Described by Williams, Madan, Green and Crutch as "the impossible voyage of an improbable crew to find an inconceivable creature", The Hunting of the Snark shares the same imaginative and linguistic universe of Wonderland. Carroll himself noted that "the scene is laid in an island frequented by the Jubjub and Bandersnatch – no doubt the very island in which the Jabberwock was slain…" (see letter to Mrs J. Chataway, ed. Morton N. Cohen, Selected Letters of Lewis Carroll, London, 1982, p.65)
This copy includes the most important known Carroll letter about illustrations for The Hunting of the Snark.
Carroll letters and drawings relating to the poem are extremely rare. Indeed only two other letters to Holiday about the Snark are known – both later than this letter (and one of them very much later from 1883) – and both are very much less significant than the present letter with regard to the light they shed on Carroll’s view of the Snark illustrations.
The present letter from Carroll is written in characteristic violet ink and dated 4 January 1876; bound at the end of the volume, it comprises the first four pages and lacks the conclusion and signature. It concerns Holiday's illustrations for the work and highlights the difference of artistic vision that separates illustrator and author – Carroll trying to give Holiday’s sombre pictures a more jovial tone. Carroll begins by writing "I am delighted with these [latest] two pictures … you seem to increase in powers of comic drawing at an alarming rate," but then turns to criticism, with special attention to the depiction of the Beaver (including a suggested posturing of the animal for the drawing in ‘The Beaver’s Lesson’). Here Carroll makes himself explicit by illustrating his ideas with a small original drawing within the letter. The letter also carries three notes in pencil (initialled HH) in which Holiday provides comments in answer to Carroll’s criticism, "I did not adopt this criticism on the drawing" and "L.C. has forgotten that ‘the Snark’ is a tragedy…", for example (4 pages, 8vo, The Chestnuts, Guildford, 4 January 1876, tipped-in).
The full-page original drawing is on a different paper stock to the letter. It evidently comprises a concept for ‘The Barrister’s Dream’ and the illustration provided by Holliday opposite page 63 has been clearly modelled upon it. This is likely to be the only extant full-page Lewis Carroll illustration for The Hunting of the Snark.
The letter and illustration are both unpublished: neither are included within Lewis Carroll and His Illustrators edited by Morton N. Cohen and Edward Wakeling (Macmillan, 2003).
Sotheby’s is grateful to Edward Wakeling for his assistance in the cataloguing of this lot.
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