JOHN TENNIEL (1820-1914)

 

The famous Victorian artist and Punch cartoonist, John Tenniel, is remembered today as the illustrator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1871). The books have been illustrated countless times but for many people the original drawings by Tenniel have never been surpassed. His images epitomise the characters in the books. Tenniel successfully captured the author’s intended vision.

Dodgson himself felt that his own draughtsmanship was not up to public gaze, and chose, with an introduction from Tom Taylor, to commission one of the most eminent illustrators of his day to illustrate Alice’s Adventures for publication.

John Tenniel was born in Kensington, London, on 28 February 1820, the youngest son of John Baptist Tenniel, of Huguenot lineage. He was a skilful artist from an early age, and later studied at the Royal Academy Schools, but became dissatisfied with the teaching there, and decided to follow a more independent line. He left for the Clipstone Street Art Society where he met his lifelong friend, Charles Keene. They jointly produced an early work entitled "Book of Beauty," a series of humorous sketches which were exhibited and subsequently sold. At the age of sixteen, he exhibited some of his early works in oils at the Suffolk Street Galleries in London. For a period of five years from the age of seventeen, he was a contributor to exhibitions at the Royal Academy. At the age of twenty he was accidentally blinded in one eye as a result of a fencing match with his father. He submitted a cartoon entitled "The Spirit of Justice" for a competition aimed at attracting artists to decorate the new Houses of Parliament, but his work was not accepted. However, in 1845 he was commissioned to paint a fresco for the House of Lords. He spent a short time in Munich to study the art of fresco in preparation for his mural painting in the House entitled, "Saint Cecilia."

Realising that paintings in oils were unlikely to bring him either fame or fortune, he decided to turn his hand to book illustration. His earliest recorded illustrations appeared in Hall’s Book of British Ballads dated 1842. He was sole illustrator for La Motte-Fouqué’s Undine in 1845. His series of black and white drawings for an edition of Aesop’s Fables were published by John Murray in 1848. His skill at drawing animals and men in dramatic situations caught the eye of Mark Lemon, editor of Punch, a magazine then in the early stages of establishing itself as a popular Victorian weekly publication of satire and humour. Richard Doyle, one of the key artists associated with the magazine resigned in 1850 leaving a vacancy which, on the suggestion of Douglas Jerrold, was filled by Tenniel. Thus began a lifelong position at the Punch Office culminating in Tenniel becoming the foremost illustrator of its pages. He contributed to volume nineteen and his first political cartoon appeared in volume twenty. Tenniel married in 1852, but sadly his wife died two years later; there were no children. He professed to have no political opinions but followed the leanings of his employers. He also declared that he never used models, or nature for the figure, or drapery, or anything else, but had a wonderful memory of observation for anything he saw. 1

Apart from his work for Punch, book and magazine illustration continued for a time. In 1859 he became a regular contributor to Once a Week where he appeared on page four of volume one and continued until his last illustrations in that publication for Shirley Brooks’ story "The Silver Cord" in volume five. He considered his drawings for another of Brooks’ novels, The Gordian Knot (1860), his worst performance as an illustrator. In 1861 he illustrated an edition of Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh, which he considered his best book illustrations.2 In 1864 he contributed to the illustrations in R. H. Barham’s The Ingoldsby Legends. He contributed to an edition of The Arabian Nights produced by the Dalziel brothers between 1863 and 1865. Then came his commission from Dodgson. He also illustrated The Mirage of Life in 1867.

M. H. Spielmann in his book The History of "Punch" quotes Tenniel’s method of producing cartoons which probably applied equally to his book illustrations: "I...make my rough sketch.... By means of tracing-paper – on which I make all alterations of composition and action I may consider necessary – I transfer my design to the wood, and draw on that. The first sketch I may, and often do, complete later on as a commission."3 In 1892, Spielmann goes on to explain that Tenniel later drew on the Chinese-whitened surface of cardboard, the image being transferred to wood by photographic processes. But in the early days, the illustration was drawn directly onto the boxwood block and then engraved by specialist hands; Joseph Swain was his engraver for the Punch illustrations, and the Dalziel brothers did many of his book illustrations. Tenniel used a specially manufactured six-H pencil, which gave a very fine and delicate line.

The process of producing a wood-block engraving took several stages.4 Tenniel probably began with a rough sketch or sketches on paper for each picture. This would indicate the size and outline of the illustration but would contain very little cross-hatching to give the characters definition. Then he would make a drawing on tracing paper of the outline and by moving this around he could make some alterations to the overall design at this stage, should this be necessary. For example, a character might be moved into a different position which probably happened with the ape in the "Dodo and the Thimble illustration." Then Tenniel made a value-study of the illustration. This gave an indication of how the picture might appear when it was engraved, but the finish was still in a rough form, and the amount of cross-hatching was still minimal. Some of these preliminary studies have survived, and in some cases, copies have been bound into special editions of the Alice books. Tenniel then transferred the outline of the value-study onto tracing paper, and this would in turn be transferred very faintly onto the prepared surface of the woodblock. Then the detailed draughtsmanship began. Tenniel finished the drawing with his six-H pencil in minute detail with all the necessary cross-hatching directly onto the surface of the woodblock ready for the engraver. Hence, his final drawing for the illustrations did not survive the process; the engraver destroyed it in the process of making the engraving. However, a number of finished drawings exist showing the detail of Tenniel’s finish with a drawing. These were drawn as commissions after the books were published; a common activity undertaken by Tenniel, and the fact that many are in reverse indicates that they were probably made using the outline value-studies as a guide, as he himself indicated.

