The Physical Impairments of Alice's Creators
Lewis Carroll (top) in an 1863 photograph and (bottom) John Tenniel in an 1889 self-portrait.
The author of the Alice books and the books' first illustrator both had physical impairments in a major region of the human body: the head. Lewis Carroll was deaf in the right ear, a hearing loss caused by a childhood illness -- an "infantile fever," according to his mother. In speech, Carroll had a stammer, often mistakenly called a stutter. The stammer caused him considerable embarrassment throughout his life, especially when he had to speak before an audience. At age 20, the future English illustrator of the original Alice books, John Tenniel (1820-1914), suffered an eyeball laceration to his right eye during a fencing match with his fencing-master father, an injury that eventually left him blind in the injured eye. When Wonderland was published in 1865, the hearing-and-speech impaired Carroll had only published two mathematical works while the one-eyed Tenniel was a popular artist in England and his Wonderland artwork insured the popularity of the first Alice book. Sources: Morton N. Cohen, Lewis Carroll: A Biography (New York, 1995) and Michael Hancher, The Tenniel Illustrations to the "Alice" Books (Columbus OH, 1985).
Eyeball card factlet: In a modern deck of playing cards, the Jack of Hearts, a Wonderland playing-card character who as the Knave of Hearts serves the Queen of Hearts, is depicted in side-view, displaying only one eye and is nicknamed "one-eyed Jack." Source: AWT's playing-card files.
Glass eye factlet: The American entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr. (1925-1990), who played the Caterpillar in the 1985 United States' made-for-television film of Alice's adventures, lost his left eye in a car accident in 1954 and later wore a glass eye. Source: Wikipedia (.com), 22 Aug 2013.
Speech factlet: A stammer is involuntary pauses and breaks in human speech, while a stutter is spasmodic repetition or exaggeration of sounds or syllables. Source: The American Heritage Dictionary (Boston, 1991).
Eyesight factlet: Normal human eyesight (with two functional eyeballs) is called binocular vision, while vision with only one functional eye is called monocular vision. Source: AWT's medical files.
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