Sitting on the shelves in the Library is a very familiar book: Alice in Wonderland written by Reverend Charles Dodgson, writing under the nom de plume of Lewis Carroll. It still amuses children but it was written not just as a children’s story with a world of imaginary characters but in a world of imaginary numbers as well.
In 1849, one of the pre-eminent mathematicians of the time, Gauss, wrote a book called “The Fundamental Theorem of Algebra” which posited that we needed imaginary numbers or complex numbers. He was, in fact, right, and the latter are now widely used in engineering, quantum mechanics, the study of electricity and even in animation. However, at the time not everyone agreed with him, one of whom was the Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson. Alice in Wonderland is his riposte which set out to ridicule “imaginary” numbers.
Thus, Alice’s adventures are set in a world where size is not absolute, nor is time. Impossible things happen and illogical things are possible. The author tells a story which is set in a world where imaginary numbers rule.
Charles Dodgson came from a family of high- church Anglicans and spent much of time at Christ Church College, Oxford both as a scholar and teacher. The 4th Earl of Carnarvon was also a high Anglican and a classical scholar. They met and thus Charles Dodgson came to stay at Highclere for a number of weekends.
Today we deal with real and imaginary numbers and mathematical terms have become part of our everyday language. For example, “Google” is apparently from the word googol (the number 1 followed by 100 zeros.). Another word often used is “algorithm” (a set of procedures definite and finite). Sometimes it also seems that we are dealing with imaginary money as well. We sit in front of our computers and televisions and what we read and see is led by captured data and by algorithms which all too often seem to be designed to lead us to spending “imaginary “ money too – a flicker of a payment system that we do not even have to reach into our wallets to access and which sadly for all too many people, bears little or no relationship to what they really own in their bank accounts.
So, we have “imaginary” money needed by evermore people competing to lead “imaginary” perfect lives fostered by increasingly artificial social media platforms. It seems hard to judge where reality ends and becomes a mirage of aspiration, until we are all disappearing down the rabbit hole.
Lady Carnarvon, I believe there is too many people just want to buy and buy whether they have the cash or not. Then it is use the credit cards. It is then that it gets too much and they are in deep debt. There are so many people that can hardly by themselves anything, like a single Mom with kids. The people that are over spending, it will come back to them and be hard to get out of debt. It is just to easy to spend but people have to have better control in there spending. Cheryl
I don’t do credit cards except for travel – money in then money out
Dear lady carnarvon Alice in wonderland a great book but just leave me in your great library with a cup of coffee brilliant love to you and the family we will all be back to normal soon best wishes Muriel Alice staffieri
I was in there this morning and longed to just look – but have too much work to do!
Thank you for such a philosophical view of our social construct of Life. What is important? Are we living an Instagram worthy life? Are all the people/families on Facebook presenting the ideal life to impress others? The Instagram/Facebrook algorithms bring supporting information to reinforce the implicit/explicit bias presented by personal posts. The reinforcement continues and ads are targeted to the posts. What a rabbit hole for us to follow.
Taking anything at face value is the first step to following a philosophy which may be a guide to behavior with disastrous results. It has happened before. While the social structures of the world are in turmoil at this time, my greatest hope is that it presages a movement to recognizing the intrinsic worth of a human being. Economic production has judged the value of a person for a number of years and the short term profits have ruled. Perhaps the definition of contribution to society will become more flexible and include the value of creating a healthy family, maintaining healthy relationships and developing cooperative healthy societies.
Thank you for demonstrating the underlying anomalies of interpreting anything at the “magickal” level or fairy-tale level. As Abraham Maslow posited with his “hierarchy of needs”, each person functions within a level of needs until the realization there’s something else to life.
May we live in enlightenment and freedom. Plus, (selfish desire) may we travel freely again in good health! Looking forward to rescheduling my trip to Highclere and a wonderful #Viking experience.
Ida Lee Duplechin, M.S., MBA, M. Ed., etc. (LOL)
It is about harmony and balance – nature seems to embody it and we seem to disrupt it!
a dissertation to exhibit your degrees. No need.
Good Morning from Florida USA. I am always excited for Mondays, and to read what you have inspired us all with for another week. This is a great article. You always seem to make everything easier to envision and understand. Thank you for sharing with us. I love the staircase photo. As always, stay safe.
Who has not trod down the stairs!
Thank you for sharing your beautiful home with us thru photos and Downton Abbey. What I wouldn’t give for a chance to see such and old and beautiful place with my own eyes. That library alone would bring tears.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
the drawings in the book look incredible, and the story Alice in Wonderland is a real feast for the imagination. Sadly for many, social media has replaced books, and the joy and escape to far off places of wonder found in books, which these days cost relatively little, is lost. Give me a good book any day, keeps me out of mischief and I can travel back to any time and any place for a good few hours for less than a tenner. Current destination biography of QE I but am drawn to Alice once again, thank you to you. Incidentally our M.P. is a descendant of Alice Liddell, the little girl who inspired the character of Alice. Co-incidentally parliament is also an imaginary place in the current situation or it went down the rabbit hole.
Thank you for cheering up my Monday.
How very interesting!
I have missed your blog; during this pandemic, have you taken a break or did I? I look forward to seeing this on Monday morning and was delighted to open up my computer & reading your article.
Every Monday it has been there – there are few fun past ones…
The wonders of books can transport us to any world we can imagine from the words. Your library must be an absolute joy to behold and wander through.
Oh to be hidden away in the library! My reading keeps my perspective in balance as I flee this day to Scotland,Australia or perhaps Paris! One question,what is the history of the lovely sculpture on the stair. Perhaps Alice or Narnia? Thank you again for a delightful read.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I wanted to let you know I really enjoyed your email this morning. I found it full of history, mathematics, whimsy and humour.
I needed to read some of the sentences more than once, which was incredibly beneficial for me. I have memory issues as do many and the fact that I had to really concentrate on the words and sentences was absolutely wonderful. It was like a puzzle that had references from the past and present, both logical, imaginary a labyrinth of sorts.
I felt I needed to let you know how Thankful I am for your email today. I love history and whimsy and it brought a smile to my face and a brightness to the soul.
Wishing you a blessed day. Keep up the wonderful work there.
Thank you so much !
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
My wife and I are devoted fans. Thank you for giving us plain folk access to the riches of noble birth.
Mr. Lloyd Kahan
Front Royal, VA
You are kind – I think we are all the same plain folks! Sometimes we wear different clothes..that’s áll
WOW!! I never knew the “back story” about Alice in Wonderland. That first photo of an old edition of Alice in Wonderland has me curious as to when it was printed. Do you know Lady Carnarvon? I like the ink drawings. A bit about money during “this season” in our home. Since about mid- March until now my husband and I have practically stopped spending money. Our spending has only been on food, beer, wine and a few household and cleaning supplies. We’ve not even used up the gas in our car since end of March!! It took a “flip of the switch” to shut down the economy, but is now going to take so much more than a flip of that switch get us going again…. Ina Sue in Bellingham, WA (USA)
Thank you – the sketches are by Sir John Tenniel. We are all going to have start pedalling hard and as if on a bike to gears are cranky and a bit stuck!
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Edgar Allen Poe wrote, “Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream”. Those words seem fitting in thoughts of social media & it’s veil of “reality”, as well as the illusion of assets that actually aren’t quite there. Maybe in this time of isolation, many will realize the perfection in imperfection. Differences of who we are, what the world is, and the complexity of how it comes together is far more interesting. Live and learn. And bless our mathematicians for helping launch astronauts into space again. The glory of the universe!
Thank you for your wonderful Monday posts…they are such a great read at the start of the week!
May you and your loved ones remain healthy and well!
Charlotte Merriam Cole
Thank you so very much!
Wow… I didn’t know any of that before! Fascinating! I was 60 this year in Feb and live in North East Scotland. Had booked one of your tours and afternoon tea in Harrods but wasn’t to be, hopefully next year I can fulfil my birthday treat and visit your beautiful home! X
See you next year!
Thank you for another delightful history lesson about our amusing English literature. I have never stopped to look behind Alice to see what brought her to life!
In this time of extreme unrest in America not only from the misery of illness and death from Covid 19 but also from the recent murder charges against a policeman and the ensuing riots and pillage, I personally feel like I’ve fallen down a dark and scary rabbit hole. I believe that there is a way out, another way somewhere in the distance. I ask that all who read your excellent blog stop and pause to think about how we can have a better life in America and our world.
Peace and calm
I think we do all have a reset button.
It is interesting to read the history of Alice in Wonderland. I have read and watched the movies several times and would never have guessed the history of it. I read your blog every week and have enjoyed them greatly.
I am delighted to see the two portraits of young men (I believe they might be sons of the first Countess of Carnarvon) in this photograph. I believe these portraits now hang in the drawing room. I have been trying to identify the subjects of the portraits, names of artist, and would love to find clear, in-focus images of them to include in my 1:12 scale dollhouse version of the Downton Abbey drawing room.
How very clever to notice!
Very interesting thank you x
Thank you Lady Carnarvon for this article. You are absolutely correct. Sad but true reality ♥️. May you and your family have continued good health. God Bless.