In the next stage of the process, the responsibility of the engraver was "to translate the original drawing of an illustrator into a relief printing-surface ready for press. This often required hand-eye co-ordination of a high order. In Tenniel’s case we know that his drawings were transferred to the surface of the boxwood block by his own hand, but not all artists could manage this."5 In order to assist the transfer of the drawing onto the woodblock, its surface was often prepared using Chinese White or a mild abrasive dust which roughened the highly polished surface of the block. This gave the lead of the pencil some friction which enabled the illustrator to employ delicate stokes and fine draughtsmanship. Using a variety of tools called gravers, burins, tint-tools, scorpers, and spitstickers the engraver skilfully chiselled out areas of the surface to leave a relief image of the illustration. From this, the illustration was printed, and "once wood has been removed nothing can be put back without a great deal of difficulty and inconvenience.... A small number of Alice blocks have had alterations or repairs made to them that are in some cases detectable from the proofs which have been taken directly from the blocks."6 A plug was made to the woodblock of the Hatter at the trial scene. Part of the block was drilled out, and a small piece of boxwood was used to plug the hole so that a section of the woodblock could be re-engraved. This was, no doubt, a result of late-discussions between Tenniel and Dodgson, probably after a proof sheet had been taken directly from the block. In this case, the section showing the Hatter’s cup "with a piece bitten out" has been re-engraved.

Dodgson’s first intention was to publish the book with his own illustrations. He was encouraged to publish his manuscript by various friends. He records on 9 May 1863: "Heard from Mrs. MacDonald about ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground,’ which I had lent them to read, and which they wish me to publish."7 There was no further mention of this proposal for two months, but in that time the decision was made and Dodgson embarked on the process of arranging for the book to be published at the Clarendon Press (Oxford University Press). The Press was run by a Board of Delegates from the ranks of the University dons and in the early 1860’s the emphasis shifted from printing Bibles and learned texts to publishing books with a wider interest and readership. The Delegates included Dr. Henry Liddell and Professor Bartholomew Price. The publisher, Alexander Macmillan, who had recently moved his offices from Cambridge to London, became associated with the University Press and was appointed their Agent in 1863. The Press was organised under the general management of Thomas Combe who was responsible for the paper-mill and all activities associated with printing the books selected by the Delegates.

Early in July, Dodgson received some trial pages for the Alice book, printed at the Press. On 16 July Dodgson wrote: "Called on Mr. Combe with my first drawing on wood. Mr. Woolner was there, just beginning a bust of Mr. Combe - he looked at the drawing (a half length of the heroine) and condemned the arms, which he says I must draw from the life."8 The evidence is clear; Dodgson was copying his manuscript drawings directly onto boxwood for engraving so that these could be used in the published version of the book. However, his meeting with Thomas Woolner, one of the original members of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, a poet and sculptor, shook Dodgson’s confidence in his own ability to produce illustrations of sufficient quality. However, Dodgson was not completely convinced at this stage and proceeded with his original plan. On 20 July he travelled to London and "called on Mr. [Thomas Orlando Sheldon] Jewitt, in Camden Town, who is to do the wood-cutting for my book, and got some hints on the subject: he is going to cut the block I have drawn, improving on it a little."9 There was a note of dissatisfaction in Dodgson’s comment on his own work, but he hoped that the engraver might make amends for his lack of draughtsmanship. Dodgson met Alexander Macmillan for the first time on 19 October 1863, on a visit to see Mr. Combe. There is no indication that the Alice book was discussed at this time. Later in the year, Dodgson made the decision to find a professional illustrator for his book.

There is no doubt that Dodgson’s choice was John Tenniel. As an avid reader of Punch, Dodgson knew and admired Tenniel’s work and often cut out and kept copies of his drawings, particularly any with Shakespearean references.10 He used Tom Taylor, a contributor to Punch and later one of its editors, as intermediary, and on 25 January 1864, Dodgson wrote: "He also gave me a note of introduction to Mr. Tenniel (to whom he had before applied, for me, about pictures for Alice’s Adventures).... Then at Mr. Tenniel’s, whom I found at home: he was very friendly, and seemed to think favourably of undertaking the pictures, but must see the book before deciding."11 The text Tenniel saw before making his decision was probably the manuscript of Under Ground. There is strong evidence that Dodgson had the manuscript set in type at the University Press.12 There is no doubt that Tenniel saw Dodgson’s original drawings. In fact there is a strong correlation between Dodgson’s own illustrations and those prepared by Tenniel for the published edition; over 70% of Tenniel’s illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland are based on Dodgson’s drawings in Under Ground. "Heard from Tenniell [sic] that he consents to draw the pictures for Alice’s Adventures Under Ground"13 wrote Dodgson on 5 April 1864, and on 2 May: "Sent Tenniell [sic] the first piece of slip set up for Alice’s Adventures – from the beginning of Chap. III."14 This is probably still the manuscript for Under Ground set up in type, and thus refers to the chapter containing the enormous puppy and the caterpillar. Dodgson, in later dealings with illustrators, frequently let them begin their task by illustrating verses. In this chapter, his parody "You are old, Father William" occurs, and these were some of the first illustrations prepared by Tenniel. This eventually became Chapter V in the published book. Another procedure adopted by Dodgson for his other illustrated books was not to prepare illustrations in the order in which they finally appeared in the book. The reasons for this are not entirely clear, but he probably wanted to keep the full story line of his book a secret until the last possible moment; preserving the novelty value of the text. The preparation of a book for publication was always a dynamic process for Dodgson; he responded to advice from his illustrator and publisher, and made his own changes in the light of experience.

