Carroll’s letter to Alice

Ch. Ch. Oxford
Nov. 11. / 86

My dear Mrs. Hargreaves,

Many thanks for your
permission to insert “Hospi-
-tals” in the Preface to your
book—I have had almost
as many Adventures, in getting
that unfortunate facsimile
finished, Above Ground, as
your namesake had Under it!

First, the zincographer in
London, recommended to me for
photographing the book, page by
page, & preparing the zinc-blocks,
declined to undertake it unless
I would entrust the book to
him—which I entirely refused
to do. I felt that it was only
due to you, in return for your
great kindness in lending so

[letter continues on back of the page:]

unique a book, to be scrupulous in not letting it be even touched by the workmen’s hands. In vain I offered to come and reside in London with the book, and to attend daily in the studio, to place it in position to be photographed, and turn over the pages required: he said that could not be done because “other author’s works were being photographed there, which must on no account be seen by the public.” I undertook not to look at anything but my own book: but it was no use: we could not come to terms.

Then Messrs. Macmillan recommended a certain Mr. Noad, an excellent photographer, but in so small a way of business that I should have to prepay him, bit by bit, for the zinc-blocks: and he was willing to come to Oxford, and do it here. So it was all done in my studio, I remaining in waiting all the time, to turn over the pages.

But I daresay I have told you so much of the story already?

Mr. Noad did a first rate set of negatives, and took them away with him to get the zinc-blocks made. These he delivered pretty regularly at first, and there seemed to be every prospect of getting the book out by Christmas 1885.

On October 18, 1885, I sent your book to Mrs. Liddell, who had told me your sisters were going to visit you and would take it with them. I trust it reached you safely?

Soon after this—I having prepaid for the whole of the zinc-blocks—the supply suddenly ceased, while 22 pages were still due, & Mr. Noad disappeared!  My belief is that he was in hiding from his creditors.

We sought him in vain. So things went on for months. At one time I thought of employing a detective to find him, but was assured that “all detectives are scoundrels”—The alternative seemed to be to ask you to lend the book again, & get the missing pages re-photographed. But I was most unwilling to rob you of it again, & also afraid of the risk of loss of the book, if sent by post—for even ‘registered post’ does not seem absolutely safe—

In April he called at Macmillan’s & left 8 blocks, & again vanished into obscurity—

This left us with 14 pages (dotted up and down the book) still missing. I waited awhile longer, and then put the thing into the hands of a Solicitor, who soon found the man, but could get nothing bur promises from him. “You will never get the blocks,” said the Solicitor, “unless you frighten him by a summons before a Magistrate.” To this at last I unwillingly consented; the summons had to be taken out at Stratford-le-Bow (that is where the aggravating man is living), and this entailed 2 journeys from Eastbourne—one to get the summons (my personal presence being necessary, and the other to attend in Court with the Solicitor on the day fixed for hearing the case. The defendant didn’t appear; so the magistrate said he would take the case in his absence. Then I had the new and exciting experience of begin put into the witness=box, and sworn, and cross-examined by a rather savage Magistrate’s clerk, who seemed to think that, if he only bullied me enough, he would soon catch me out in a falsehood! I had to give the Magistrate a little lecture on photo-zincograhy, and the poor man declared the case so complicated he must adjourn it for another week. But this time, in order to secure the presence of our slippery defendant, he issued a warrant for his apprehension, and the constable had orders to take him into custody and lodge him in prison, the night before the day when the case was to come on. The news of this effectually frightened him, and he delivered up the 14 negatives (he hadn’t done the blocks) before the fatal day arrived. I was rejoiced to get them, even though it entailed the paying a 2nd time for getting the 14 blocks done, and withdrew the action.

The 14 blocks were quickly done and put into the printer’s hands; and all is going on smoothly at last: and I quite hope to have the book completed, and to be able to send you a very special copy (bound in white vellum, unless you would prefer some other style of binding) by the end of the month.

Believe me always
Sincerely yours,
C. L. Dodgson

Lewis Carroll (1832–1898)
Letter to Alice Liddell Hargreaves, signed and dated Christ Church, Oxford, 11 November 1886
Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations