A beautiful new edition of Steadman's 1968 work, now available in paperback.
The force of social satire and fantasy in the original text of Alice in Wonderland is as relevant today as when the book was first published in 1865. In this edition, Ralph Steadman's drawings remain faithful to the book's satirical tone while revealing his own passion for irony.
This version of Carroll's classic tale is a startling departure from the traditional Victorian or Disney approaches. In his introduction, Steadman describes how a fresh illustrative perspective created an original, modern vision. The story acquires new life with his audacious and dynamic illustrations.
The 47 pen-and-ink illustrations are the same as in the critically acclaimed 1968 British edition. Reformatted and meticulously restored, they convey the energy, imagination and power of Steadman's pen and introduce the wit and wisdom of Alice to a new generation of readers.
Lewis Carroll is the pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832-1898. Alice in Wonderland was first published in 1865.
Ralph Steadman has been a cartoonist since 1956, starting as a caustic observer of Britain's political and social scene. He is well known as the illustrator of Hunter S. Thompson's Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Steadman's work appears regularly in newspapers and magazines, including Rolling Stone and the Atlantic Monthly, and his many published books include Tales of the Weirrd and Sigmund Freud.
It is difficult to explain in words what the pictures are trying to say, and therefore my explanations are not precisely what I had in mind because they add shades of meaning which are not there. The reader can only interpret them in his own way, bringing his own observations to bear on the image he is looking at, so that he may agree or disagree with what I have tried to convey. When I set out to draw an idea, part of that idea is not yet formed and only takes shape and reveals itself as the drawing progresses. Consequently, the drawing acquires a life of its own and virtually takes over the direction it will follow -- or so it seems.
I have made a few notes about some of the pictures. The rest are self explanatory or purely illustrations.
THE WHITE RABBIT. Worried by time, hurrying and scurrying. Sane within a routine, slightly insane but more engaging when the routine is upset. Today's commuter.
THE DODO in this picture reminded me of an Archbishop and being as "dead as a dodo" it fitted perfectly. The other animals remind me of people I know, rather as Lewis Carroll apparently created them around friends and associates. The reader can place his own interpretation on them. It was never my intention to set everything in concrete.
I rather hate dogs. They seem to have soaked up all the worst in human nature. They are more human and even more stupid. In place of Tenniel's pug dog which perhaps was the fashionable dog when he drew the pictures, the poodle seems the most apt substitute. The dog is the perfect feed for the man who wants his ego pumped. He can take for granted the dog's blind loyalty and obedience. The dog fouls the pavement and the man fouls the rest of the world.
THE YOUNG INTELLECTUAL. Smoking hash, pedantic, who thinks he has something to say and sheds his opinions as easily as his skins.
THE FATHER WILLIAM set to me is the arrogance of youth versus the certainty of an old man's memories.
THE DUCHESS is an ex-starlet who married the aristocrat. A high-class tart gone to seed. Her tiny mind has developed a home-spun philosophy within a cultured environment in an effort to keep up appearances.
THE COOK found fame in the kitchen and enjoys her prima donna tendencies.
THE CHESHIRE CAT makes an ideal TV Announcer whose smile remains as the rest of the programme fades out.
The growth of the tea party tree turns logic upside down. It begins in a puzzle at its top and grows down to its roots.
THE HATTER represents the unpleasant sides of human nature. The unreasoned argument screams at you. The bully, the glib quiz game compĂ¨re who rattles off endless reels of unanswerable riddles and asks you to come back next week and make a bloody fool of yourself again.
THE MARCH HARE is always standing close by. The "egger-on" urging the banality to plumb even greater depths. He always seems to be around to push someone into a fight.
THE DORMOUSE is always the dormouse. Harmless and nice. The man anyone in the office can take a rise out of. If you tread on his face he will smile right back at you.
THE BRITISH WORKMAN. Bickering about who splashed who and standing in the stuff all the time anyway.
THE MONARCH having evolved or developed into a shapeless mass of hangers-on, the State, H.M. Forces, the Church, the establishment walking on one pair of very well-worn legs. The King and Queen born into it and enveloped in it and lost in it, obliged to go through the motions automatically but surprising even themselves by their own outbursts.
The Duchess again The old con trying to glean from Alice some of the objectivity and honesty she lost years ago.
The croquet game when internal confusion disrupts the xvhole structure. Practically showing its knickers, the heaving mass struggles vainly to maintain its dignity and avoid humiliation.
THE GRYPHON to me is the commissionaire of a modern office block. His epaulettes are his wings. He is slow thinking, sometimes ignorant. If you walk into the building in a humble manner, he exercises his authority to the full and crushes you, but if you walk in looking important he will lick your boots. The only man in the building he can order about is the caretaker, so he is the mock turtle who may have more intelligence but is satisfied with his lot, or at least has accepted it graciously. They may also be quite good friends. The dance would express their nicer sides when they are.
THE LOBSTER wearing the old school tie joins exclusive clubs and reckons he is pretty sharp until a real shark comes along.
My only regret is that I didn't write the story.
Ralph Steadman - London - 1967
Yes, I did! I did write the story, in my other life. It was all so familiar when I picked it up and read it for the first time in 1967. For the first time, as I thought, but don't you ever get that strange sensation that what you are reading or watching is something you already know? Something that is in your mind already? Bells of recognition ring as you welcome an old friend. All good ideas are like that. You already know them. The familiarity is part of the enjoyment. The words someone has taken the trouble to write down merely reveal the contents of your own mind. The picture someone has struggled to create is something you have already seen, otherwise how would you ever recognise its content?
You have already experienced the sum of its parts. You have lived them, or maybe you have dreamed them. They are the vocabulary of a vast collective consciousness which it is your everyday choice to delve into or ignore at will. What we choose to emphasise forms the structure of our lives, and what an artist chooses to depict forms the basis of his work -- but of course not the sum total, for in an artist's world two and two make five. And what an artist says three times is true! Familiarity breeds acceptance. The greater the artist, the greater number of reference points are offered for the rest of us to recognise. The more we recognise, the better we feel. We experience a greater satisfaction because we have contributed to the whole. The spectator has fulfilled his role to a greater or lesser degree depending on his or her receptive faculties.
As far as my pictures are concerned in their role as extensions of Lewis Carroll's stories, they stand up for me as well today as they did when I first made them nearly two decades ago. It would be interesting if the reader could identify (no prizes, of course) the new pictures I have drawn for this edition. I have tried to remain true to originals, and I defy anyone to detect the difference. Lewis Carroll has unravelled some of the complicated conundrums that bedevil our daily lives and our dream-worlds. My pictures are one man's response between the lines.
What can be said in pictures cannot necessarily be said in words, and vice versa. "Contrariwise, if it was so, it might be; and if it were so, it would be; but as it isn't, it ain't. That's logic."
"I know what you're thinking about, but it isn't so, nohow."
Ralph Steadman - Maidstone Bird Sanctuary - September 1986