From this moment on, we can be sure that correspondence began in earnest between the two men, yet, sadly, all the letters from Dodgson to Tenniel about the book are missing. There is a possibility that Tenniel, once he had acted upon the contents of a letter, destroyed it. Alternatively, his correspondence may since have been disposed of, or lost. Intensive searches have failed to uncover any letters. The main sources of evidence to show the progress with the illustrations are Dodgson’s Diaries, but even here, only visits to Tenniel are recorded, such as for 30 May 1864: "Went to London by the 1. p.m. - called on Tenniell [sic], and had a talk."15 There are also visits to the University Press at Oxford; Thomas Combe, the printer, and his assistant, Henry Latham. At this time, the Diaries mention no details about the publication of Alice. Progress with the illustrations was slow. On 20 June, Dodgson wrote: "Called on Tom Taylor but he was out, then on Tenniell [sic], who has not begun the pictures yet."16 The delay was fortuitous, for Macmillan, acting as adviser and agent for the Press, suggested an important change. Dodgson wrote: "Called on Macmillan, who strongly advised my altering the size of the page of my book, and adopting that of the Water Babies.... Then called on Tenniell [sic], who agreed to the change of page."17 Another visit to Tenniel took place on 17 July 1864, but he was out, and Dodgson only saw Tenniel’s mother and sister.

In September 1864, Dodgson began a new volume of his Diaries, and used this opportunity to record the genesis of Alice’s Adventures from the moment the story was first told, adding additional notes about publication, and continuing until the book was well established with the issue of the 8th thousand in 1867. The volume begins with his entry for 13 September 1864, in which he records: "Finished drawing the pictures in the MS copy of Alice’s Adventures."18 Hence, the notion to publish the book came well before the illustrations in the manuscript were complete. The text was begun on 13 November 1862, and finished before 10 February 1863. Tenniel was approached on 25 January 1864, and he agreed to illustrate the book on 5 April 1864. Dodgson presented the manuscript to Alice Liddell on 26 November 1864.

In the meantime, work continued on the preparation of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland but the pace was slow. A month later, on 12 October 1864, Dodgson wrote: "Called on Macmillan, and had some talk about the book, but settled little.... Thence I went to Tenniel’s, who showed me one drawing on wood, the only thing he had – of Alice sitting by the pool of tears, and the rabbit hurrying away. We discussed the book, and agreed on about 34 pictures."19 The picture in question appears in Chapter II, "The Pool of Tears" at page 18. Hence, by this time Dodgson had supplied Tenniel with the earlier chapters of the book. The scene appears in Under Ground at page 13, so we do not know whether the new expanded text was completed or in use at this time.

At this stage it is likely that some of the illustrations were already with the Dalziel brothers, George (1817-1902) and Edward (1817-1905), who were commissioned to engrave the pictures. The Dalziels were assisted by two other brothers, John (1822-1869) and Thomas (1832-1906), and a sister, Margaret (1819-1894), and they had a high reputation as wood-engravers for book illustration. As engravers to Tenniel, Millais, Lear, Du Maurier, Rossetti, and many others, they cut the blocks for the Victorian children’s classics.20 The picture Tenniel showed to Dodgson in October 1864 may be the first completed picture containing an image of Alice for the book. However, it is not Tenniel’s first published image of Alice. In his illustrated title page for the bound volume of Punch, number 46, January to June 1864, Tenniel drew a prototype for Alice seen with the garlanded British Lion.

On 28 October 1864, Dodgson made another trip to Tenniel who was not at home. But he did meet Mr. (George?) Dalziel at the engravers’ workshop and saw "proofs of several of the pictures, including the four for ‘Father William,’ and (Dalziel) decidedly advised my printing from the wood-blocks."21 This advice was subsequently ignored; Dodgson chose to have electrotypes made of all the illustrations and the book was printed from these rather than the original boxwood blocks. In a letter to Macmillan dated 20 November 1864, Dodgson wrote:

I fear my little book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland cannot appear this year. Mr. Tenniel writes that he is hopeless of completing the pictures by Xmas. The cause I do not know, but he writes in great trouble, having just lost his mother, and I have begged him to put the thing aside for the present. Under these circumstances what time should you advise our aiming at for bringing out the book? Would Easter be a good time, or would it be better to get it out before then?22

Tenniel sent Dodgson the first twelve proofs for illustrations on 16 December, the day after Dodgson sent Macmillan the whole of the book in slip. Dodgson went to see Macmillan about the book on 21 December. Optimistically, they agree that binding should begin about the middle of March so that the book could be published on 1 April 1865. Tenniel was still taking his time with the illustrations. A further meeting between the two men occurred on 26 January 1865, but Dodgson did not record any progress with the illustrations. However, around this time a plan for the complete set of forty-two illustrations proposed for the book was made and a copy, in Dodgson’s hand, survives.23 This indicated the size and position of each illustration within the twelve chapters; the forty-second picture being the frontispiece. At some later stage, page numbers corresponding to the printed text were added. Each picture is described briefly with reference to the text. By now Tenniel had access to the new text because in a letter to Dodgson dated 8 March 1865, he commented on two chapters not in Under Ground; "Pig and Pepper" (Chapter VI) and "A Mad Tea-Party" (Chapter VII). Publication was still delayed. On 8 April, Dodgson noted that Tenniel was working on the 30th picture. The dimensions of the book were finally decided with Macmillan on 17 April, but this did not affect Tenniel’s drawings. On 26 May, Dodgson received a specimen copy bound in red cloth, blank all but the first page, of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Dodgson received the last three proof copies of Tenniel’s illustrations on 18 June 1865. Two days later, he sent the final marked-up sections of the text to the Press. Macmillan received copies from the Press on 27 June, and Dodgson immediately wrote asking that a copy be sent from London to Oxford so that he could present it to Alice Liddell on the anniversary of the tale being told on 4 July. Unknown to Dodgson, this first edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, acquired in early July, was to become a major event in the history of book illustration and publishing. Just over twenty copies are known to have survived making this an extremely rare first edition, and subsequently commanding extraordinarily high prices at auction.

