On Borrowing

One of the surest tests [of a poet’s superiority or inferiority] is the way in which a poet borrows. Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different. The good poet welds his theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different than that from which it is torn; the bad poet throws it into something which has no cohesion. A good poet will usually borrow from authors remote in time, or alien in language, or diverse in interest.

T. S. Eliot, p. 114 in The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism, 1920

Likewise, a good illustrator welds the theft into a whole of feeling which is unique, utterly different and sometimes even funnier than that from which it is torn.

And Lewis Carroll may have borrowed from Thomas Gray.


All art is infested by other art.

(Leo Steinberg, in Art about Art, 1979)

I think that others also borrowed from Henry Holiday.

2018-02-18, update: 2021-04-03

9.5±0.5 Snark Hunters

Most readers of The Hunting of the Snark assume that the Snark hunting party consists of 10 members. However, probably for a good reason, only 9 members can be seen in Henry Holiday’s illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s ballad. Actually, I really think that the Snark hunting party consists of 9 members only. But if you, as almost everybody else, prefer 10 Snark hunters, that’s fine too. Lewis Carroll gave you (and me) a choice, incidentally(?) in the 9th and the 10th line of his tragicomedy.

Let us take all the crew members in order of their introduction:

  1. The Bellman, their captain.
  2. The Boots, a maker of Bonnets and Hoods
  3. The Barrister, brought to arrange their disputes, but repeatedly complained about the Beaver’s evil lace-making.
  4. The Broker, to value their goods.
  5. The Billiard-marker, whose skill was immense, might perhaps have won more than his share. From John Tufail I learned that in Henry Holiday’s illustration the Billiard-marker is preparing a cheat.
  6. The Banker, engaged at enormous expense, had the whole of their cash in his care.
  7. The Beaver, that paced on the deck or would sit making lace in the bow and had often (the Bellman said) saved them from wreck, though none of the sailors knew how.
  8. The Baker, also addressed by “Fry me!”, “Fritter my wig!”, “Candle-ends” as well as “Toasted-cheese”, and known for joking with hyenas and walking paw-in-paw with a bear.
  9. The Butcher, who only could kill Beavers, but later became best friend with the lace-making animal.

More about the cast:
9 or 10 hunters?
Care and Hope
The Snark

2017-11-06, completely rewritten: 2021-03-05

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

Benjamin Jowett

Image sources: (ul,br) Henry Holiday, (ur) probably by The Autotype Company, after Désiré François Laugée, (bl) from cover of Benjamin Jowett and the Christian Religion by Peter Hinchliff.

Need I rehearse the history of Jowett?
I need not, Senior Censor, for you know it.
That was the Board Hebdomadal, and oh!
Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow!

C.L. Dodgson, from Notes by an Oxford chiel (1874)

For comparison (inspired by Dodgson?):

First come I. My name is J-W-TT.
There’s no knowledge but I know it.
I am Master of this College,
What I don’t know isn’t knowledge.

Source: The Balliol Rhymes (written in the 1880s), ed. W. G. Hiscock, 2nd edn. (1939; Oxford: printed for the editor, 1955): 1-25. PN 6110 C7H5 Robarts Library (Wikipedia: In 1880, seven undergraduates of Balliol published 40 quatrains of doggerel lampooning various members of the college under the title The Masque of B–ll––l, now better known as The Balliol Masque, in a format that came to be called the “Balliol rhyme“.The college authorities suppressed the publication fiercely.)

I suggest that The Barrister’s Dream in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark is about E.B. Pusey’s attempt to trial Jowett for heresy at the Vice-Chancellor’s Court for unpaid bills for heresy. According to Karen Gardiner (see p. 55 below), the trial began on 1863-03-20. The judge was an academic common lawyer. Jowett’s lawyer objected to the formally civilian court being turned into something like a court of common law, which had no jurisdiction in spiritual matters. The Punch (the anonymous author Dodgson?) called it the “small debts and heresies court“. The judge disagreed, provided it could be shown that Jowett had been guilty of breaking any of the university statues. As this could not be shown, the case was dismissed. Thus, the trial was a mess like the trial in the Barrister’s dream.

“In the matter of Treason the pig would appear
      To have aided, but scarcely abetted:
While the charge of Insolvency fails, it is clear,
      If you grant the plea ‘never indebted.’

See also:
※ John Tufail, The Jowett Controversy
※ Karen Gardiner, Escaping Justice in Wonderland (An adaption of a paper given at the Glasgow International Fantasy Conference 2018), published in The Carrollian No. 33 p. 47 ~ 60, March 2020 (abstract, 2018).

Instagram | Reddit

2018-05-03, update: 2021-02-09




Comment to tweet by Jono Borden:

Retweeted by Musée Unterlinden (2017-12-27):more

Another finding (bycatch from my Snark hunt):

2017-12-27, updated: 2021-02-09

Mental Troubles

Perhaps I may venture for a moment to use a more serious tone, and to point out that there are mental troubles, much worse than mere worry, for which an absorbing object of thought may serve as a remedy.

