such as “Fry me!” or “Fritter my wig!”
To “What-you-may-call-um!” or “What-was-his-name!”
  But especially “Thing-um-a-jig!”

Always assumed that thingamajig derived from Lewis Carroll’s thing-um-a-jig (1876).

I’d seen an oft cited but unsourced reference to 1824 in dictionaries but now found it: June 1824 issue of The Casket a literary monthly “all the cute and curious thingumajigs of the Old Colony.”

— Sandy Slynn (@Sandy_Slynn) February 17, 2020

See also: and

2020-02-25, update: 2022-04-19

Arne Nordheim’s Snark

Hello, Arne. Long time, no see. Time to go snark hunting again! #practicetweet

— Sibilant Hussy (@AkselToll) September 23, 2014

As for the Snark music known to me, Arne Nordheim’s The Return of the Snark – For Trombone And Tape is among my favorites. Nordheim composed this 15 minutes piece in the year 1987. Gaute Vikdal plays the trombone.

The recording is part of the 7 CDs album Listen – The Art of Arne Nordheim. There are other recordings of Nordheim’s Snark compositions available in the Internet, like The Hunting of the Snark for Trombone only. But I like the Return most.

2018-11-02, update: 2022-04-04


I think that in his description of the five Snark marks, Lewis Carrolls might have referred to some of his contemporaries. After listing the 5th mark “ambition”, Carroll devides Snarks into two types:

        It next will be right
            To describe each particular batch:
            those that have feathers, and bite,
            And those that have whiskers, and scratch.

This could be a reference to the Snark illustrator Henry Holiday and the engraver Joseph Swain, or generally to printmakers who make etchings and engravings. The Snark is not necessarily a bad beast (as long as it doesn’t turn into a Boojum).

2019-03-04, updated: 2022-03-28

William Hartston’s Clues

Creativity: 42 clues to what it all means
[Independent] Monday 17 May 1993 23:02 BST

[…] Rev Charles Lutwidge Dodgson offers a more convincing explanation. […] He must have known about Thomas Cranmer’s 42 Articles […]

William Hartston probably wrote his article with his tongue in the cheek (which is the safest thing you can do when writing about Douglas Adams’ and about C. L. Dodgson’s (Lewis Carroll’s) “42”). It was about an article by

Ellis Hillman, 64, the founder of the Lewis Carroll Society (and president of the Flat Earth Society in his spare time)

in the journal Chapter One of the Alliance of Literary Societies.

But thanks to the creativity of Lewis Carroll and Henry Holiday there really might be textual and pictorial references to Thomas Cranmer and his 42 Articles in The Hunting of the Snark.

On the Flat Earth Society: William Hartston seems to have used Ellis Hillman’s presidency of the Flat Earth Society to ridicule Hillman. Hartston got it wrong. And when Hillman passed away in 1996, Illtyd Harrington’s orbituary in the Independent mentioned his support of the Flat Earth Society out of context as well.

What is the context?, based on p. 274 in Christine Garwood, Flat Earth: The History of an Infamous Idea, 2008:

[…] But as [Samuel Shenton’s International Flat Earth Research Society] was dying [in 1969], he found the successor he had been looking for: Ellis Hillman, a lecturer and member of the Greater London Council, agreed to be president of the IFERS, with the encouragement of Patrick Moore. Lillian Shenton was suspicious of his motives (he was developing a post-graduate course on the development of ideas about the shape of the earth) and in the event he did little for the society. […]

Garwood wrote:

[…] Initially Hillman, who was frank about never having believed in the earth to be flat, was reluctant to accept Shenton’s offer and recalled contacting Patrick Moore to ask his advice. According to Hillman, Moore was encouraging: “For God’s sake, keep it going,” he allegedly exclaimed, “we must have heretical people in the world of astronomy.” Besides Moore’s enthusiasm, there was a second persuative factor: at the time Hillman was planning a postgraduate course on the development of ideas connected with the shape of the earth and he believed it would assist his academic research to accept Shenton’s offer. […]


2018-04-25, update: 2022-02-02


Blurring images is low pass filtering images. An artist’s blunted sight can have the same effects like blurring with computerized image processing. Sometimes you need to get rid of distracting details in order to get the whole picture.