The impending doom was not evident when Dodgson visited Macmillan to talk about the book on 7 July 1865. A week later, on 15 July, Dodgson was at the offices of Macmillan where he "wrote in twenty or more copies of Alice to go as presents to various friends."24 This probably included a presentation copy for John Tenniel. On receipt of his copy, Tenniel wrote back to Dodgson. This letter is missing, but in essence he did not approve of the printing of his illustrations in the book. Dodgson wrote on 20 July: "Called on Macmillan, and showed him Tenniel’s letter about the fairy-tale – he is entirely dissatisfied with the printing of the pictures, and I suppose we shall have to do it all again."25 Dodgson decided on a re-print of Alice on 2 August 1865.

Various writers and scholars have suggested that the faults with the 1865 Alice did not justify a re-print, but that Tenniel was returning some of the frustration he had experienced in working with Dodgson in preparing the illustrations. There is no evidence to support this idea, and subsequent letters indicate that the relationship between the two men remained friendly and harmonious. This was a typically professional relationship between two relatively conservative Victorian gentlemen. There can be no doubt that Tenniel, a man with status and a reputation to uphold as the senior illustrator at Punch, had more to lose than Dodgson, who was then an unknown author with a couple of published mathematical works to his credit. Although Dodgson provided the commission, Tenniel was not subservient in the transaction; he had the authority to exercise his opinions in the collaborative arrangement that emerged. One writer stated: "Taken together, all the evidence suggests that the Dodgson-Tenniel collaboration was by no means one-sided. Both men could be demanding, and both sensibly found ways to accommodate the other’s demands."26 The fact that Tenniel was reluctant to take on Looking-Glass has helped to fire the rumours of a tense relationship between the two men, but other circumstances need to be considered before coming to such a conclusion. There can be no doubt that the collaboration of author with illustrator was beneficial to both partners, and the lasting friendship between the two men confounds arguments of a stormy relationship.

A list of the surviving original preliminary drawings, tracings, value-studies and commissioned finished pictures helps to identify changes which were made to the illustrations for Alice’s Adventures.27 Sadly, the correspondence which gave cause and reason for the changes is missing. The list incorporates the Dalziel Brothers file-copy of all the proof wood-engravings for the Alice books which is now housed at the British Museum Print Room and contains details from a significant collection of Tenniel’s drawings at Harvard University.28 Significant changes include the composite picture of the "Mad Tea-Party" and the "Cheshire Cat" being made into two separate illustrations. This probably happened before the woodblocks were engraved. The original drawing of the "White Rabbit as the Herald" underwent some major changes before publication. The position of the scroll in the White Rabbit’s hand changed; so too was his tabard on which the "heart" decorations were reversed. The direction in which the White Rabbit is looking was also changed. Since proofs of both illustrations exist, it is clear that a new woodblock was prepared for this illustration. The first published edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was issued in late 1865, but all copies are dated 1866 on the title page.

In a letter to Alexander Macmillan dated 24 August 1866, Dodgson mentioned a "floating idea of writing a sort of sequel to Alice."29 With nothing more than a brief outline in his mind, Dodgson set about securing the services of an illustrator; this became his usual practice for all future illustrated publications. Obviously, Tenniel was his best choice. At least this would give some continuity in the illustrations, particularly as the new book included a significant number of the same characters, not least Alice herself. But Tenniel declined in the first instance, claiming pressures of work. In desperation, Dodgson tried other well-known illustrators of his day. He recorded in his Diaries an approach to another Punch artist, Richard Doyle. In January 1867 he wrote: "We left the matter unsettled for the present" and the matter remained unsettled for over a year.30 In January 1868 he noted in his Diaries that he had added a few pages to the new book, but the choice of illustrator was still open. At this stage, he had insufficient material to produce an outline for the illustrations. Some of the poems, "Jabberwocky" (first stanza, 1856) and "The Aged Aged Man" (originally "Upon the Lonely Moor," 1856), were written well before the idea for Looking-Glass took shape, but these alone would not provide a basis for an illustration plan. In April 1868, an introduction from George MacDonald provided Dodgson with a direct approach to Sir Noël Paton, the illustrator of the Water Babies. However, Paton was too ill to undertake the work. In a letter to Mrs. MacDonald dated 19 May 1868, Dodgson wrote:

Many thanks also to Mr. MacDonald for the trouble he has taken, even though in vain, in my behalf. If he is writing again to Sir Noël Paton, I should like to send my thanks to him for his kind expressions, much as I am disappointed by his declining the task. I shall try my luck again with Mr. Tenniel, and if he fails me, I really don’t know what to do. Doyle isn’t good enough (look at any of his later pictures) and Arthur Hughes has not, so far as I know, any turn for grotesque. However I haven’t quite given up hope in Tenniel yet.31

A few weeks later, on 2 June, Dodgson raised the subject of an illustrator again in a letter to Macmillan:

