What a Funny Watch

One is reminded also of an earlier piece by Carroll in which he proves that a stopped clock is more accurate than one that loses a minute a day. The first clock is exactly right twice every twenty-four hours, whereas the other clock is exactly right only once in two years. “You might go on to ask,” Carroll adds, ” ‘How am I to know when eight o’clock does come? My clock will not tell me.’ Be patient: you know that when eight o’clock comes your clock is right; very good; then your rule is this: keep your eyes fixed on the clock and the very moment it is right it will be eight o’clock.”

Lewis Carroll; Martin Gardner. The Annotated Alice, The Definitive Edition.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. Chapter VII: A Mad Tea-Party; note 7 (p. 74).

 

Two Days Wrong

In his book The White Knight, A. L. Taylor reports that on May 4, 1862, there was exactly two days’ difference between the lunar and calendar months. This, Taylor argues, suggests that the Mad Hatter’s watch ran on lunar time and accounts for his remark that his watch is “two days wrong.” If Wonderland is near the earth’s center, Taylor points out, the position of the sun would be useless for time-telling, whereas phases of the moon remain unambiguous.

Lewis Carroll; Martin Gardner. The Annotated Alice, The Definitive Edition.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. Chapter VII: A Mad Tea-Party; note 6 (p. 73).

Why Is a Raven Like a Writing-desk?

Denis Crutch (Jabberwocky, Winter 1976) reported an astonishing discovery. In the 1896 edition of Alice, Carroll wrote a new preface in which he gave what he considered the best answer to the riddle: “Because it can produce a few notes, tho they are very flat; and it is nevar put with the wrong end in front.” Note the spelling of “never” as “nevar.” Carroll clearly intended to spell “raven” backwards. The word was corrected to “never” in all later printings, perhaps by an editor who fancied he had caught a printer’s error. Because Carroll died soon after this “correction” destroyed the ingenuity of his answer, the original spelling was never restored. Whether Carroll was aware of the damnage done to his clever answer is not known.

Lewis Carroll; Martin Gardner. The Annotated Alice, The Definitive Edition.  New York, W. W. Norton & Company, 2000. Chapter VII: A Mad Tea-Party; note 5 (p. 72).