To the illustrator Henry Holiday, Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark was a “tragedy”. That might have been Carroll’s intention in 1874, when he started to write the poem as one of the many chapters of his Sylvie and Bruno project. But when the poem was published as a separate book in 1876 with more than 500 lines, it turned out to be a tragicomedy.
Page from a letter (1876-01-04) by C.L. Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) to Henry Holiday about Holiday’s illustration to the chapter The Beaver’s Lesson. The two lines at the bottom are a note written by Henry Holiday.
I think the note is:
× L.C. forgot that “the Snark” is a tragedy and [should]
on no account be made jovial. h.h.
In the end, Carroll produced a tragicomedy.
An institution’s rare collections make it unique in the world. Here a sample of the feast @USC shown to @LibSrFellows, including a handwritten note from Lewis Carroll on the verso of his poem “The Hunting of the Snark.” @McGill_ROAAr pic.twitter.com/0v0QKj6owg
— Nathalie Cooke (@CookeNathalie) August 16, 2018
See also: https://twitter.com/Bonnetmaker/status/1033366198535286785
On a geeky note, it thrills me that this was filled out in purple ink.
Like Lewis Carroll and many an Oxbridge university prof, Virginia wrote in purple. It was traditionally cheaper than black & so became linked with academics and aesthetes.
1:19 PM · Jan 6, 2022
2017-09-06, update: 2023-08-27
The Hunting of the Snark needs to be read at least twice. It is crossover literature. You read it differently at different ages. The book is an excellent example for crossover literature (and crossover picture books): Children read it as a nonsense story. It is “dark”, but funny nevertheless. Adult readers know more than children. Some of them will recognize the textual and pictorial references in Lewis Carroll, Henry Holiday and Joseph Swain’s tragicomedy.
Henry Holiday’s illustration to the final chapter of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark has been published almost 150 years ago. Children probably will not understand that the illustration is a reference to the burning of 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.
Comparison of two illustrations:
- 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.
Source: British Museum
- 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 lower 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).
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 their references to Thomas Cranmer too early: Carroll’s tragycomedy was published in 1876. It took almost 120 years until Angus MacIntyre suggested in The Reverend Snark, Jabberwocky 23(1994), p. 51~52: “The Baker’s 42 Boxes are the original Protestant Articles of 1553, with Thomas Cranmer’s name on each.” Henry Holiday’s pictorial reference (I started to search for it in 2010) to Thomas Cranmer’s burning confirms the link between The Hunting of the Snark and Thomas Cranmer.
2018-05-07, updated: 2023-07-27
Interview posted by David Baker 66 on 2018-08-31
Dr. Amy Green – “The Hunting Of The Snark” – ROI Show 279
The “ROI” team welcomes Dr. Amy Green to discuss “The Hunting Of The Snark.”
“It is in some way serious.” (07:17)
Yes, it is: snrk.de/knight-letter-100.