With regard to my unfortunate Alice II both Tenniel and Noël Paton appear to be hopeless. Have you seen the pictures in Fun signed ‘Bab’? The artist’s name, I am told is [W. S.] Gilbert: his power in grotesque is extraordinary – but I have seen no symptoms of his being able to draw anything pretty and graceful. I should be very glad if you would ascertain (without directly communicating with him, so as to commit me in any way) whether he has such a power. If so, I think he would do. Some of his pictures are full of fun.32

Macmillan sent Dodgson a copy of Gilbert’s Fairy-Tales, but Dodgson ruled him out as an illustrator for his new book because Gilbert appeared to draw only grotesques. However, later in June 1868, Tenniel finally agreed to do the pictures, "at such spare times as he can find," and Dodgson’s immediate problem was solved.33

An incident on 17 August 1868 confirmed Dodgson’s idea of Alice making a journey into Looking-Glass House, the title he was using at this time for the new Alice book. The idea came from a chance meeting with a distant cousin, Alice Raikes, on a visit to Dodgson’s Uncle Skeffington Lutwidge at Onslow Square, London. She lived next door, and Dodgson invited her to "see something rather puzzling"; the effect of holding an orange in the right-hand as viewed in a tall mirror. In her solution to the puzzle, Alice Raikes suggested that if she was on the other side of the mirror, the orange would remain in her right-hand, and not be in the left-hand as shown by her reflection. Dodgson was impressed with her answer. Alice Raikes said, many years later, that this incident gave Dodgson the idea for Looking-Glass.34 The chess-game feature of the book was probably present long before this. Dodgson played chess with Alice Liddell and her sisters many years earlier, and he, no doubt, invented chess-stories to amuse them, which were later included in the book. The chess framework of the story is unconventional, but the moves of the chess pieces are legitimate even though the White side appears to get a number of consecutive moves.

Dodgson completed the first chapter of Looking-Glass and sent it to Macmillan on 12 January 1869 to be set up in type. He went to see Tenniel in April but he recorded that no illustrations had yet been drawn for Looking-Glass. Nine months later, on a further visit to Tenniel in January 1870, Dodgson records that he saw the rough sketches for about ten pictures from Looking-Glass. Letters must have passed between the two men at this stage, but sadly, they are missing. The only outcome of these preliminary meetings and correspondence is an illustration plan for the book, which is in Dodgson’s hand.35 Dodgson and Tenniel probably discussed this at their meeting held on 12 March of that year. Dodgson wrote: "I had about two hours’ talk, and arranged about 30 pictures. Three have gone already to be cut."36 The surviving illustration plan shows that there were originally thirty-eight numbered illustrations indicated in black ink, together with the "Jabberwock" proposed as the frontispiece, and the "Wasp" illustration that Tenniel eventually did not draw. Tenniel suggested that the "Wasp" incident in the story would be worthwhile removing from the book in order to reduce the overall length, and Dodgson complied, suppressing this proposed chapter. Subsequent alterations to the plan were in violet ink (not used by Dodgson until October 1870). This confirms that the date of the plan is before October 1870 but probably not before January 1870. Dodgson may have had plans for some illustrations as early as January 1869.

During April 1870, Macmillan sent Dodgson some trial title pages for consideration. The previous month, the title used for the book was Behind the Looking-Glass and what Alice saw there. Another title considered was Looking-Glass World. These early title pages indicate Dodgson’s intention of having forty-two illustrations drawn by Tenniel in the new book to match the number of illustrations in Alice’s Adventures.37 During the first six months of 1870, Tenniel’s progress with the illustrations was slow. On 25 June 1870, the children of Lord Salisbury, the new Chancellor of the University of Oxford, visited Dodgson in his rooms at Christ Church. He took the opportunity to show them the first seven completed illustrations for Through the Looking-Glass, the title which had now been settled for the sequel, suggested to him by his friend and companion during the Russian journey, Dr. Henry Parry Liddon. Dodgson and Tenniel continued to negotiate about the illustrations. On 27 December 1870, Tenniel wrote to Dalziel:

Mr. Dodgson said something about one of the blocks – "The Chessboard Landscape" being done over again. Please send me another proof of it – he has the other – and don’t send the blocks to Messrs. Macmillan till you have heard from me.... I’ve not been able yet to "touch" the last proofs you sent.38

The "Chessboard Landscape" illustration appears on page 38 of Looking-Glass. In Tenniel’s preliminary pencil drawing, in reverse, the figure of Alice appears in the foreground.39 In the actual illustration, the figure of Alice has been removed. This may be the alteration that Dodgson decided upon. Proofs taken directly from the woodblocks were sent to both illustrator and author, and a consensus was reached before the illustrations were approved. Dodgson completed the manuscript for Looking-Glass on 4 January 1871, and nine days later he wrote: "Received from Clay slips reaching to the end of the text of the Looking-Glass. Nothing now remains to be printed but the verses at the end. The volume has cost me, I think, more trouble than the first, and ought to be equal to it in every way" and two days later Dodgson "sent the slips off to Tenniel: it all now depends upon him, whether we get the book out by Easter or not."40 The Easter publication date was too optimistic; Tenniel supplied no more illustrations for some months.

Before February 1871, Dodgson received Tenniel’s illustration for the "Jabberwock." He was pleased with the result but considered that the picture might be too frightening for some children. In order to resolve the matter he sent a printed circular letter to some friends to seek their views. A copy of the surviving circular, addressed to Mrs. Barry, and dated 15 February 1871, revealed Dodgson’s concern:

I am sending you, with this, a print of the proposed frontispiece for Through the Looking-Glass. It has been suggested to me that it is too terrible a monster, and likely to alarm nervous and imaginative children: and that at any rate we had better begin the book with a pleasanter subject.

