I fell in love with Oxford on the page long before I ever met it in the flesh. And I know I’m not alone. Oxford glories in its literary connections, and it inspires a lot of fiction: Colin Dexter’s Inspector Morse novels, Max Beerbohm’s Zuleika Dobson, Dorothy L Sayers’s Gaudy Night, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, and Connie Willis’s To Say Nothing of the Dog – and that’s just scratching the surface.
But if there’s any Oxford novel that can be said to be the granddaddy of them all, it’s Alice in Wonderland. On July 4, 1862, during a boating expedition in Oxford, young Alice Liddell begged mathematics professor Charles Dodgson for a story, and Dodgson obliged with the beginnings of Wonderland. Later he published a written version under his pen name, Lewis Carroll. Thanks to the Story Museum, this first telling of Alice in Wonderland is now celebrated in Oxford with much fanfare as Alice’s Day.
At four, Sweetpea is an enthusiastic Alice fan, so we brought her – all dressed up in her Alice clothes – to the party. White Rabbits and Caterpillars regaled us on the streets, there were storytellers and musicians galore, and we even dropped in on a Mad Hatter’s tea party. Everything was free, and Sweetpea had a ball. (I lost track of how many tourists asked if she was “the real Alice.”)
Some pictures from the day: