mano.gif (1652 bytes)History of Surrealism

mano.gif (1652 bytes)André Breton, What is Surrealism?

mano.gif (1652 bytes)Surrealist movement in literature and the fine arts

mano.gif (1652 bytes)Conceptual Characteristics

mano.gif (1652 bytes)Influences of Surrealism in another countries




mano.gif (1652 bytes)André Breton’s Opinion about Lewis Carroll

mano.gif (1652 bytes)Children’s Literature

mano.gif (1652 bytes)Nonsense

mano.gif (1652 bytes)Lewis Carroll: biography

mano.gifLewis Carroll’s book: Alice in Wonderland




At the end of the First War World, Tristan Tzara, leader of the Dada movement, wanted to attack society through scandal. He believed that a society that creates the monstrosity of war does not deserve art, so he decided to give it anti-art–not beauty but ugliness. Tzara wanted to offend the new industrial commercial world–the bourgeoisie. In fact, the bourgeoisie embraced this "rebellious" new art so thoroughly that anti-art became Art, the anti-academy the Academy, the anti-conventionalism the Convention, and the rebellion through chaotic images, the status quo.

One group of artists, however, did not embrace this new art. The Surrealist movement gained momentum after the Dada movement. It was lead by Andre Breton. The artists in the movement researched and studied the works of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. Some of the artists in the group expressed themselves in the abstract tradition, while others, expressed themselves in the symbolic tradition.

Michael S. Bell, through his research, realised that these two forms of expression formed two distinct trends of surrealism with marked differences: Automatism and Veristic Surrealism.

  • The Automatists

These artists refer to a suppression of consciousness in favour of the subconscious. This group, being more focused on feeling and less analytical, understood Automatism to be the automatic way in which the images of the subconscious reach the conscience. Images should not be burdened with "meaning."

The Automatists saw the academic discipline of art as intolerant of the free expression of feeling, and felt form, which had dominated the history of art, was a culprit in that intolerance. These artists also linked scandal, insult and irreverence toward the elite's with freedom.

  • The Veristic Surrealists

This group interpreted Automatism to mean allowing the images of the subconscious to surface undisturbed so that their meaning could then be deciphered through analysis. They wanted to represent these images as a link between the abstract spiritual realities, and the real forms of the material world. The object stood as a metaphor for an inner reality.

Veristic Surrealists, saw academic discipline and form as the means to represent the images of the subconscious with veracity; as a way to freeze images. They hoped to find a way to follow the images of the subconscious until the conscience could understand their meaning.

The Veristic Surrealist quest is none other than the one described by Breton as, "The cause of freedom and the transformation of man's consciousness." In the works of surrealists we find the legacy of Bosch, Brueguel, William Blake, the Symbolic painters of the Nineteenth Century, the perennial questioning of philosophy, the search of psychology, and the spirit of mysticism.

Because it was ignored and rejected by the new academy of modernism, Veristic Surrealism in its evolution has become a new art.

Contemporary Veristic Surrealists have worked for the past fifty years in silent seclusion.

It would take fifty years for artists born after the Second World War to discover how right this method is for helping us all understand the architecture of the psyche.

In 1941, Surrealism was declared dead.




I now feel free to attempt to explain what surrealism is. A certain immediate ambiguity contained in the word surrealism, is, in fact, capable of leading one to suppose that it designates I know not what transcendental attitude, while, on the contrary it expresses - and always has expressed for us - a desire to deepen the foundations of the real, to bring about an even clearer and at the same time ever more passionate consciousness of the world perceived by the senses. The whole evolution of surrealism, shows that our unceasing wish, has been at all costs to avoid considering a system of thought as a refuge, to pursue our investigations with eyes wide open to their outside consequences since the conclusion of what one may term the purely intuitive epoch of surrealism (1919-25), we have attempted to present interior reality and exterior reality as two elements in process of unification, or finally becoming one. This final unification is the supreme aim of surrealism: interior reality and exterior reality being, in the present form of society, in contradiction, we have assigned to ourselves the task of confronting these two realities with one another on every possible occasion, of refusing to allow the pre-eminence of the one over the other, yet not of acting on the one and on the other both at once, for that would be to suppose that they are less apart from one another than they are acting on these two realities not both at once, then, but one after the other, in a systematic manner, allowing us to observe their reciprocal attraction and interpenetration and to give to this interplay of forces all the extension necessary for the trend of these two adjoining realities to become one and the same thing.

I consider that one can distinguish two epochs in the surrealist movement: a purely intuitive epoch, and a reasoning epoch. The first can summarily be characterised by the belief expressed during this time in the all-powerfulness of thought, considered capable of freeing itself by means of its own resources. The definition of surrealism that has passed into the dictionary, a definition taken from the Manifesto of 1924. I thought it indispensable, in 1924, to define Surrealism once and for all:

SURREALISM, n. Pure psychic automatism, by which it is intended to express, verbally, in writing, or by other means, the real process of thought. Thought's dictation, in the absence of all control exercised by the reason and outside all aesthetic or moral preoccupations.