So I am submitting the question to a number of friends, for which purpose I have had copies of the frontispiece printed off.

We have three courses open to us:

(1) To retain it as the frontispiece.

(2) To transfer it to its proper place in the book, (where the ballad occurs which it is intended to illustrate) and substitute a new frontispiece.

(3) To omit it altogether.

The last-named course would be a great sacrifice of the time and trouble which the picture has cost, and it would be a pity to adopt it unless it is really necessary.

I should be grateful to have your opinion, (tested by exhibiting the picture to any children you think fit,) as to which of these courses is the best.41

The number of circulars Dodgson printed and distributed is not known, but Collingwood suggested that about thirty of his married lady friends were consulted.42 The letter confirms the detailed consultation between author and illustrator about each illustration. In this case, the illustration plan shows that the "Jabberwock" with its caption, "Came Whiffling..." was substituted for "Alice and Knight" as the frontispiece, and so it appears in all Macmillan editions of the book.

On 25 April 1871, Dodgson wrote: "Through the Looking-Glass yet lingers on, though the text is ready, but I have only received twenty-seven pictures as yet."43 This indicated that if the pictures were drawn in the order indicated on the plan, and there is no evidence to suggest that this was the adopted scheme, then the illustrations were complete as far as Chapter V, "Wool and Water." On 4 May, Dodgson wrote: "I heard from Tenniel the other day, the welcome news that he hopes to have all the pictures done by the end of July at latest,"44 but in August the delay was still evident. Dodgson noted: "Wrote to Tenniel, accepting the melancholy, but un-alterable fact, that we cannot get Through the Looking-Glass out by Michaelmas. After all, it must come out as a Christmas book."45 All of this correspondence is missing; we only have Dodgson’s Diaries to indicate the ensuing problems and delays.

The book commenced printing in October 1871 confirming that Dodgson had received all the illustrations from Tenniel by this time. Dodgson received five proof sheets on 1 November 1871. On 21 November he noted: "Sent authority to Clay to electrotype all the rest of the Looking-Glass: this was by telegraph. I afterwards sent two corrections by post. So ends my part of the work. It now depends on the printers and binders whether we get it out by Christmas."46 Dodgson received the first complete copy of Looking-Glass in early December 1871. He immediately wrote a third-person note dated 5 December to the engravers, the Dalziel Brothers: "thanking them for the great pains which have evidently been bestowed on the pictures. He thinks them quite admirable and (so far as he is a judge) first-rate specimens of the art of wood engraving."47 Enclosed with the letter was Dodgson’s cheque for £203.16s. paying the cost of all the engravings for Looking-Glass.

A number of changes occurred during the preparation of the illustrations for Looking-Glass. The position of the Carpenter’s hand in "They’d eaten every one," and the way in which the White Queen holds her sceptre in "The White Queen" were altered. The picture of "Hatta in prison" underwent significant changes, and evidence suggests that a new woodblock was prepared. The sitting position of Hatta has changed and his hat has moved from left to right of the picture. Five illustrations depicting Alice as Queen were altered because Dodgson did not like the style of dress that Tenniel originally gave her. Collingwood recorded the problem: "Mr. Dodgson was no easy man to work with; no detail was too small for his exact criticism. ‘Don’t give Alice so much crinoline,’ he would write, or ‘The White Knight must not have whiskers; he must not be made to look old’ – such were the directions he was constantly giving."48 Alice’s dress was made to look like a chess-piece, following the style of the other Queens in the story. This gave the appearance of excessive crinoline. Instead, Tenniel re-drew Alice in a typically Victorian dress of young ladies, which obviously suited Dodgson. Five woodblocks had to be plugged for re-engraving. We know that Tenniel’s picture of the "White Knight" remained an old man without whiskers but with a long moustache; hence, this picture did meet Dodgson’s preference. Tenniel, in later life, looked remarkably like the White Knight, and suggestions have been made that it is a self-portrait. Staff at the Punch Office thought that Tenniel had modelled the picture on Horace "Ponny" Mayhew. Tenniel denied this, saying that any resemblance "was purely accidental."49

Through the Looking-Glass with forty-two illustrations by John Tenniel was published in December 1871, but all copies of the first edition are dated 1872 on the title page.

Dodgson kept in touch with Tenniel long after the two men had ceased to work together as author and illustrator of the Alice books. The few letters that have survived, which passed between them, were courteous and friendly. There is no doubt that Dodgson admired the work of his illustrator, and he frequently uses him as a benchmark for his subsequent illustrators. Dodgson also sent copies of his main published works to Tenniel, always inscribed in a respectful and friendly manner. After Looking-Glass, Tenniel almost entirely gave up book illustration. Tenniel was exceedingly busy with his work for Punch. He was created chief artist in 1864 following the death of John Leech, and he began to produce the "big-cut," a full-page cartoon, each week. He held this key post until his retirement in 1901. In a letter dated 27 August 1900, to M. H. Spielmann (Tenniel’s art critic friend who was probably collecting information for his book The First 50 Years of Punch), Tenniel indicated his move away from book illustration: "This is to tell you that the list you sent me is quite correct except that I have never illustrated a Book of Games (1852) nor do I remember anything about Historic and Legendary Ballads (1876) seeing that I had given up all book illustration on the completion of Through the Looking-Glass in 1872."50 Tenniel is not entirely accurate here as Frances Sarzano identifies Historical and Legendary Ballads and Songs (1876) by Walter Thornbury as a book containing Tenniel illustrations. She also identifies other books with Tenniel illustrations which are post Looking-Glass; A Thousand and One Gems of English Poetry (1872) and The Trial of Sir Jasper (1873). To this must be added Tenniel’s illustrations for The Nursery "Alice" (1889) which were not only re-drawn but coloured by Tenniel.