  • There are sceptical thoughts, which seem for the moment to uproot the firmest faith;
  • there are blasphemous thoughts, which dart unbidden into the most reverent souls;
  • there are unholy thoughts, which torture with their hateful presence the fancy that would fain be pure.

Against all these some real mental work is a most helpful ally. That “unclean spirit” of the parable, who brought back with him seven others more wicked than himself, only did so because he found the chamber “swept and garnished,” and its owner sitting with folded hands. Had he found it all alive with the “busy hum” of active work, there would have been scant welcome for him and his seven!

(Charles Lutwidge Dodgson: Pillow Problems and A Tangled Tale, 1885, p. XV;
see also: Life & Letters. Bulletpoints not by Dodgson.)


As any human, Carroll/Dodgson was battling with all kind of temptations. As we know, speculations about possible temptations in his private life keep feeding the pop culture Carroll debate since the 1930s. The controversy is marginalizing the religious conflicts which the Reverend Dodgson was struggling with. I think that one of these serious conflicts was Charles Darwin’s challenge to fundamental religious beliefs. Darwin’s discoveries surely had (and still have) the potential to uproot the firmest faith in various religions.

In the title of the book [Pillow-Problems, 2nd edition], the words “sleepless nights” have been replaced by “wakefull hours”.
        This last change has been made in order to allay the anxiety of friends, who have written to me to express their sympathy in my broken-down state of health, believing that I am a sufferer of chronic “insomnia”, and that it is a remedy for that exhausting malady that I have recommended mathematical calculation.
        The title was not, I fear, wisely chosen; and it certainly was liable to suggest a meaning I did not intend to convey, viz. that my “nights” are often wholly “sleepless”. This is by no means the case: I have never suffered from “insomnia”: and the over-wakeful hours, that I have had to spend at night, have often been simply the result of the over-sleepy hours I have spent during the preceding evening! Nor is it as a remedy for wakefulness that I have suggested mathematical calculation: but as a remedy for the harassing thoughts that are apt to invade a wholly-unoccupied mind.

I believe that an hour of calculation is much better for me than half-an-hour of worry.

(Charles Lutwidge Dodgson: Pillow Problems, preface to the second edition, 1893)

Carroll openly described how he used mental mathematical work to find distraction from “harassing thoughts”.

I don’t know to which degree the illustrator Henry Holiday discussed and aligned with Carroll his choice of pictorial references in his illustrations to Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, but there is a pictorial reference to mental troubles: St. Anthony’s temptations (painting by Matthias Grünewald). In one of Holiday’s illustrations you see Colenso’s arithmetic textbook. Like Anthony, also Carroll needed lots of mental work as an distraction from sceptical, blasphemous and unholy thoughts. Anthony probably found help in the scriptures which were sacred to him. Interestingly, the Reverend Dodgson used mathematics to resist the temptations.

I saw this math textbook in Holiday’s illustration since many years. Only recently that led me to the assumption (which probably always will be just an assumption) that Holiday might have placed that book into his illustration as a hint to how Carroll used math to keep his brain busy with “some real mental work” as a “most helpful ally” in his battle against the temptations which haunted him.

By the way: Possible references in “The Hunting of the Snark” to St. Anthony and to Darwin had been addressed by Mahendra Singh before I thought about that. Mahendra and John Tufail were among my most helpful scouts during my own Snark hunt.

2020-06-11, update: 2021-01-31

I met the Snark in 2005

Before my Snark hunt started in 2008, I mainly focused on Henry Holiday’s illustration to the 5th fit in Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark. Since 2005 (then as a member of a works council specialized on mental workload issues in OHS) I used that illustration as a depiction of improvable workplace design. I also inserted the illustration into a German Wikipedia article in 2008. Probably from there it was copied into another Wikipedia article in 2012. That one again inspired a Forbes article about well-being in the workplace in 2013.

In 2008 I read Carroll’s and Holiday’s complete tragicomedy. Then I made an incidental discovery.

Pigs and a Tuba

Help! I am seeing pigs!

In some of his illustrations to Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, Henry Holiday alluded to The Image Breakers, a 16th century print made by Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder. I see at least one of Holiday’s pigs in that print (spoiler) and also something which Henry Holiday could have turned into a Moritz bass tuba.

2019 is the year of the pig. Does that make me see pigs everywhere, or did Henry Holiday see that pig in Gheeraert’s print too?

Actually, I have to confess that I saw the pig already in 2009. But I didn’t mark it then:

Happy Chinese New Year


Update 2019-06-11

The Bard


Bycatch (found in 2013) from my Snark hunt:


2017-09-26, update: 2018-05-26

The Beaver’s Lesson

The Butcher reasoning with the Beaver.

This is the illustration (partially inspired by various works of other artists) to the chapter The Beaver’s Lesson.