Oxford, £9.99 Order for £8.99 (free p&p)from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030

The Alice Behind Wonderland, By Simon Winchester

A picture of the original young Alice

Lewis Carroll's two Alice tales are enthralling for grown-ups as well as children – but is there also something adult, as in "adult magazines", lurking in the background? Eyebrows have long been raised at its author's hobby, of taking nude photographs of little girls.

Some of Simon Winchester's previous books have depicted aspects of the 19th century: the Krakatoa eruption, a murderous contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary and a geologist who showed that Genesis was not Gospel truth. He now turns, in this intriguing and enjoyable book, to the "uneasy resonances" of a "disturbing" 1858 portrait of a six-year-old "lazing coquettishly" with "a winsome look". Dressed as a beggar-maid in a very off-the-shoulder dress, Alice Liddell was to become the eponymous heroine of two of our greatest children's books.

Having summoned up the spectre of something nasty in the shrubbery, however, Winchester exorcises it by declaring Charles Dodgson (Carroll was his alias) to be as innocent as the children he snapped. It was a case of his having inner child, not an inner dirty old man. The retiring Oxford mathematician was thought to have honourable designs on Alice's older sister.

Those of us who have enjoyed reading the Alice books to our own children will be glad to have that cleared up, although it might seem to sabotage a slim volume by tipping its central theme down a rabbit hole. Fortunately, Winchester saves the day by using the evocative photo as a way into the development of photography and the part it played in the creation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, by bringing Carroll into contact with the family of his boss, Henry Liddell, the dean of Christ Church.

He met the Liddell children just as he had bought his first camera and his writing career was taking off. When she was 10, Alice joined a boating trip up the Isis, during which he extemporised a subterranean yarn about her, with himself as the Dodo. His words would have been lost on the Oxford air – but Alice asked if he would write them down for her. A year and a half later, he gave her Alice's Adventures Underground. After a further year it was expanded and published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. It was absolutely brilliant or, as the Jabberwocky would have put it, brillig.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk