Eschatological Snark


According to Karen Gardiner, “it would be unwise for anyone to imply that they have found the answer to the book’s mystery.” The book is Lewis Carroll’s and Henry Holiday’s The Hunting of the Snark (1876). Initially I was that unwise. There several answers.

I started my Snark hunt in December 2008. Initially I probably had been quite unwise and thought that I had found the answer. That might explain the title The real story behind “The Hunting of the Snark” of an early post in The Lewis Carroll Forum. I am sorry for that botched exercise in self-irony. There is not just one single “real story” behind Carroll’s Snark poem. There are many answers.

Gardiner gave her warning to Snark hunters in her paper Life, Eternity, and Everything: Hidden Eschatology in the Works of Lewis Carroll, published on p.25~41 in THE CARROLLIAN, No. 31, mailed by the UK Lewis Carroll Society to me in June 2018.

As for “Article 42” in Thomas Cranmer’s 42 Articles and “Rule 42” in The Hunting of the Snark, the main argument of Gardiner’s June 2018 paper is “that Carroll’s frequent and unexplained use of the number 42, and in particular his development of Rule 42 in the preface of The Hunting of the Snark and Rule 42 in Alice’s trial scene highlight the doctrine of eternal punishment that Carroll was so concerned about.”But if Rule 42 is not just a random number, preferred by some inexplicable reason by Carroll, but is actually a theological nod to a discarded article of faith, then the riddle may be solved. The rule may indeed be the oldest (that is, from 1553 rather than 1571) and so the King, in some senses, is correct. But Alice is also correct. ‘This rule has already been rejected as unnecessary and flawed and therefore cannot be used by the court to justify ejecting her.
It is therefore this paper’s argument that Carroll’s frequent and unexplained use of the number 42, and in particular his development of Rule 42 in the preface of the “Hunting of the Snark” and Rule 42 in Alice’s trial scene, highlight the doctrine of eternal punishment that Carroll was so concerned about. The 42nd Article of Faith that had been eventually rejected by the reformers and yet which was insisted upon by the majority of senior clerics in the Victorian Anglican Church should, Carroll appears to be saying, be regarded as invalid (as he argues strongly in his paper on Eternal Punishment). Rule 42 in the Snark and in Alice is shown to be deficient in understanding, unenforceable, and pastorally and doctrinally inappropriate. As has already been stated, Frederick Farrar believed that “the English Church showed the highest wisdom in rejecting the forty second article”. It appears that Lewis Catroll agrees.

The issue was addressed in this Blog in December 2017: Eternal Disconnect.

As for Thomas Cranmer’s 42 Articles and the Baker’s 42 boxes in The Hunting of the Snark, Gardiner made me aware of Angus MacIntyre‘s comment (1994) “The Baker’s 42 Boxes are the original Protestant Articles of 1553, with Thomas Cranmer’s name on each.” Since 2010 I believe that too. Thanks to Karen Gardiner’s 2018 paper in THE CARROLLIAN and to Angus MacIntire’s suggestion I now know that linking the Baker in The Hunting of the Snark to Thomas Cranmer (among other references) is not such a weird idea after all.

Also Mary Hammond (a pen name of Mary Hibbs) recognized in 2017 that eternal damnation (Article 42 in the 42 Articles) was an issue which Carroll/Dodgson might have addressed in The Hunting of the Snark.

The Article 42 in the 42 Articles was of special interest to Carroll/Dodgson, who objected to the belief in an eternal punishment. But I don’t think that this explains why in The Hunting of the Snark Carroll came up with 42 boxes rather than 39 boxes as a reference to one of the most important foundations of the Anglican church. I suggest that Carroll chose the “42” as among several references to Thomas Cranmer, the author of the 42 Articles.

I started in December 2008 to be unwise with a single finding. But soon I understood, that there are many answers to Lewis Carroll’s and Henry Holiday’s textual and pictorial puzzles in The Hunting of the Snark. There are no references in Gardiner’s papers to my findings related to Thomas Cranmer and his 42 Articles, but it is good to learn that also theologists write about religious aspects of The Hunting of the Snark. Reverend Karen Gardiner is a Priest in the Church of England.