Tenniel was not against further approaches from Dodgson. A few years later, Dodgson had a new book in mind. He recorded on 1 March 1875: "Wrote to Tenniel on the subject of an idea, which I first entered in my memorandum book, January 8th, of printing a little book of original puzzles etc. which I think of calling ‘Alice’s Puzzle-Book. I want him to draw a frontispiece for it. (He consented March 8)."51 As time went by, Dodgson switched to E. Gertrude Thomson as the proposed illustrator, but the book never materialised.

At some stage before August 1881, Tenniel also agreed to prepare the illustrations for The Nursery "Alice". This was Dodgson’s version of the original book re-written for younger children with twenty coloured enlargements from Tenniel’s illustrations. In a letter to Macmillan, he wrote:

Mr. Tenniel is going to make some changes in the figure of ‘Alice,’ so I have telegraphed to you to stop the work on two of the pictures, in which she occurs, and I may as well add the others – i.e. please tell them only to do the frontispiece and the picture at p. 63 ["Father William," which does not appear in The Nursery "Alice"] till they receive further orders.

Please tell them to take great care of that coloured frontispiece: I want to have it fastened into the book again, as a unique specimen of colouring done by the artist himself.

Also please send Mr. Tenniel an Alice in sheets, that he may mark his alterations and cut the pictures out one by one. It seems a pity to spoil a bound copy for this purpose.52

However, the pictures are different in many ways, and it is clear that some sections were re-drawn. For example, the frontispiece has a guard who was "the three of clubs" in the original book, but he became "the three of hearts" in the new book. Alice’s costume is totally different in style; her dress is pleated and her apron now has a large bow at the back, and her hair contains another small bow. The dress is coloured yellow and the bows are blue. The drawing of Alice with the drink-me bottle was re-drawn (The Nursery "Alice", p. 5), so too was Alice with the long neck (ibid., p. 8). Other illustrations were modified to take account of Alice’s changed appearance. The mark of the engravers, the Dalziel brothers, was removed from all the illustrations. In the picture of the Caterpillar, part of the background is missing to the left of Alice’s head (ibid., p. 26). In the picture of the Gardeners painting the roses red, drips of paint have appeared which were not in the original illustration (ibid., p. 42). The feet of the flamingo under Alice’s arms in the picture with the Duchess (ibid., p. 46) give clear indication that these illustrations were re-drawn rather than simply enlarged from the original drawings. There are many changes to the pictures only possible by re-drawing. They were very carefully copied, and much of the detail and composition was retained.

Edmund Evans (1826-1905), renowned colour-printer, was employed by Dodgson to produce the coloured pictures for The Nursery "Alice" using what was a relatively new and expensive process. Tenniel painted pictures for The Nursery "Alice" and these were used as a guide in the colour-printing process. Some of his original artwork survives (Morgan Library, New York). On 9 August 1883, Tenniel wrote to Evans:

A week or so ago Mr. Dodgson wrote to say that he is "quite satisfied" with your estimate. I should have told you this sooner, but have been away in the country.

I shall be very glad if you will get on with the "enlargements" as soon as possible. Mr. Dodgson is very anxious about it, and so am I. Of course the smaller pictures must be in the same proportion to the size of the page as the larger ones, and equally of course I must see all the photographed blocks before engraving, as they will probably require re-touching apart from the actual "alteration" in the dress, etc., etc.

When do you think you will be able to make a beginning?

If you should wish to see me on the subject I am always at home in the morning.53

Dodgson took many months to complete the text because he was fully occupied on other writing projects. He wrote on 29 March 1885, a list of projects in hand which included: "The Nursery ‘Alice’ – for which 20 pictures are now being coloured by Mr. Tenniel."54 In a further letter to Macmillan dated 8 July, Dodgson noted that "Mr. Tenniel has finished colouring the 20 enlarged pictures for The Nursery "Alice", and I hope you will soon hear from Mr. Evans about it."55 Evans set to work to transfer Tenniel’s coloured pictures into printed-proofs ready for the new book. Tenniel wrote again to Evans on 14 October 1885: "The proofs I have just received represent 12 only of the 20 subjects. Your note says, ‘complete set of proofs of the Alice in Wonderland pictures.’ There must be a strange mistake somewhere."56 Dodgson made a call on Tenniel to talk about The Nursery "Alice" on 15 October 1885, but further delays ensued. The months went by without any real progress being made with the book. Tenniel wrote to Evans on 5 May 1886: "Will you kindly send me a line to say whether you have yet begun ‘working’ the Alice book. I have heard nothing from Mr. Dodgson since I wrote to tell him that the pictures were all ready, and that you were anxious to begin printing."57

When the pages of The Nursery "Alice" were finally printed, Dodgson was not satisfied with the colouring of the illustrations. He wrote to Macmillan on 23 June 1889:

The pictures are far too bright and gaudy, and vulgarise the whole thing. None must be sold in England: to do so would be to sacrifice whatever reputation I now have for giving the public the best I can. Mr. Evans must begin again, and print 10,000 with Tenniel’s coloured pictures before him: and I must see all the proofs this time: and then we shall have a book really fit to offer to the public.58

Tenniel was quiet on the subject. There was no remonstration as with the 1865 Alice, but Dodgson’s quick action may have pre-empted a move by the illustrator. Evans repeated the process and new coloured proofs were made for Dodgson’s and Tenniel’s approval later that year. Tenniel wrote to Evans on 18 December 1889: "I received the enclosed parcel this morning from Mr. Dodgson, asking me to send it on to you. The new proofs are, I think, quite satisfactory, in fact, I really don’t see how they can be improved, and can only hope you may be equally successful with the entire lot. Thanking you for the trouble you have, evidently, taken."59

