Knight Letter № 100

In July 2018, the members of the LCSNA (Lewis Carroll Society of North America) received the 100th Knight Letter.

Also in this issue, Goetz Kluge makes the case that a seventeenth-century engraving may have influenced Henry Holiday’s last illustration for The Hunting of the Snark. Goetz’s excellent blog about all things Snark is at

Preface to the Knight Letter № 100, LCSNA, 2018

On pages 55~56 you find a few lines which I wrote about the Baker and Thomas Cranmer in The Hunting of the Snark.

There also is an accompanying web page.
In the end, the Baker met the Boojum. As an allusion to Thomas Cranmer, the hero in Carroll’s Snark tragicomedy had been named “Baker” and also got some “hot” nicknames. Carroll went to the limits of black humor: The Baker got baked.

Incidentally, in parallel to my little note (p. 55~56 in the Knight Letter № 100) on the Baker’s hot names and on Henry Holiday’s pictorial reference to Thomas Cranmer’s burning, a paper «Life, Eternity and Everything, Hidden Eschatology in the Works of Lewis Carroll» suggesting textual references from The Hunting of the Snark to Thomas Cranmer’s Forty-Two Articles has been published in The Carrollian (July 2018, № 31, p.25~41), a journal of the Lewis Carroll Society in the UK. The author, Karen Gardiner, is an Anglican priest. She also addresses the objections of Revd. C.L. Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) against the dogma addressed by Article № 42 of Thomas Cranmer’s Forty-Two Articles.

Angus MacIntyre (1994), myself (2010, 2015, 2015), Mary Hibbs (2017), as well as Karen Gardiner (2018), we all independently from each other suggested that there are such references to Thomas Cranmer and his Forty-Two Articles (the Baker’s forty-two boxes). We arrived there coming from different starting points and different backgrounds. As for me, I initially just looked for Lewis Carroll’s (C.L. Dodgson’s) textual references as guidance for finding pictorial references in Henry Holiday’s illustrations.

Twitter | Reddit | Seven Coats | 42 Boxes


PS: A friend told me that the caterpillar (here without hookah) on the front page of the 100th Knight Letter is a Hickory Horned Devil.

2018-07-28, updated 2021-04-06

Breakfast at five-o’clock tea

Snark mark 2/5:

Its habit of getting up late you’ll agree
 That it carries too far, when I say
That it frequently breakfasts at five-o’clock tea,
 And dines on the following day.

In November 1859, Dodgson gave a lecture at a meeting of the Ashmolean Society on “Where does the Day begin?”. A clock traveling around the earth with the sun always exactly above of it could stand still but always would be correct. (It’s almost like the mad tea-party having always six o’clock while moving around the table.) Only the day date suddenly would change somewhere. (That’s where in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland the March Hare quickly changes the topic.)

There neither were internationally defined time zones yet, nor an internationally agreed date line when Charles Darwin and the HMS Beagle travelled around the world, but when he (and the Snark) breakfasted in Tahiti, it probably already was around tea time back home in Carroll’s Oxford. From England it carries us far away, when we imagine breakfasting in Tahiti.

On 2020-10-22 I found a twitter thread, where John Pretorius showed, that he interpreted (and applied) Lewis Carroll’s “breakfasts at five-o’clock tea” stanza in the same way as I did.

Discussion: Facebook | Twitter [4][3][2][1]

2019-08-16, updated 2021-03-20

Holiday’s Butcher and Millais’ Raleigh

But perhaps Holiday’s ruff – and the pose of the Fit Five drawing – was inspired by the Elizabethan drama inherent in Millais’ Boyhood of Raleigh, (1869).

Louise Schweitzer, One Wild Flower (2012)

If you want to be on the safe side, just claim that the meaning of the Snark is elusive. But to the more courageous readers I recommend Louise Schweitzer’s doctoral thesis One Wild Flower.


2017-09-04, updated 2021-03-05

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: 2021-02-27

«L.C. forgot that “the Snark” is a tragedy»

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 notes 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.


Link: Twitter

Update 2018-09-01

See also:


2017-09-06, update: 2021-01-24


Some meanings might not have been what Carroll thought of, but he left lots of space for many meanings you can think of. I, for example, associate growing greens with high electricity bills. Others have other ideas.