Thank you for finally shedding light on a question that has haunted me ever since my 9th grade Algebra teacher tasked the class with discussing the hidden mathematics behind the much loved novel, Alice in Wonderland.
At the time, I was completely befuddled and bemused. Thank you for picking up that loose thread and illustrating how it relates to the real and imaginary numbers that live and work with today.
I had no idea of the backstory of Alice in Wonderland. It does seem like an imaginary world these days. With all of the unrest here in the US, I would like to “disappear” at times. But, we all have to find that inner strength and carry on. Thank you, again, for a new piece of knowledge to add to our mental files! Take care.
You will get through it and “reset” perhaps.
Good thoughts for today in New York where imaginary thinking is so needed. I’m spending the beautiful day closeting winter and bringing out the summer clothes which always triggers thoughts such as these. How all those algorithms which supposedly reflected our lives are suddenly driving them. Thank you and hope you are having a lovely day.
Good to clear out – it ‘s a nice feeling I think
Again, what a thoughtful blog post. I’ll be thinking about this one and sharing it with Perry.
As an aside, one of our guilty pleasures is a subscription to “People” magazine – we pore over every issue. The June 1, 2020, US edition, features Queen Elizabeth on the cover and we immediately turned to Page 40 to begin the article. Whose lovely quote do we read under the heading “Unbowed by Crisis” on that very centerfold page? Yours, the erudite and beautiful Lady Carnarvon. It was a thrill!
Thank you – so much !!!
Good day from Alabama, Lady C.,
During quarantine, I rarely know what day it is, but how I look forward to Mondays for your blog posts!
Today’s was exceptional in every way. Imagine having the author of Alice in Wonderland as a house guest!
I also loved your discussion of imaginary money. My friend received an email from Amazon saying her package had shipped. She hadn’t ordered anything. Thinking it was a scam, she read farther. The item was a DVD of “Frozen.” She went to her barely four-year-old daughter and asked if she might know anything.
The smart, beautiful child’s face brightened as she assured her mother, “Yes. But don’t worry Mama. It’s not REAL money.”
Stay well and thank you again for another Monday brightener.
A very long time ago when our children were quite small, ( they are 50 and 51 now) we were in a store and of course, our son found something he could not live without. When I told him we had to wait for payday because we were out of spending money, he said “no Mommy, look! you still have checks left!”) If only that had been true!
Thank you Lady Carnarvon for another fascinating and interesting blog.
My oldest child made me a memory book years ago for Mother’s Day. She said one of her happiest childhood memories was when she got her own library card.
Books were a big part of Deanne’s life, her children’s lives and now that she has grandchildren, their lives. What a marvelous way to transport oneself but through the pages of a book. During this time of world wide isolation, it’s great to have the wonderful distraction of a good book.
Speaking of noms de plume, Piglet lived under the name of Saunders.
I think we’re living in an illogical world. We saw the “Lockdown at Downton” video. Your dog is so sweet.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Your reference to Alice brings to mind my favorite modern rendition of Lewis Carroll’s tale, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, so wonderfully illustrated by Australian artist, Robert Ingpen.
It is nothing short of a masterpiece due to the extraordinary art of Mr. Ingpen. What a beautiful addition it would make to your library. Opening it, a nearby cuppa at hand, you will very willingly fall down the rabbit hole! And your tea is likely to cool as you visit page after page in this remarkable edition.
Artist/illustrators like me are so inspired by Ingpen’s powerful visual language as he recalls the tale. Do have a look!
Greetings, Jean Formo
…h-m-m-m…curiouser and curiouser! Great blog!
Good morning Lady Carnarvon
As a child I loved Alice in Wonderland and the visuals it brought into my life. Literature has always enriched me and imagination has always broadened the story I read, rather like entering a world of fantasy and becoming part of the book you are reading. At 81 I am still reading and maybe I will read Alice in Wonderland again now you have touched on the numbers subject and see it in a different light.
As for falling down a rabbit hole I think I will forego that particular event. I have fallen down all over the world something which amuses my family greatly, so much so when I go on holiday they remind me to “stay upright” and stop seeing my destinaton from the level of the ground! Singapore, Boston, Mt Pocono rangers station Pennsylvania and New Zealand twice so rabbit holes offer me no curiosity. Besides I think my family would leave me down there !!
To those in America who are feeling very unsettled there are a lot of people who are “holding your hand” albeit from afar, just hang in there and things will get better. God Bless all of you and give you strength to keep looking forward.