ENCYCL. Philos. Surrealism rests in the belief in the superior reality of certain forms of association neglected heretofore; in the omnipotence of the dream and in the disinterested play of thought. It tends definitely to do away with all other psychic mechanisms and to substitute itself for them in the solution of the principal problems of life. Have professed absolute surrealism: Messrs. Aragon, Baron, Boiffard, Breton, Carrive, Crevel, Delteil, Desnos, Eluard, Gérard, Limbour, Malkine, Morise, Naville, Noll, Péret, Picon, Soupault, Vitrac.

These till now appear to be the only ones.... Were one to consider their output only superficially, a goodly number of poets might well have passed for surrealists, beginning with Dante and Shakespeare at his best. In the course of many attempts I have made towards an analysis of what, under false pretences, is called genius, I have found nothing that could in the end be attributed to any other process than this.

There followed an enumeration that will gain, I think, by being clearly set out thus:

. . . Heraclitus is surrealist in dialectic. . . .

Swift is surrealist in malice.

Sade is surrealist in sadism. . . .

Baudelaire is surrealist in morals.

Rimbaud is surrealist in life and elsewhere. . . .

Carroll is surrealist in nonsense. . . .

Picasso is surrealist in cubism. . . .


Moreover, the Manifesto also contained a certain number of practical recipes, entitled: ``Secrets of the Magic Surrealist Art,'' such as the following:

Let your state of mind be as passive and receptive as possible. Forget your genius, talents. Repeat to yourself that literature is pretty. Write quickly without any previously chosen subject. The first sentence will come of itself; and this is self-evidently true.

During the period under review, surrealist activity remained strictly confined to its first theoretical premise, continuing all the while to be the vehicle of that total ``non-conformism''. Surrealist activity, was forced to ask itself what were its proper resources and to determine their limits; it was forced to adopt a precise attitude, exterior to itself, in order to continue to face whatever exceeded these limits. Surrealist activity at this moment entered into its reasoning phase. It suddenly experienced the necessity of crossing over the gap that separates absolute idealism from dialectical materialism.

In 193(6), surrealism owes it to itself to defend the postulate of the necessity of change. The development of surrealism throughout the decade of its existence is a function of the unrolling of historical realities as these may be speeded up between the period of relief which follows the conclusion of a peace and the fresh outbreak of war. It is also a function of the process of seeking after new values in order to confirm or invalidate existing ones.

Surrealism then was securing expression in all its purity and force. The freedom it possesses is a perfect freedom in the sense that it recognises no limitations exterior to itself.

After years of endeavour and perplexities, the surrealist idea recovered in the Second Manifesto all the brilliancy of which events had vainly conspired to despoil it.

Surrealism has spread like wildfire not only in art but in life. It has provoked new states of consciousness and overthrown the walls beyond which it was immemorially supposed to be impossible to see.

Let it be clearly understood that for us, surrealists, the interests of thought can not cease to go hand in hand with the interests of the working class, and that all attacks on liberty, all fetters on the emancipation of the working class and all armed attacks on it cannot fail to be considered by us as attacks on thought likewise.




Surrealism, movement in visual art and literature, flourished in Europe between World Wars I and II. Surrealism grew principally out of the earlier Dada movement, which before World War I produced works of anti-art that deliberately defied reason; but Surrealism’s emphasis was not on negation but on positive expression. The movement represented a reaction against what its members saw as the destruction wrought by the "rationalism" that had guided European culture and politics in the past and that had culminated in the horrors of World War I.

According to the major spokesman of the movement, the poet and critic André Breton, who published "The Surrealism Manifesto" in 1924, Surrealism was a means of reuniting conscious and unconscious realms of experience so completely that the world of dream and fantasy would be joined to the everyday rational world in "an absolute reality, a surreality". Drawing heavily on theories adapted from Sigmund Freud, Breton saw the unconscious as the wellspring of the imagination. He defined genius in terms of accessibility to this normally untapped realm, which, he believed, could be attained by poets and painters alike.

  • Surrealist Literature

Besides Breton, many of the most distinguished French writers of the early 20th century were at one time connected with the movement: Paul Eluard, Louis Aragon, René Crevel, and Philippe Soupault. Pure surrealist writers used automatism as a literary form, they wrote whatever words came into their conscious mind and regarded these words as inviolable. They did not alter what they wrote, as that would constitute an interference with the pure act of creation. The authors felt that this free flow of thought would establish a rapport with the subconscious mind of their readers. This purely psychic automatism was modified later by the conscious use, especially in painting, of symbols derived from Freudian psychology. Like their forerunners, the Dadaists, the surrealists broke accepted rules of work and personal conduct in order to liberate their sense of inner truth. The movement spread all over the world and flourished in America during World War II (1939-1945), when André Breton was living in New York City.

