Nose is a Nose is a Nose

A Snark article in the Knight Letter
(with lots of help from Chris Morgan and Mark Burstein)

Source: Knight Letter (ISSN 0193-886X), Fall 2017, Number 99

When I wrote this article, I failed to mention that already in 1973 Elizabeth Sewell pointed out in The Field of Nonsense that a line in Carroll’s poem has a similarity to a line in a limerick by Edward Lear (MG058). I am sorry for that.

I posted my article online with permission of the Knight Letter editors. In the online copy, I fixed the wrong URL It’s Furthermore, four additional images have been attached to my online version.

read more



2018-02-09, update 2018-12-30: Reference to Elizabeth Sewell

9.5±0.5 Snark Hunters

There is no tenth member in Henry Holiday’s illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. I think that the Snark hunting party consists of nine members only. Let us take them in order of their introduction:

  1. The Bellman, their captain.
  2. The Boots, a maker of Bonnets and Hoods
  3. The Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes, but repeatedly complained about the Beaver’s evil lace-making.
  4. The Broker, to value their goods.
  5. The Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense, might perhaps have won more than his share. From John Tufail I learned that in Henry Holiday’s illustration the Billiard-marker is preparing a cheat.
  6. The Banker, engaged at enormous expense, had the whole of their cash in his care.
  7. The Beaver, that paced on the deck or would sit making lace in the bow and had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck, though none of the sailors knew how.
  8. The Baker, also addressed by “Fry me!”, “Fritter my wig!”, “Candle-ends” as well as “Toasted-cheese”, and known for joking with hyenas and walking paw-in-paw with a bear.
  9. The Butcher, who only could kill Beavers, but later became best friend with the lace-making animal.

9 or 10 hunters? | Care and Hope | The Snark

2017-11-06, completely rewritten: 2018-11-07, shifted to the top 2018 posts: 2018-12-21


In this allegorical English School painting (ca. 1610, by an unknown painter) of Queen Elizabeth I at old age you see the allegories of Death and of Father Time.

In the inset you see on the left side a depiction of the Bellman from Henry Holiday’s front cover illustration to Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark (1876).

Only now, after a few years of having found this painting, I recognized, that not only Henry Holiday’s Bellman looks like that unknown painter’s Father Time, But also the posture of the old queen and the old man are similar.


2018-10-11, shifted to the top 2018 posts: 2018-12-21

Tree of Life

In this image, Charles Darwin’s tree of life sketch of the evolutionary tree (c. July 1837, Notebook B, 1837-1838, page 36) is compared to a “weed” in the lower left corner of Holiday’s illustration.

To my knowledge, the earliest publishing of a facsimile from Darwin’s hand drawing occurred in the 20th century. A “tree” was published in Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. But that was an image arranged by a typographer, not Darwin’s sketch from his Notebook B. Darwin did not keep his notebook B secret after the publication of On the Origin of Species, but I do not know of any presentation of his sketch before 1876. Thus, the resemblance between the “weed” and Darwin’s evolutionary tree probably may be purely incidental.

Are any earlier publishing dates for facsimile reproductions of his drawing known before 1867? Could his supporters (probably not Darwin himself) have used his sketch for promoting The Descent of Man in 1871?

I search the earliest publishing date of that image e.g. in newspapers, magazines, books etc. Can you give me any hints?

»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.

To me that simply means that for Carroll the number 42 does not refer to his own age.

Wombats and Woodchucks

The drawing depicts Dante Gabriel Rossetti lamenting the death of his second wombat. Mary Hibbs (pen names: Mary Hammond and Sandra Mann) made me aware of the image and of the possibility that the Beaver in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark could have been a reference to Rossetti’s wombat.

The fame of Rossetti’s Wombat is lasting much longer than that poor animal itself, after having been transported for its short life from Australia to Chelsea. But there also was a “Canadian marmot or woodchuck” in Rosetti’s estate in Chelsea, where he moved into the Tudor House in 1862. Actually, Rosetty had two wombats. We also learned from Angus Trumble (Rossetti’s Wombat: A Pre-Raphaelite Obsession in Victorian England, 2003-04-16) that Rosetti had a little zoo in his garden aas well as friends living in his big house like the “deeply unattractive poet and semi-professional sadomasochist Algernon Charles Swinburne — who liked to slide naked down the banisters giest”. I guess that Rosetti’s mini-zoo was kept not even semi-professionally, but together with his friends and his dormouse, Rosetti surely was well prepared for mad tea parties. (See also: G.A.H.! (Gardner’s Annotations Hyperlinked) – The Dormouse and Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s Wombat, LCNSA.)

In The Hunting of the Snark, the Beaver was the Bellman‘s pet and became the Butcher‘s friend. Can anything from the real world be associated with that Beaver-Bellman-Butcher triple? This might expand the Snark matrix, a matrix with elements from The Hunting of the Snark in its rows and elements from the real world in its columns.