Martin Gardner wrote in his Annotated Snark (1962, MG064) about Henry Holiday’s almost surreal illustration:
[…] Thousands of readers must have glanced at this drawing without noticing (though they may have shivered with subliminal perception) the huge, almost transparent head of the Baker, abject terror on his features, as a gigantic beak (or is it a claw?) seizes his wrist and drags him into ultimate darkness.
The rocks in the foreground, which resemble the back of a prostrate nude figure, add another eerie touch to the scene. […]
I think, that Henry Holiday’s original illustration (without the yellow lines and dots) to the last chapter of The Hunting of the Snark is about cruelty, abuse and, in the end, death: The burning of Thomas Cranmer.
With regard to the simulacrum in the lower left part of the illustration (and perhaps also to line #3 and #4 in the poem, if “his hair” is the Bellman‘s hair), also sexual violence might have been addressed. C.L. Dodgson’s diary entry after a visit to Radley College, 1857-03-18:
Each little boy has his own wooden cubicle to sleep in at night, a snug little bedroom where he is free from interruption and annoyance, this, to little boys, must be a great addition to their happiness, as being a counterbalance to any bullying they may suffer during the day. From my own experience of school life at Rugby, I can say that if I could have been as secure from annoyance at night, the hardships of the daily life would have been mere trifles.
(Source: C. L. Dodgson, quoted in Insights into Human Cruelty and Abuse by Colleen Swan, 2014-03-04, updated on 2016-10-17
See also: Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, The Story of Alice, 2015, Chapter 3, p.56)
Fagging was sometimes associated with sexual abuse by those older boys.
(Source: Wikipedia, based on quoting When I was at school … (The Guardian. 2005-10-12), with a reference to John Peel’s autobiography: “We asked seven prominent former public schoolboys to spill their dormitory secrets”.)
Derek Malcolm, Film critic: »[…] That sort of thing was very widespread. Not particularly at Eton, but at the schools that prepared you for it. […] At Eton, if you were a fag master you chose the prettiest fag from among the lower boys. You just liked to have a pretty fag – I suppose it was a substitute for girls. […]«
(Source: When I was at school … (The Guardian. 2005-10-12))
(Source: Lewis Carroll, The Hunting of the Snark)
2017-12-17, updated 2020-08-21