    • In the poetry of Breton, Paul Éluard, Pierre Reverdy, and others, Surrealism manifested itself in a juxtaposition of words that was startling because it was determined not by logical but by psychological thought processes. We notice a progressive abandonment of narrative themes, of description and of interest for musical elements, and a reduction of poem to lyrical thing. The image is considered nucleus of poetic elaboration and it will try to achieve a "pure poetry" eliminating all rhetoric and methodology accumulated by tradition. A new type of metaphor establish based on no rational associations but emotional or intuitive associations.
    • In the theatre, we notice the existence of an experimental theatre with psychological, moral and ideological problems created by the author. We can observe two phenomenon: the disappearance of theatre of customs and the attempt of using scenographic resources to return its condition of spectacle to theatre.
    • In the novel, there are new technical features such as "tempo lento", "interior monologue", the plural approach of a same event to give major objetivity... Moreover, characters are in limit situations.
    • In the essay, there is an important development by cultural requirements.
  • Surrealism in Art

In painting and sculpture surrealism is one of the leading influences of the 20th century. It claimed as its ancestors in the graphic arts such painters as the Italian Paolo Uccello, the British poet and artist William Blake, and the Frenchman Odilon Redon. In this century it also admired, and included in its exhibitions, works by the Italian Giorgio de Chirico, the Russian Marc Chagall, the Swiss Paul Klee, the French artists Marcel Duchamp and Francis Picabia, and the Spaniard Pablo Picasso, none of whom was ever a member of the surrealist group. From 1924 the German Max Ernst, the Frenchman Jean Arp, and the American painter and photographer Man Ray were among its members. They were joined for a short time about 1925 by the Frenchman André Masson and the Spaniard Joan Miro, who remained members for some time but were too individualistic as painters to submit to the strong leadership of André Breton, who exercised final authority over the movement. Later members of the group included the French-American Yves Tanguy, the Belgian Rene Magritte, and the Swiss Alberto Giacometti. The Catalan painter Salvador Dali joined the surrealist movement in 1930 but was later denounced by most surrealists because he was held to be more interested in commercializing his art than in surrealist ideas. Although for a time he was the most talked-about member of the group, his work is so idiosyncratic as to be only partially typical of surrealism.

Surrealist painting exhibits great variety of content and technique. That of Dalí, for example, consists of more or less a direct and photographic transcription of dreams, deriving its inspiration from the earlier dreamlike paintings of de Chirico. Arp's sculptures are large, smooth, abstract forms, and Miró, a formal member of the group for a short time only, employed, as a rule, fantastic shapes, which included deliberate adaptations of children's art and which also had something in common with the designs used by the native Catalan artists to decorate pottery. The Russian-American painter Pavel Tchelichew, while not a member of the surrealists, created surrealist images in his paintings as well as in his numerous ballet designs. An American offshoot of the surrealist movement is the group of artists known as the magic realists, under the leadership of the painter Paul Cadmus. The group also includes George Tooker, Ivan Le Lorraine Albright, Philip Evergood, Peter Blume, and Louis Guglielmi. The assemblage sculptor Joseph Cornell began as an acknowledged surrealist, but later pursued his highly individual art. The surrealists' attitude toward free creation was a major influence on the beginnings of abstract expressionism in New York City.




This trend pretends to overpass the fragmented and false reality that our logic presents us, our moral and our aesthetic ruled in order to go further than a superior reality.

It pretends to refuse all convictions and to make that part of man which generally does not express surge: the unconcious.

Nature seems hostile and unfortunate.

It is influenced by Freud's psychoanalysis.

It makes the unconcious surge.

It presents a fragmented and false reality.

It detests all the concious.

The main topic: dreams.

Surrealism is a psychic automatism by which we propose ourselves to express the real functioning of thought in the absence of all control exerciced by reason out of all aesthetic and moral preocupation, be it written, verbally, or in any other form.




Surrealism, which flourished in France, expanded by all world. There was surrealist groups in Belgium, England, Spain, Japan, Sweden...

  • Surrealism in Spain

In Spain, we find 27th generation. The surrealist group of Paris influenced in many members of this generation. Works such as About angels, Poet in New York or Destruction or Love show surrealist influences. But it had never full adhesion to Surrealism. The only poet considered surrealist was Juan Larrea, who created a magazine called – Favourable, Paris, Poem – and he wrote almost all his work in French.

Another group was "Surrealist Faction of Tenerife".

  • Surrealism in Catalonia

We find Salvador Dalí, Lluís Montanyà and Sebastià Gasch who published "Yellow Manifesto". In this Manifesto, some names of authors were linked with this movement such as Picasso, Chirico, Miró, Arp, Tzara, Cocteau, García Lorca, Stravinski, Breton, etc.

  • Surrealism in Spanish America

The youngs do not distinguish between futurism, surrealism... The names of precursor are in Mexico, Peru, Argentina and Chile such as José Juan Tablada, José Mará Eguren, Oliverio Girondo, Vicente Huidobro respectively. Between Surrealist painters are Matta, Lam and Cerzo. And some surrealist poets are César Moro, Adolfo Westphalen, Braulio Arenas, Enrique Gómez-Correa, Jorge Cáceres, Enrique Molina, Aldo Pellegrini, Teófilo Cid and Magloire-Saint-Aude.

  • Surrealism in England

England developed the trends of the 20th Century after World War I. During those years, the novel was inside limits of realism and traditional narrative technique.

After World War I, we find important authors like D. H. Lawrence, James Joyce, Aldous Huxley...

Some surrealist precursors were Swift, Poe, Baudelaire, Alfred Jarry and Lewis Carroll.




That an Anglican pastor should also be a distinguished professor of mathematics and a specialist in logic: no more than this is needed for nonsense to make its appearance in literature or at very least for it to make a spectacular reappearance (Lewis Carroll's most astounding poems show a constant, no doubt unsuspected filiation with certain "incoherent" poems of the French thirteenth century, known as fantasies, and with which only the name of Philippe de Beaumanoir has been associated). In Lewis Carroll, "nonsense" draws its importance from the fact that it constitutes in and of itself the vital solution to a profound contradiction between the acceptance of faith and the exercise of reason, on the one hand, and on the other between a keen poetic awareness and rigorous professional duties. The characteristic of this subjective solution is to be coupled with an objective solution, one that is precisely poetic in nature: the mind, placed before any kind of difficulty, can find an ideal outlet in the absurd. Accommodation to the absurd readmits adults to the mysterious realm inhabited by children. Children's games (beginning with simple "word games"), as a lost means of reconciling action and reverie so as to achieve organic satisfaction, thus regain their dignity and validity. The forces that preside over "realism," infantile animism, and artificialism, the forces that militate for unconstrained morals, and that go into remission between the ages of five and twelve, are not immune to a systematic recuperation that threatens the harsh, inert world in which we are told we must live. Right hand closed as if on the knob of the exit (or entrance) door, though actually closed on an orange, stands a little girl whom the poet Lewis Carroll--in reality the honourable Mr. Dodgson, who is hiding behind this pseudonym--has just led before a mirror and who, in an attempt to understand how she can see her-self holding the fruit in her left hand while still feeling it in her right, supposes she is holding it in her right hand "through the looking glass." To be sure, this foreshadows an utterly authentic "against the grain." No one can deny that in Alice's eyes a world of oversight, inconsistency, and, in a word, impropriety hovers vertiginously around the centre of truth.

Pink humour? Black humour? It's hard to decide: "The Hunting of the Snark," Mr. Aragon has noted, "appeared in the same year as Maldoror and A Season in Hell. In the shameful chains of those days of massacre in Ireland, of nameless oppression in factories where the ironic accounting of pleasure and pain preached by Bentham was established, while from Manchester rose in defiance the theory of free trade, what had become of human freedom? It rested entirely between the frail hands of Alice, in which this curious man had placed it."

It seems no less abusive to present Lewis Carroll as a "political" rebel and to impute direct satirical intentions to his work. It is pure and simple deceit to suggest that the substitution of one regime for another could put an end to this sort of need. The fact is, the child will always set a fundamental opposition against those who try to mould him, and then diminish him, by arbitrarily limiting his magnificent field of experience. Anyone who has preserved a sense of revolt will recognise in Lewis Carroll their first teacher in the art of playing hooky.




Children’s Literature first clearly emerged as a distinct and independent form of literature in the second half of the 18th century, before which it had been at best only in an embryonic stage. During the 20th century, however, its growth has been so luxuriant as to make defensible its claim to be regarded with the respect -though perhaps not the solemnity- that is due any other recognised branch of literature.

Definition of terms:

"Children" : All potential or actual young literates, front the instant they can with joy leaf through a picture book or listen to a story read aloud, to the age perhaps 14 or 15, may be called children. Thus "children" includes "young people". Two considerations blur the definition. Today’s young teenager is an anomaly : his environment pushes him toward a precocious maturity. Thus, though he may read children’s books, he also, and increasingly, reads adult books. Second, the child survives in many adults. As a result, some children’s books (e.g. Lewis Carroll’s Alicein Wonderland, A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-pooh, and, at one time, Munro Leaf’s Story of Ferdinand) are also read widely by adults.

 "Literature" : In the term children’s literature the more important word is literature. For the most part, the adjective imaginative is to be felt as preceding it. It comprises that vast, expanding territory recognizably staked out for a junior audience, which does not mean that it is not also intended for seniors. Adults admittedly make up part of its population: children’s book are written, selected for publication, sold, bought, reviewed, and often read aloud by grown-ups. To it may be added five colonies or dependencies . first, "appropriated" adults books satisfying two conditions –they must generally be read by children and they must have sharply affected the course of children’s literature (Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe, Jonathan Swift‘s Gulliver’s Travels); second books the audiences of which seem not to have been clearly conceived by their creators but that are now fixed stars in the child’s literary firmament (Marx Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn); third, picture books and easy-to-read stories commonly subsumed under the label of literature but qualifying as such only by relaxed standards; fourth, first quality children’ s versions of adult classics; finally, the domain of once oral "folk" material that children have kept alive.


