Thursday, 6 August 2009

Off the shelf: Mervyn Peake 2

Lewis Carroll's brand of nonsense is, for me, in a different league to Edward's Lear's. The absurdity in his work reflects the absurdity of human nature and the nonsensical ideas seem to have their own internal logic. Like Lear he suffered from various illnesses, including epilepsy. 'The Hunting of the Snark' was originally published in 1876, eleven years after 'Alice,' and has invited all sorts of theories about hidden meanings ever since.
The book is subtitled 'An Agony in Eight Fits' and this drawing is from 'Fit the Second - The Bellman's Speech.' It shows the Bellman - giving his speech, which is about the five qualities that distinguish the Snark from other creatures:

'...The third is it's slowness in taking a jest,
Should you happen to venture on one,
It will sigh like a thing that is deeply distressed:
And it always looks grave at a pun...'

Also in the picture is the Beaver. Being the pet of the Bellman he is in constant danger from the Butcher, who could 'only kill beavers,' though they eventually become inseparable friends.
Another thing the Bellman brings on board ship, apart from the Beaver, is 'a large map representing the sea, without the least vestige of land,' i.e. it's completely blank. The crew are pleased about this, as they find it's 'a map they could all understand.'

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