Have a wonderful week Lady Carnarvon and keep your blogs coming, I do so love our “family” in here and all the interesting things you tell us about. Stay well
Thank you for making me laugh – stay well and upright!
I loved the post and Joy’s reply. It was very nice to learn about the story behind the story. We had an exhibition about Alice’s story organized as children attraction in a mall, here in South Brazil. I’ve learned many things about the book, but not even there they had mentioned what you told us, Lady Carnarvon.
I think that although we’ve been forced out of our comfort zone by this quarantine, it’s been useful to learn how spend our time better, learning things that will be helpful to “reset” our minds, as you said.
In fact, this idea is written in Romans 12:2 “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”
So, thank you both for inspiring thoughts and sending blessings upon me.
Love from Brazil.
*ps. I’ve trod down the stairs last year and it was unforgettable 😉
Hello and Happy Monday!
I did not know Lewis Carroll’s real name! How interesting. I always learn something while reading your blog. Thank you so much.
Our world is going through difficult times now. I wonder what lessons will be gleaned from all of these events? I would hope and pray it might make us kinder to each other, help us appreciate the little things that we may have taken for granted before, love more, complain less, stop to help someone who needs help.
We are staying home for the most part. I think here in Florida they have relaxed the standard too soon and too fast. I hope I’m wrong…going from quarantine to normal with no gradual change seems crazy to me. Again, I hope I’m wrong. Money drives decisions, even if it is ‘imaginary’ money as you said, they seem to be choosing the economy over health. Money is of no use if one is dead. I like a statement I heard in church a long time ago- we don’t take a U-Haul trailer to heaven! It all gets left behind! ( A u-haul is a rented trailer to be pulled behind a car for moving things that won’t fit in a car.) Do they have such things in the UK?
Stay safe, Wash your hands, Nameste!!!!
We don’t take anything with us or leave much behind.. except perhaps a written legacy, which is rather forgotten today. Interesting times
Love that Highclere has a connection to the author of Alice in Wonderland. The book & Highclere are timeless!
I don’t remember what show… an older talk show, Leno maybe ? A woman was on for her…?105th ?? Birthday. She spoke of how her husband arrived to ask her out on his horse. She said always have a positive attitude… when asked what the worst invention has been…she said… CREDIT CARDS. If you don’t have the money, you can’t buy it. The best invention ? She said she enjoyed the microwave. .
Good morning from Australia. I love reading your blogs each week. Looking forward to visiting High Clere in 2021, having to wait an extra year, but will be so worth it. Restrictions slowly coming off here, hope you are experiencing the same.
We look forward to seeing you – yes we seem to be opening up.
Dear Lady C,
During lockdown here on Tamborine Mountain, I had a novel about Alice and her governess and of course Lewis Carroll. After I’d finished it, I went and found my old Alice in Wonderland & Through the Looking Glass – a birthday present from my parents in 1955. He was a very clever man and wonderful “wordsmith”. Those poems & riddles! You realise just how many of his phrases and ideas have become so much a part of everyday English. I’ve just had some skin cancers off my nose & throat, and I was feeling a bit like Alice when the Red Queen yells “Off with her head”!! Thankfully, my head is still attached to my body for the moment. I had never realised the Mathematician side of Lewis Carrroll in the book, so I’ll look at it with different eyes.
Kindest regards, Anne
it is fun to read..
Lady Carnarvon, On your Instagram, the photo of Stella and Evie is just wonderful. You are so right, it looks like they are thinking what is out there for us. I just love the photo. Being the great photographer that you are, I can only think you took picture. Cheryl
I do take most of the photos and videos! it was just before the virtual cocktail party and they were looking with longing but staying put
Dear Lady Carnarvon:
Thank you writing this interesting (number theory) story.
With regard to credit cards, I believe in “old school” methods: live below one’s financial means, stay within a monthly budget, pay all bills in full and on time. If credit must be used, then sparingly. I have mixed feelings about debit card use, but do utilize ACH and online bill pay on a monthly basis.
I know that I have asked this question before: “Are any strides being taken to digitally preserve the books in the Castle’s Library”? If so, what?
Today, the State of Michigan was brought back up and out of the rabbit hole, as the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” has been lifted.
Until next Monday.
We have a digital index to the Library..
This is so well said. I hope that present circumstances will help all of us realize what is really important and who is really important,but I doubt it. Thank you for approaching the topic from a different point of view.
Who did the illustrations in Alice in Wonderland and the other three books?
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
What a joy it is to read your posts every Monday! I don’t know how you come up with so many interesting stories to share. I’m thankful you do. Monday is more fun now. Please keep them coming.
Hoping you have a wonderful week!