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2018-07-06, update: 2022-10-05

Eternal Disconnect

All men shall not be saved at the length. They also are worthy of condemnation, who endeavour at this time in restore the dangerous opinion that all men, by they never so ungodly, shall at length be saved, when they have suffered pains for their sins a certain time appointed by God’s justice.

Article 42 on eternal damnation in Thomas Cranmer’s Forty-Two Articles (1552)

 

No one shall speak to the Man at the Helm, and the Man at the Helm shall speak to no one.

Rule 42, with the second part of the sentence having been “completed” by the Bellman in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark (1876)

 

Pope Francis said eternal damnation is not a torture chamber but distance from God.

Vatican Radio, 2016-11-25 (archive)

 
If something like eternal damnation (Article 42) would exist, then that also would be an eternal disconnect (Rule 42) between the Abrahamic god and those who adhere to that god.
 


What are those Forty-Two Articles?

The Forty-Two Articles were intended to summarise Anglican doctrine, as it now existed under the reign of Edward VI, who favoured a Protestant faith. Largely the work of Thomas Cranmer, they were to be short formularies that would demonstrate the faith revealed in Scripture and the existing Catholic creeds. Completed in 1552, they were issued by Royal Mandate on 19 June 1553. The articles were claimed to have received the authority of a Convocation, although this is doubtful. With the coronation of Mary I and the reunion of the Church of England with the Catholic Church, the Articles were never enforced. However, after Mary’s death, they became the basis of the Thirty-nine Articles. In 1563, Convocation met under Archbishop Parker to revise the articles. Convocation passed only 39 of the 42, and Elizabeth reduced the number to 38 by throwing out Article XXIX to avoid offending her subjects with Catholic leanings. In 1571, the Article XXIX, despite the opposition of Bishop Edmund Gheast, was inserted, to the effect that the wicked do not eat the Body of Christ. This was done following the queen’s excommunication by the Pope Pius V in 1570. That act destroyed any hope of reconciliation with Rome and it was no longer necessary to fear that Article XXIX would offend Catholic sensibilities. The Articles, increased to Thirty-nine, were ratified by the Queen, and the bishops and clergy were required to assent.

Source: Wikipedia, 2018-03-15
 

Henry VIII was succeeded by his son, Edward VI, in 1547. During Edward’s reign, the Church of England adopted a stronger Protestant identity. The Book of Common Prayer of 1549 authorised a reformed liturgy, and this prayer book was revised in 1552 to make it more explicitly Protestant. To make the English Church fully Protestant, Cranmer also envisioned a reform of canon law and the creation of a concise doctrinal statement, which would become the Forty-two Articles. Work on a doctrinal statement was delayed by Cranmer’s efforts to forge a doctrinal consensus among the various Protestant churches to counter the work of the Catholic Council of Trent. When this proved impossible, Cranmer turned his attention to defining what the Church of England believed.
        The Forty-two Articles were drafted by Cranmer and a small group of fellow Protestants. The title page claimed that the articles were approved by Convocation when in reality they were never discussed or adopted by the clerical body. They were also never approved by Parliament. The articles were issued by Royal Mandate on 19 June 1553. The articles were to be short formularies that would demonstrate the faith revealed in Scripture and the existing ecumenical creeds. The theology of the articles has been described as a “restrained” Calvinism.
        Edward died in 1553. With the coronation of Mary I and the reunion of the Church of England with the Catholic Church, the articles were never enforced. However, after Mary’s death, they became the basis of the Thirty-nine Articles. In 1563, Convocation met under Archbishop Parker to revise the articles. Convocation passed only 39 of the 42, and Elizabeth reduced the number to 38 by throwing out Article XXIX to avoid offending her subjects with Catholic leanings. In 1571, despite the opposition of Bishop Edmund Gheast, Article XXIX was re-inserted, declaring that the wicked do not eat the Body of Christ. This was done following the queen’s excommunication by the Pope Pius V in 1570. That act destroyed any hope of reconciliation with Rome and it was no longer necessary to fear that Article XXIX would offend Catholic sensibilities. The Articles, increased to Thirty-nine, were ratified by the Queen, and the bishops and clergy were required to assent.

Source: Wikipedia, 2021-03-28
 
 


Eternal damnation still was a controversial issue in the era of the Oxford Movement.

ON APPEAL FROM THE ARCHES COURT OF CANTERBURY.
[…] An Article setting forth extracts of a review of a work that a Clergyman of the Church of England had reviewed, charging that he had therein advisedly declared, that after this life there would be no judgment of God, awarding either eternal happiness or eternal misery, contrary to the Three Creeds, the Absolution, the Catechism, and the Burial and Commination Service: Held not established by the passages of the work pleaded. It is not penal for a Clergyman to express a hope of the ultimate pardon of the wicked [2 Moo. P.C. (N.S.) 432, 433]. […]

Source: 15 E.R. (Essays and Reviews) 943; Date: 1863-06-26; Court: Privy Court; Appellant: Rev. Rowland Williams, D.D.; Respondent: Rev. Walter Kerr Hamilton, Lord Bishop of Salisbury; Appellant: Rev. Henry Bristow Wilson, Clerk; Respondent: Rev. James Fendall, Clerk
 

Rev. C. L. Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) objected to the belief in eternal punishment in 1897, but his article on Eternal Punishment was not published during his lifetime. In the article, one of Dodgson’s points is that “αἰών” should be translated as “of indefinite duration”, not as “eternal”. (See p. 52 in Robert D. Sutherland’s Language and Lewis Carroll, 1970.) The controversy on eternal punishment seems not to have ended yet.

I assume, that Carroll’s “forty-two” serves as a reference to Thomas Cranmer’s Forty-Two Articles. And Rev. Karen Gardiner suggested in The Carrollian (July 2018, № 31, p.25~41), that this is a reference mainly to Article 42 (about eternal damnation) in Cranmer’s Forty-Two Articles.

Today, “42” mostly is known as an answer to an unknown question. That answer had been revealed in a popular travel guide and invented by Douglas Adams as an answer to that unknown question. Of course neither Lewis Carroll nor Douglas Adams would have provided us with spoilers which could help us to understand their “42”. Holding your readers responsible for their interpretations is much more fun to writers like Adams and Carroll. Therefore Adams told us that the “42” just popped up in his mind out of the air when he enjoyed the view of his garden. And Carroll told us that the last line “For the Snark was a Boojum, you see!” in The Hunting of the Snark popped up in his mind during a walk near Guilford (incidentally the birthplace of Ford Prefect, and then again not his real birthplace).

Lewis Carroll’s Snark and Douglas Adams’ Guide (the BBC radio series) have more in common than just having fits instead of chapters. But among both authors, it probably was only the Reverend Dodgson to whom “42” had a special relevance in the history of the church, that vessel which had been snarked so many times.

 
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2017-12-25, updated: 2022-09-19

»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

From Rule 42 to Rule 51 in Germany

At this moment the King, who had been for some time busily writing in his note-book, cackled out ‘Silence!’ and read out from his book, ‘Rule Forty-two. ALL PERSONS MORE THAN A MILE HIGH TO LEAVE THE COURT.’ Everybody looked at Alice.
‘I’m not a mile high,’ said Alice.
‘You are,’ said the King.
‘Nearly two miles high,’ added the Queen.
‘Well, I shan’t go, at any rate,’ said Alice: `besides, that’s not a regular rule: you invented it just now.’
‘It’s the oldest rule in the book,’ said the King.
‘Then it ought to be Number One,’ said Alice.

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland, chapter XII

In the 1952 German dubbed version of Disney’s 1951 Alice movie, “Rule 42” had been replaced by “Paragraph 51”. Nobody can really know what “42” stands for, but in Germany “he has the article 51” (“Er hat den Paragraph 51“) meant “He is mad”. It was until the year 1975 that the article 51 of the German penal code provided the legal base for insanity defense.

Lewis Carroll’s “Rule 42” might not have been plain nonsense.

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