“The Hunting of the Snark” by Lewis Carroll: It’s said of the Snark, “You may serve it with greens.” As the author is a mathematician, this means Green’s Theorem being applied as a minor step, and the Snark stands for a theorem that is fiendishly difficult to prove.

😉 Markian Gooley, 2020-07-17 😉

The Snark’s Significance

Henry Holiday: The Snark’s Significance, 1898-01-29 (The Academy, p. 128)

It is possible that the author was half-consciously laying a trap, so readily did he take to the inventing of puzzles and things enigmatic; but to those whok new the man, or who have divined him correctly through his writings, the explanation is fairly simple.

Mr.Dodgson had a mathematical, a logical, and a philosophical mind; and when these qualities are united to a love of the grotesque, the resultant fancies are sure to have a quite peculiar charm, a charm so much the greater because its source is subtle and eludes all attempts to grasp it.

Attached to Holiday’s article there also is a letter from Carroll/Dodgson.

Carroll’s Honest Lie

Authors, who say that they “don’t not know” whether their book is satire, quite probably lie. Such honest lies are less boring that telling that they won’t tell. (That is a difference to presidents who lie openly because it shows that they have the power to do that.)

Of course “The Hunting of the Snark” contains satire. Dodgson wasn’t stupid. Satirists who explain their work would kill their work. E.g. in case of the “bathing machines“, “The Hunting of the Snark” took a reference to one of Carroll’s obvious satires.


2019-06-23, update: 2020-07-04

Mindprinting the Snark

In the page related to this blog post, I quoted a large part of the article Henry Holiday’s Hunting of the Snark art has subconscious order (2019-10-17) by Edmond Furter, where he applies his Mindprint concept.

I don’t understand the Mindprint concept yet and I don’t know whether I agree to Further’s views, probably because I still didn’t dig into his writings. But I added some hyperlinks into the quoted article. They lead you to entries in my blog to which Furter might have referred when he wrote his article. Those links weren’t in the original article.


Untangling the Knot

Untangling the Knot
An Analysis of Lewis Carroll’sThe Hunting of the Snark

by Sandra Mann, 2018

[…] The Hunting of the Snark is an allegory for the journey of life which Carroll crafted very carefully to include “difficulties” which he believed had come about because of human error. Life as a journey by boat had long been a favorite metaphor of Carroll’s. In this case the tale would not be of a sweet row on a placid river, but one of a voyage filled with fear and bewilderment and dread. And the moral, that despite our bewilderment, we would all be saved through God’s love and compassion in the end. […]

(Sandra Mann and Mary Hammond are pen names of Mary Hibbs.)

Hunting Happiness

As to the meaning of the Snark, I’m very much afraid I didn’t mean anything but nonsense. Still, you know, words mean more than we mean to express when we use them; so a whole book ought to mean a great deal more than the writer means. So, whatever good meanings are in the book, I’m glad to accept as the meaning of the book. The best that I’ve seen is by a lady (she published it in a letter to a newspaper), that the whole book is an allegory on the search after happiness.

Lewis Carroll (on The Hunting of the Snark)


What disturbs and depresses young people is the hunt for happiness on the firm assumption that it must be met with in life. From this arises constantly deluded hope and so also dissatisfaction. Deceptive images of a vague happiness hover before us in our dreams, and we search in vain for their original. Much would have been gained if, through timely advice and instruction, young people could have had eradicated from their minds the erroneous notion that the world has a great deal to offer them.

Arthur Schopenhauer
(Günther Flemming made me aware of this quote in a comment to his translation of The Hunting of the Snark, p. 156, ISBN 978-3-8442-6493-7)

Hunting Snarks is innocent and wise!

Even while the blinding bandage lies,
Daughter of a Judge, upon thine eyes,
If the scales thou wield with care
Truth and Justice will declare
Hunting Snarks is innocent and wise!

Inscribed (1876-09-02) with an allusion to Justicia by Lewis Carroll into an edition (now owned by NYU) of The Hunting of the Snark owned by Charlotte Edith Denman, daughter of George Denman.

Source of the acrostic poem:
Rare, Uncollected, Unpublished & Nonexistent Verse of Lewis Carroll, Collected and Annoted by August A. Imholz, Jr. & Edward Wakeling, p. 30, LCSNA 2018, ISBN 978-0-930326-11-1.
The book is available to LCSNA members only.