Jay Clause‘s what Salvador Dalí taught me about creative work will help you to (perhaps) get the whole picture. However, keep in mind that artists like to play with what the beholders of their work might want (or might not want) to percieve. Even without blurring, artists can deny anything you “see” in an ambiguous creation: They play with their own pareidolia as well as with the pareidolia of their audience.

Before computerized image processing was available, artists use simple techniques to blur images. For example, looking at an image through a feather did the trick.

Blurring might help you to see things which you wouldn’t see with clear sight. It’s fine to try that with artwork which might have been intentionally created for such an exercise. But better make sure that it was an artist who created the face that is looking at you. I don’t know whether Mars ever has been inhabited by artists.


Rather than suffering from pareidolia, artists get inspired by it.

Sometimes blurring helps to reveal structures hidden in the hatching.


See also: Susana Martinez-Conde, Dave Conley, Hank Hine, Joan Kropf, Peter Tush, Andrea Ayala and Stephen L. Macknik: Marvels of illusion: illusion and perception in the art of Salvador Dali


2017-12-28, updated: 2022-02-02

The Vanishing

Image based on an illustration by Henry Holiday and a page of the British Museum:

Almost four months before Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark was officially published on the 1st of April 1876, the illustrator Henry Holiday still thought of that ballad as a “tragedy“. In the end, the collaboration between the author and the illustrator yielded a tragicomedy. The sad end still is there, albeit very well hidden from child readers: The burning of Thomas Cranmer.

Nonsense literature like Carroll’s can be read repeatedly. Carroll’s nonsense is crossover literature. At different ages you would read the Snark tragicomedy differently. Likewise, you would look at Henry Holiday’s illustrations differently. Carroll wrote his Snark tragicomedy in a way which protects the young reader from understanding the sad end of the final “fit” The Vanishing too early.

2021-09-02, updated: 2022-01-28

»To haunt a man of forty-two«

“No doubt,” said I, “they settled who
      Was fittest to be sent
Yet still to choose a brat like you,
To haunt a man of forty-two,
      Was no great compliment!”

In his 29th annotation (MG029) to The Hunting of the Snark, Martin Gardiner stated:

Curiously, Carroll refers to his age as 42 in his poem Phantasmagoria (Canto 1, Stanza 16) though at the time [1869 or earlier] the poem was written, he was still in his thirties. The number 42 certainly seems to have had some sort of special significance for Carroll.

It’s only “curiously” if one assumes that Carroll was referring to his age before he reached that age. To me that simply means that for Carroll the number 42 does not refer to Carroll’s own age.

2018-11-11, updated: 2022-01-23

Face Change

In an early draft to the illustration The Crew on Deck in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, the illustrator Henry Holiday gave the Bellman a different face than the one which the Bellman had in the final illustration. Henry Holiday didn’t discard the original face. He moved that round faced character (an Oxford colleague?) to the illustration to the chapter The Barrister’s Dream and then turned the Bellman in the illustration The Crew on Deck into a Darwin look-alike.

I think that Dodgson addressed conflicts within the Curch of England and the related legal battles (see Essays and Reviews) in The Hunting of the Snark. One of the results of that conflict was the The Public Worship Regulation Act 1874 introduced (in the year when Carroll started to write his Snark tragicomedy) as a Private Member’s Bill by the Archbishop of Canterbury Archibald Campbell Tait. So I dug a bit into the history of this. When I saw the round features of the bishop’s face in the Wikipedia, it reminded me of the face which Holiday gave the Bellman in his first draft. Interestingly, during the young Dodgson was a pupil at Rugby School, the bishop was the headmaster of of that school. Rugby seems to have been a traumatizing experience for Dodgson.

As for the looks, Richard Bethell, 1st Baron Westbury could be another candidate for Holiday’s reference. The Wikipedia says: “Perhaps the best known of his decisions was the judgment delivering the opinion [see excerpt] of the judicial committee of the privy council in 1863 against the heretical character of certain extracts from the well-known publication Essays and Reviews.”

2018-03-31, updated: 2022-01-22

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