Thank you so much
Well, I was also going to thank you for such a meaningful and thoughtful blog post today. But reading through the comments, I must say how thankful I am for Moya Sube’s letter to you. How inspiring that she took the time to read and re-read your delightful post. So tomorrow I’ll spend less time at the computer and more time with another classic, “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader” by C.S. Lewis.
The grandson of Charles Dodgson who was an army captain is buried about 200 metres from where I live in the midlands of Ireland. http://johnsmyth.ie/wordpress/through-the-looking-glass/
As usual, beautifully written and profound. ♥️
Rather anxious as to whether you may introduce MASLOW’s theory in a future blog.
You would have studied that in the early 90’s.
Hope the weather is like this in October, but a bit cooler.
I am never sure about stratifying human behaviour – I am more likely to introduce Shakespeare and my current passion Marcus Aurelius
MONDAY TV PBS AMERICA FREEVIEW 91.
sent e-mail to PA
8.20 Egypt Docudrama. Focusing on Howard Carter and Lord Carnarvon.
9.40 The Curse.
Enjoy with a glass of gin, after the evening walk with the dogs.
Thank you for taking us into the library at Highclere, it was the place that left the most vivid impression during my 2015 visit, all those wonderful books, the light from the windows, the aroma of centuries, really lovely. And I remember reading in your book, “Christmas at Highclere” that Louis Carroll had been a friend and weekend visitor often, and that his tale about Alice was inscribed: ” A Christmas Gift to a Dear Child in Memory of a Summer Day”…and I now picture the little girl sitting in the summer under one of those big Cedars of Lebanon on the grounds of Highclere. It may seem that during this Covid time we have fallen-down-the-rabbit’s-hole, but just hold fast, and like Alice, we may hope to wake to a better world.
MY DEAR LADY CARNARVON,
I THANK YOU FOR YOUR ATTENTION AND AFFECTION IN ADVANCE FOR ASWERING MY QUESTION. IS THE BOOK ABOUT THE MUSEUM OF RIO DE JANEIRO -BRAZIL-SENT TO ME TO LADY AND LORD CARNARVON IN 2018 BY ANY CHANCE ON ONE OF THE SHELVES IN THIS BEAUTIFUL LIBRARY ?
RIO CLARO – SP
It is in the Castle! Thank you
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for another fascinating blog. I hadn’t realised the hidden meaning behind Alice in Wonderland. I wonder what Lewis Carroll would have made of today’s cryptocurrency.
Lewis Carroll was born in the small picturesque village of Daresbury in Cheshire, not far from where I live. The lovely church there, All Saints, has a beautiful Centenary Memorial stained glass window depicting 5 Nativity scenes with Alice and Lewis Carroll amongst them and 5 more stained glass panels underneath containing some of the characters from his books, including the Cheshire Cat. It would be well worth a visit to the Church and small museum if anyone is in the area after the current Covid restrictions have ended.
Coincidentally whilst looking into the marriage of my husband’s grandparents we discovered another church Lewis Carroll attended. This was Christ Church on Seaside in Eastbourne, Sussex (not to be confused with his connections to Christchurch in Oxford). It seems he worshipped there frequently when he holidayed in Eastbourne and even rented a pew solely for his top hat so it wouldn’t be accidentally sat on!
As for money in today’s society I believe we should be as generous to each other as we can but only within our means. “Shrouds have no pockets” as the saying goes.
I agree- – the 4th Earl and Charles Dodgson were both deep Anglicans
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for sharing your eloquent meditations with warmth and grace. I look forward to more, and especially enjoy your Viking Fridays. Wisdom is where you find it, and yours has been sustaining in disrupted times. Stella and Freya, try as they might, can’t quite “steal the show”–they more likely give it another dimension!
> Alice laughed. “There’s no use trying”, she said. “One can’t believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven’t had much pratice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” <
Lewis Caroll, Through the Looking Glass
Fabienne Marie Eugénie Beringer
Founder of World Wide Women Club
Mit einer vornehmen und eleganten Verbeugung begrüße ich Sie Gnädige Lady Carnarvon Ihr Diener Bertram.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Apologies from the start, as this is only slightly related to the above thread. I completely relate to your algorithmic notations, as I am a technical architect and deal with this concept on a daily basis. Beyond that, however, I just wanted to tell you that I truly look forward to Fridays to watch your At Home with Highclere Castle with Viking TV. Again my apologies of the short and slight detour from the topic at hand. Thank you for opening your doors to us. I love how the young labs played on the last stream and (hah so cute) noticed the water spilled as a result of their playfulness. Please keep these coming if possible and again I send my thanks (and apologies!).
How very kind!