Navigate / search

July 4, 1862: A Golden Afternoon with Alice and her Sisters

By Harry Ransom Center

Charles Dodgson began to tell the story of a little girl named Alice on an outing with Alice, Edith, and Lorina Liddell on July 4, 1862. He later recalled that “golden afternoon” in a poem that prefaces many editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), [Edith, Lorina, and Alice Liddell], 1858.<br />Albumen print (cabinet card), 4 x 5.5 inches.<br />Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Center.
Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), [Edith, Lorina, and Alice Liddell], 1858.
Albumen print (cabinet card), 4 x 5.5 inches.
Gernsheim Collection, Harry Ransom Center.
A Golden Afternoon

All in the golden afternoon
Full leisurely we glide;
For both our oars, with little skill,
By little arms are plied,
While little hands make vain pretence
Our wanderings to guide.

Ah, cruel Three! In such an hour,
Beneath such dreamy weather,
To beg a tale of breath too weak
To stir the tiniest feather!
Yet what can one poor voice avail
Against three tongues together?

Imperious Prima flashes forth
Her edict “to begin it”:
In gentler tones Secunda hopes
“There will be nonsense in it!”
While Tertia interrupts the tale
Not more than once a minute.

Anon, to sudden silence won,
In fancy they pursue
The dream-child moving through a land
Of wonders wild and new,
In friendly chat with bird or beast—
And half believe it true?

And ever, as the story drained
The wells of fancy dry,
And faintly strove that weary one
To put the subject by,
“The rest next time—” “It is next time!”
The happy voices cry.

Thus grew the tale of Wonderland:
Thus slowly, one by one,
Its quaint events were hammered out—
And now the tale is done,
And home we steer, a merry crew,
Beneath the setting sun.

Alice! A childish story take,
And with a gentle hand,
Lay it where Childhood’s dreams are twined
In Memory’s mystic band,
Like pilgrim’s wither’d wreath of flowers
Pluck’d in a far-off land.


This is your last weekend to visit the Ransom Center’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” exhibition, closing July 6.

Read more posts in our Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland series

Receive the Harry Ransom Center’s latest news and information with eNews, a monthly email. Subscribe today.

Leave a comment


email* (not published)