Crossover Literature

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 (around 140 years after the book was published) 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. In 1994, Angus MacIntyre suggested: “The Baker’s 42 Boxes are the original Protestant Articles of 1553, with Thomas Cranmer’s name on each.” in The Reverend Snark, Jabberwocky 23(1994), p. 51~52. 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: 2022-04-27

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