Children’s literature, while a tributary of the literary mainstream, offers its own identifiable, semidetached history. In part it is the issue of certain traceable social movements, of which the "discovery" of the child is the most salient. It is independent to the degree that, while it must meet many of the standards of the adult literature, it has also developed aesthetic criteria of its own by which is may be judged. According to some of its finest practitioners, it is independent, too, as the only existing literary medium enabling certain things to be said that would otherwise remain unsaid or unsayable. The nature of its audience sets it apart; it is often read, especially by pre-12-years-olds, in a manner suggesting trance, distinct from that of adult reading. Universally diffused among literate peoples, it offers a rich array of genres, types, and themes, some resembling grown-up progenitors, many peculiar to itself. Its "style, sensibility, vision" range over a spectrum wide enough to span matter-of-fact realism and tenuous mysticism.

 A self-aware literature flows from a recognition of its proper subject matter. The proper subject matter of children’s literature, apart from informational or didactic works, is children. More broadly, it embraces the whole content of the child’s imaginative world and that of his daily environment, as well as certain ideas and sentiments characteristic of it. The population of this world is made up not only of children themselves but of animated objects, plants, even grammatical and mathematical abstractions; toys, dolls, and puppets; real, chimerical, and invented animals; miniature or magnified humans; spirits of grotesques of wood, water, air, fire, and space; supernatural and fantasy creatures; figures of fairy tale, myth, and legend; imagined familiars and Doppel-gänger; and grown-ups as seen through the child’s eyes.

 It is generally that, both as a person worthy of special regard and as an idea worthy of serious contemplation, the child began to come into his own in the second half of the 18th century. His emergence, as well as that of a literature suited to his needs, is linked to many historical forces, among them the development of Enlightenment thought; the rise of the middle class; the beginnings of the emancipation of women –children’s literature, unlike that for grown-ups, is in large measure a distaff product; and Romanticism, with is minor strands of the cult of the child and of genres making a special appeal to the young. Yet, with all these forces working for the child, he still might not have emerged had it not been for a few unpredictable geniuses; William Blake, Edward Lear, Lewis Carroll, George McDonald, Louisa May Alcott, Mark Twain, Collodi, Hans Christian Andersen. But, once tentatively envisaged as an independing being, a literature proper to him could also be envisaged. And so in the mid-18th century, what may be defined as children’s literature was at last developing.

 Children’s literature appears later than adult and grows more slowly. Only after the trail has been well blazed does it make use of new techniques, whether of composition of illustration. As for content, only after World War II did it exploit certain realistic themes and attitudes, turning on race, class, war, and sex, that had been part of general literature at least since the 1850s. This tardiness may be due to the child’s natural conservatism.

 The tempo of development varies sharply from country to country and from region to region. It is plausible that England should create a complex children’s literature, while a less developed region might not. Less clear is why the equally high cultures of France and England should be represented by unequal literatures.

 General feature is the creative tension resulting from a constantly shifting balance between two forces: that of the pupil-schoolroom and that of the imagination. The first force may take on many guises. It may stress received religious or moral doctrine, thus generating the Catholic children’s literature of Spain or the moral tale of Georgian and early Victorian England. It may emphasise nationalist or patriotic motives, or much Soviet production. Or its concern may be pedagogical, the imparting of "useful" informatior, frequently sugar coated in narrative or dialogue. Whatever its form, it is distinguishable from the shaping spirit of imagination, which ordinarily embodies itself in children’s games and rhymes, the fairy tale, the fantasy, animal stories such as Kipling’s Jungle Books, nonsense, nonmoral poetry, humour, or the realistic novel conceived as art rather than admonition.

 Children’s literature designed for entertainment rather than self-improvement, aiming at emotional expansion rather than acculturation, usually develops late. Alice in Wonderland, the first supreme victory of the imagination did not appear until 1865. Frequently the literature of delight has underground sources of nourishment and inspiration: oral tradition, nursery songs, and the folkish institutions of the chapbook and the penny romance.

 While the didactic and the imaginative are conveniently thought of as polar, they need not always be inimical. Little Woman and Robinson Crusoe are at once didactically moral and highly poetical. Nevertheless, many of the acknowledge classics in the field, from Alice to the Hobbit, incline to fantasy, which is less true of literature for grow-ups.

 The English have often confessed a certain reluctance to say good-bye to childhood. This curios national trait, baffling to their continental neighbours, many lie at the root of their supremacy in children’s literature. Yet it remains a mystery.

 But, if it cannot be accounted for, it can be summed up. From the critic’s vantage point, the English must be credited with having originated or triumphed in more children’s genres than any other country. They have excelled in the school story, two solid centuries of it, from Sarah Fielding’s The Governess; or The Little Female Academy to C. Day Lewis’Otterbury Incident, including such as Kipling Stevenson, Lewis Carroll, McDonald,Jonathan Swift...