The book with less bright and gaudy coloured illustrations finally appeared in 1890. The offending sheets were offered to America and 4,000 copies were bound and sold there. Eventually, the remaining 6,000 copies were bound up and sold as "The People’s Edition."60

Tenniel continued to smoke his churchwarden pipe at the weekly Punch dinners, and drew the "big cut" most weeks covering all the main historical occasions for nearly forty years. Only once did he venture on a holiday abroad to Venice. In 1893, Tenniel was knighted in recognition of his distinguished career at Punch. Soon after Dodgson’s death, he wrote a letter to a friend, A. W. Mackenzie, dated 22 February 1898:

Please tell your lady friend, with my compliments, that she is quite welcome to make a ‘Calendar’ out of my Alice designs, so far as I am concerned, and, if Messrs. Macmillan don’t object, which I should think hardly likely, publish it.

Poor Lewis Carroll is in his grave, and we are trying to collect £1,000 to endow a "Cot" in the Children’s Hospital, in his name, as the most fitting "Memorial" of him, and his work.61

Sir John Tenniel retired from his post in 1901 after nearly a half-century of service to Punch and well over two thousand cartoons to his credit. For his remaining years, he lived quietly at his Kensington home with his sister, gradually losing his eyesight. He died on 25 February 1914.

 

© Edward Wakeling: March 2008

  1. M. H. Spielmann, The History of "Punch" (1895), p. 463. There is an erroneous myth circulating that Dodgson sent Tenniel a photograph of Mary Hilton Badcock, which he had purchased from a photographer at Ripon, asking him to use her as a model for "Alice." The photograph was acquired by Dodgson, with the permission of Mary’s father, Canon Badcock, at the end of January 1865, long after Tenniel had begun his commission.
  2. Private letter to M. H. Spielmann dated August 27, 1900, in the Punch Library.
  3. M. H. Spielmann, The History of "Punch" (1895), pp. 463-4.
  4. Frankie Morris, Artist of Wonderland, The Life, Political Cartoons, and Illustrations of Tenniel (2005), especially part II, "Methods and Modes."
  5. Leo De Freitas, A Study of Sir John Tenniel’s Wood-Engraved Illustrations to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass (1988), p. 18.
  6. Ibid. p. 35.
  7. Edward Wakeling, ed., Lewis Carroll’s Diaries (1991-2007), 4, p. 197.
  8. Ibid. 4, pp. 220-1.
  9. Ibid. 4, pp. 222.
  10. Dodgson’s collection of Tenniel drawings from Punch are in the archives at Christ Church.
  11. Diaries, 4, pp. 271-2.
  12. At least one galley-proof survives in Christ Church Library.
  13. Diaries, 4, p. 284.
  14. Ibid., 4, p. 297.
  15. Ibid., 4, p. 304.
  16. Ibid., 4, p. 310.
  17. Ibid., 4, p. 311.
  18. Ibid., 5, pp. 9-10.
  19. Ibid., 5, pp. 15-16.
  20. The Brothers Dalziel: A Record of Fifty Years’ Work (1901).
  21. Diaries, 5, p. 22.
  22. Morton N. Cohen and Anita Gandolfo, editors., Lewis Carroll and the House of Macmillan (1987), p. 35.
  23. MS: Christ Church Library. For a facsimile, see Handbook facing p. 196.
  24. Diaries, 5, p. 93.
  25. Ibid., 5, p. 97.
  26. Michael Hancher, The Tenniel Illustrations to the "Alice" Books (1985), p. 105.
  27. Justin G. Schiller, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, An 1865 printing re-described (1990).
  28. Described in: Eleanor M. Garvey and W. H. Bond, Tenniel’s Alice (1978).
  29. Macmillan Letters, p. 44.
  30. Diaries, 5, p. 192.
  31. Morton N. Cohen, with the assistance of Roger Lancelyn Green, The Letters of Lewis Carroll (1979), pp. 119-20.
  32. Macmillan Letters, p. 63.
  33. Diaries, 6, p. 37.
  34. Alice Wilson Fox née Raikes, in a letter to The Times, 15 January 1932, p. 4.
  35. MS: Christ Church Library.
  36. Diaries, 6, p. 113.
  37. See Lewis Carroll Handbook (1979), facing pp. 164-5.
  38. MS: Harvard
  39. MS: Harvard
  40. Diaries, 6, p. 140.
  41. Handbook, p. 61.
  42. S. D. Collingwood, The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll, (1898) p. 142.
  43. Diaries, 6, pp. 145-6.
  44. Ibid., 6, p. 148.
  45. Ibid., 6, pp. 178-9.
  46. Ibid., 6, p. 188.
  47. MS: Sotheby Catalogue: December 6, 1977.
  48. Collingwood, p. 130.
  49. M. H. Spielmann, The History of "Punch" (1895), p. 329.
  50. MS: Punch Library
  51. Diaries, 6, pp. 381-2.
  52. Macmillan Letters, p. 162.
  53. MS: Rosenbach
  54. Diaries, 8, p. 181.
  55. Macmillan Letters, p. 191.
  56. MS: Rosenbach
  57. MS: Rosenbach
  58. Macmillan Letters, p. 257.
  59. MS: Rosenbach
  60. Details of the various editions and publication dates are given in the Handbook, p. 160-3.
  61. MS: Punch Library