Alice's Adventures in Wonderland "The Further Off From England The Nearer Is To France"

Lewis Carroll

"The Further Off From England The Nearer Is To France"

Context: Out rowing in 1862 with the three daughters of his dean, the Rev. Charles Dodgson, instructor in Mathematics of Christ Church College, Oxford, entertained the girls with a fantastic story whose heroine he named Alice, for little Alice Liddell. Later he wrote the story out for her, and still later, in 1865, he had it published. Into this story of another Alice, falling down a rabbit hole into a world of the unusual, the learned Oxford don packed adventures for children, and humor and whimsies for adults. A number of parodies of well-known poems are also slipped in. The wider the knowledge of the reader, the more he will get out of this tale on two levels. Some literary people boast of reading it at least once a year, as musicians like periodically to listen to Mozart, to keep their thoughts in tune. Leaving a world of reality for one where she can grow tall or small at will, and where a cheshire cat can fade away to only his grin, Alice goes on her adventures amid puns and parodies. She hears of the minnows in a "school of fish," learning Laughing and Grief, instead of Latin and Greek, after a grounding in Reeling and Writhing, with Drawling and Stretching for extras in Arts. Here under the instruction of a tortoise ("So-called because he taught us," the Gryphon explains), they study ten hours the first day, nine the next, then eight, and less and less'n lesson, all the time; they learn poems. "'Tis the Voice of the Sluggard," has been transformed into "'Tis the Voice of the Lobster." She hears "Twinkle, twinkle, little bat,/ How I wonder where you're at." "Beautiful Snow" becomes "Beautiful Soup, so rich and green," and Alice herself recites to the Caterpillar: "You are old, Father William," based on a serious poem, "The Old Man's Comforts," by Robert Southey. The Duchess sings the unforgettable "Speak roughly to your little boy,/ And beat him when he sneezes." At the Lobster-Quadrille, Alice hears the longest poem. The Mock Turtle, who was once a real Turtle, sings and dances, with tears streaming from his eyes, a nonsense poem about the whitings walking on the sand with a porpoise. "Every fish going on a journey," as the Mock Turtle explains in an aside, "should go with some purpose." The first and last stanzas–with the snail in the second stanza protesting that they are being thrown too far into the sea–go like this:

"Will you walk a little faster?" said a whiting to a snail,
"There's a porpoise close behind us, and he's treading on my tail.
See how eagerly the lobsters and the turtles all advance!
They are waiting on the shingle–will you come and join the dance?
Will you, wo'n't you, will you, wo'n't you,
will you join the dance?
Will you, wo'n't you, will you wo'n't you,
wo'n't you join the dance?"
. . .
"What matter it how far we go?" his scaly friend replied.
"There is another shore, you know, upon the other side.
The further off from England the nearer is to France.
Then turn not pale, beloved snail, but come and join the dance.
Will you, wo'n't you, will you, wo'n't you,
will you join the dance?
Will you, wo'n't you, will you, wo'n't you,
will you join the dance?"