 The social historian, surveying the same field from a different angle, would point out that the English were the first people in the history to develop not only a self-conscious, independent children’s literature but also the commerciant institutions capable of supporting and furthering it. He would note the strinking creative swing between didacticism and delight. He would detect the sources in ballads, chapbooks, nurses’ rhymes, and street literature that have at critical moments prompte the imagination. What would perhaps interest him most is the way in which children’s literature reflects, over more than two centuries, the child’s constantly shifting position in society.

 In 1863 there appeared The Water-Babies by Charles Kingley. In this fascinating, yet repulsive. "Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby", an unctuous cleric and a fanciful poet, uneasily inhabiting one body, collaborated. The Water-Babies may stand as a rough symbol of the bumpy passage from the moral tale to a lighter, airier world. Only two years later that passage was achieved in a masterpiece by an Oxford mathematical don, Lewis Carroll. Alice’s in Wonderland improved none delighted all. It opened what from a limited perspective seems the Golden Age of English children’s literature, a literature in fair part created by Scotsmen: George Mcdonald, Andrew Lang, Stevenson, Grahame, Barrie.

 The age is characterized by a literary level decisively higher than that previously achieved; the creation of characters not permanent dwellers in the child’s imagination; the exaltation of the imagination in the work of Carroll, Mcdonald, Lofting, Stevenson...; the establishment of the art fairy tale; the transmutation and popularization, of traditional fairy tales from all sources; the development of a quasi-realistic school in the fiction; and, furthering this trend, a growing literary population of real, or at least more real, children.

During these 80 years a vast amount of trash and treacle was produced. What will be remembered is the work of a few dozen creative writers who applied to literature for children standards as high as those ordinarily applied to mainstream literature.

If the contemporary wood cannot be seen for the trees, it is in part because the number of trees has grown so great. The profusion of English, as of children’s books in general, makes judgement difficult. Livelier merchandising techniques, the availability of cheap paperbacks, improved library services, serious and even distinguished reviewing. Slick transformation formulas facilitate the rebirth of books in other guises: radio, television, records, films, digests, cartoon versions,. Such processes may also create new child audiences, but that these readers are undergoing a literary experience is open to doubt.




English voice that means nonsense. Literary modality, especially of the literature in English, in which what is said is perfectly clear, but it lacks all sense.
Although often they are assimilated to the nonsense texts that are characterized by their extravagancy, when not for an enormous exaggeration, in rigor he/she can only call this way himself a type of totally negative, opaque expression that excludes the emotions, the humorous purposes and, in having summarized bills, any meaning class.
The nonsense that has had two big farmers as Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll in the English literature (although their influence reaches much more extensive environments, and it is perceptible, for example in Joyce), it has been defined as the narrow existent fringe between the humor and the surrealism.




"Lewis Carroll" (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), the author of Alice in Wonderland, of mathematical treatises, and of a quantity of stories and poems, serious and humorous, was the son of a churchman and the eldest of eleven children. His mother and father were first cousins, and unusually religious. At the time of his birth, his father, Dr. Dodgson, was the vicar of Daresbury, Cheshire (he later was presented with the Crown living of Croft, Yorkshire, and subsequently became Archdeacon of Richmond and one of the Canons of Ripon Cathedral), and was a distinguished scholar whose favorite study was mathematics.

Daresbury was isolated, but there was no want of children, so Charles invented games to amuse himself and his brothers and sisters. He made a train with railway stations in the Rectory garden; he did conjuring in a brown wig and a long white robe; he made a troupe of marionettes and a stage with the aid of the family and a village carpenter; he wrote all the plays for it himself, and manipulated the strings. The most popular was The Tragedy of King John. He also made pets of snails and toads, and tried to promote modern warfare among earthworms by giving them small pieces of clay pipe for weapons.

Until he was twelve his father educated him, and then he went to Mr. Tate's school at Richmond. He was the butt of a few jokes as a new boy; later, however, he became the champion of the weak and small, and earned the reputation of "a boy who knew how to use his fists in a righteous cause." He contributed one story to the school magazine, probably a mystery, called "The Unknown One," which is unknown. Dr. Tate wrote to Dr. Dodgson that Charles had "a very uncommon share of genius," and "you may fairly anticipate for him a bright career." From Richmond he went to Rugby under Dr. Tate, and again acquitted himself more than creditably of his work. He always 'went home with one or more prizes." Indeed, the whole of his academic career was an endless series of excellent marks, prizes, and congratulations.

In the holidays between 1845 and 1850 he edited a number of magazines for his own amusement; the most entertaining of these was The Rectory Umbrella, which he illustrated as well as wrote. In this were the first nonsense rhymes and humorous drawings. "Seldom," says Walter De La Mare, 'has any child shown himself so clearly the father-to-be of the man."

On May 23, 1850, he matriculated at Christ Church College, Oxford, his father's college; in January the following year he became a resident of that college, and "from that day to the hour of his deathÑa period of forty-seven yearsÑhe belonged to 'the House,' never leaving it for any length of time. . ." Again he distinguished himself with first class honors in mathematics, second class in classics, and the Butler Scholarship. He wrote, "I am getting tired of being congratulated on various subjects; there seems to be no end of it. If I had shot the Dean I could hardly have had more said about it." After receiving his B.A. degree he was made "Master of the House" and sub-librarian. According to the terms of the scholarship, or studentship, he was to remain unmarried and proceed to holy orders. At this time, 1855, he began contributing poems and stories to The Comic Times, until its editor, Edmund Yates, founded The Train. It was Yates who chose from three names Dodgson submitted the nom de plume Lewis Carroll, and Lewis Carroll was first signed to a poem, "Solitude," which appeared in The Train in 1856.

The year 1855 was eventful; he received the further appointment of lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church College, a position which he held until 1881. Six years later he was ordained a deacon, but he never proceeded to priest's orders, probably because he stammered. He did, however, preach from time to time, often to the servants of the college but he enjoyed most preaching to children.

From this time until his death in 1898 the story of Lewis Carroll is the story of his literary work, of his child friends, of his hobbies and inventions, and the story of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, mathematician, lecturer, and scholar, is secondary. (A trip to Russia with Dr. Liddon in 1867 was the only real interruption in the quiet routine of his life. The Russian Journal is his diary of this trip.)

On July 4, 1862, Lewis Carroll wrote in his diary, "I made an expedition up the river to Godstowe with the three Liddells, we had tea on the bank there, and did not reach Christ Church till half-past eight." Somewhat later he added, "on which occasion I told them the fairy tale of Alice's Adventures Underground, which I undertook; to write out for Alice." The Liddells were the daughters of the dean of Christ Church College. Alice, the second daughter, lived to celebrate the centenary of Carroll's birth. Subsequently the book was called Alice's Hours in Elfland, but when it appeared in 1865 it was Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The first edition both Tenniel, the illustrator, and Carroll condemned because the pictures were printed poorly. Some of these 2000 copies were given by Carroll to hospitals and institutions where he thought the book might be enjoyed and some were sold in America. It was six years later that Through the Looking Glass was published.

In the meantime Carroll had settled down in a spacious apartment on the northwest corner of Tom Quad, where he remained the rest of his life, and where he had a photographic studio. Here he made portraits of a great many of the celebrities of his day, as well as of his child friends. The pictures are clear and sharp and altogether remarkable for their time. It was here that Carroll did a great deal of entertaining. He made charts of where his guests sat at table, and kept track of menus in his diary, so that "people would not have the same dishes too frequently." He was by now a confirmed and exacting bachelor, who labeled and filed all his papers and letters; who asked perfection of the artists who illustrated his books, and even requested one of them, E. Gertrude Thomson, not to do any work for him on Sundays; who rose early every morning, and worked hard all day. But he was also the child-lover who kept " for the amusement of his child guests a large assortment of musical boxes and an organette which had to be fed with paper tunes," clockwork bears, mice, frogs, games and puzzles of all sorts.

While the fame of Lewis Carroll increased daily, Dodgson was turning out and publishing a quantity of mathematical works, but, as Harvey Darton puts it, "no one who ever wrote for children is more completely assured of unacademic immortality." Dodgson shied away from publicity, and "declined to welcome any tribute to Lewis Carroll." In fact he wrote, "Mr. C. L Dodgson. . . neither claims nor acknowledges any connection with any pseudonym or with any book not published under his own name." But Dodgson has a good deal of fun even under his own name. He ridiculed the new belfry at Christ Church in a pamphlet, he wrote skits on Oxford subjects, and published a book of parodies, mostly of Tennyson and Longfellow. He invented a system of mnemonics for remembering names and dates; poetical acrostics; a system for writing in the dark and he improved the game of backgammon. The later works of Lewis Carroll never reached the popularity of the Alice books. Sylvie and Bruno is full of the ideals and sentiments "he held most dear," though it contains also a good deal of nonsense.
Carroll was tall, thin, and dark, with delicate features, smooth skin, and "thick curly hair." He "was, at sight, a much odder figure than an effervescent country vicar" with his jerky step.

Toward the end of his life he began to have 'a very peculiar, yet not very uncommon, optical delusion, which takes the form of seeing moving fortifications." He needed rest badly, but he kept on working, though he saw fewer people, and went to the theatre (which he liked exceedingly) almost never. He knew everybody of importance: writersÑ Ruskin, Tennyson, the Rossettis; actressesÑ the Terry sisters; scientists, churchmen, and men of affairs. He died at Guilford of influenza, but his memory is appropriately kept alive by perpetual public endowment of a cot in the Children's Hospital, Great Ormond Street, London.

Carroll "was an interesting but erratic genius," as Henry Holiday, the illustrator of Svlvie and Bruno, said. He was full of ingenious ideas even in his youth, when he liked "the look of logarithms"; he wrote on horse-race betting odds; he was constantly inventing puzzles and corresponding with strangers about mathematics. He was full of a tremendous reverence for sacred subjects, and would leave a theatre if a joke on such matters was made in the play. He is almost the only male writer to have written for girls; Sylvie and Bruno was his only concession to boys, of whom he was very wary. Alice in Wonderland has been universally praised because it "changed the whole cast of children's literature, but he founded, not followed, a gracious type. . . " It was "a spiritual volcano of children's books" (Harvey Darton). Perhaps the most penetrating analysis of Alice's position in children's literature is the novelist Sir Walter Besant's remark that "it admits us into a state of being which, until it was written, was not only unexplored but undiscovered."




Dogson’s association with children grew naturally enough out of his position as an eldest son with eight younger brothers and sisters. He also suffered from a bad stammer and, like many others who suffer from the disability, found that he was able to speak naturally and easily children. It is therefore not surprising that he should begin to entertain the children of Henry George Liddell, dean of Christ Church. Alice Liddell and her sisters Lorina and Edith were not, of course, the first of Dogson’s child friends. They had been preceded or were overlapped by the children of the writer George Mcdonald, the sons of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and other various chance acquaintances. But the Liddell children undoubtedly held an especially high place in his affections. –because they were the only children in Christ Church, since only heads of houses were free both to marry and to continue in residence.

 On July 4, 1862, Dogson and his friend Robinson Duckworth, fellow of Trinity, rowed the three children up the Thames from Oxford to Godstow, picnicked on the bank, and return to the Christ Church late in the evening: "On which occasion", wrote Dogson in his diary, "I told them the fairy-tale of Alice’s Adventures Underground, which I undertook to write out for Alice". Much of the story was based on a picnic a couple of weeks earlier when they had all been caught in the rain; for some reason, this inspired Dogson to tell so much better a story than usual that both Duckworth and Alice noticed the audience, and Alice went so far as to cry, when they parted at the door of the deanery, "Oh, Mr. Dogson, I wish you would write out Alice’s adventures for me!" Dogson himself recollected in 1887.

 Dogson was able to write down the story more or less as told and added to it several extra adventures that had been told on other occasions. He illustrated it with his own crude but distinctive drawings and gave the finished product to Alice Liddell, with no thought of hearing of it again. But the novelist Henry Kingsley, while visiting the deanery, chanced to pick up from the drawing-room table, read it, and urged Mrs. Liddell to persuade the author to publish it. Dogson, honestly surprised, consulted his friend George Mcdonald, author of some of the best children’sstories of the period. Macdonald took it home to be read to his children, and his son , aged 6, declared that he "wished there were 60,000 volumes of it".

 Accordingly, Dogson revised it for publication. He cut out the more particular references to the previous picnic and added some additional stories, told to the Liddells at other times, to make up a volume of the desired length. At Duckworth’s suggestion he got an introduction to Jonh Tenniel, the Punch magazine cartoonist, whom he commissioned to make illustrations to his specification. The book was published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865.

 The book was a slow but steadily increasing success, and by the following year Dogson was already considering a sequel to it, based on further stories told to the Liddells. The result was Through the Looking –glass and What Alice Found There, a work as good as, or better than, its predecessor.

 By the time of Dogson’s death, Alice had become the most popular children’s book in England: by the time of his centenary in 1932 it was one of the most popular and perhaps the most famous in the world.

 There is no answer to the mystery of Alice’s success. Many explanations have been suggested, but, like the Mad Hatter’s riddle, they are no more an allegory; it has no hidden meaning or message, either religious, political, or psychological, as some have tried to prove; and its only undertones are some touches of gentle satire –on education for the children’s special benefit and on familiar university types, whom the Liddells may or may not have recognised. Various attempts have been made to solve the "riddle of Lewis Carroll" himself; these include the efforts to prove that his friendships with little girls were some sort of subconscious substitute for a married life, that he shown symptoms of jealousy when his favourites came to tell him that they were engaged to be married, that he contemplated marriage with some of them –notably with Alice Liddell. But there is little or no evidence to back up such theorizing. He in fact dropped the acquaintance of Alice Liddell when she was 12, as he did with most of his young friends. In the case of the Liddells, his friendship with the younger children, Rhoda and Violet, was cut short at the time of his skits on some of Dean Liddell’s Christ Church "reforms". For besides children’s stories, Dogson also produced humorous pamphlets on university affairs, which still make good reading. The best of these were collected by him as Notes by an Oxford Chiel (1874).

 Besides writing for them, Dogson is also to be remembered as a fine photographer of children and of adults as well. Dogson had an early ambition to be an artist; failing in this, he turned to photography. He photographed children in every possible costume and situation, finally making nude studies of them. But in 1880 Dogson abandoned his hobby altogether, feeling that it was taking up too much time that might be better spent. Suggestions that this sudden decision was reached because of an impurity of motive for his nude studies have been made, but again without any evidence.

 Before he had told the original tale Alice’s Adventures, Dogson had, in fact, published a number of humorous items in verse and prose and a few interior serious poems.

 Alice, the perfect creation of the logical and mathematical mind applied to the pure and unadulterated amusement of children, was struck out of him as if by chance; while making full use of his specialised knowledge, it transcends his weaknesses and remains unique.


© Copyright 1999 Mª Pilar Lorente Gil
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