It was in 2009, after I had published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in Irish, English, Cornish, and Esperanto, and Through the Looking-Glass in Irish, that I published two editions of Alice sequels, Wonderland Revisited and the Games Alice Played There by Keith Sheppard, and A New Alice in the Old Wonderland by Anna Matlack Richards. Sheppard’s sequel delighted me in its faithfulness to the authorial voice behind Wonderland—it sounds just as Carroll might have done. Richards’ sequel is arguably one of the best, written only 30 years after Lewis Carroll’s original, and audacious in its subversion of Wonderland, in that her Alice—a new Alice—is quite a different character from Carroll’s heroine.
Gilbert Adair’s sequel is quite different again. Less political—or rather, less polemic—than Richards’ book, it is all about wit and wordplay, and like Sheppard’s Alice, Adair’s is very much Carroll’s Alice. The first time I read Alice Through the Needle’s Eye, I was delighted both by the vibrant humour and impressed by Adair’s fidelity to the spirit of Wonderland.
It was after I had published a number of sequels and parodies—as well as many translations of Alice—that I ventured to contact Adair’s agents to propose a new edition of his book as part of my Carrollian collection. I was thrilled when I learned that the author had agreed to let me prepare a new edition of his book, which had been out of print for a couple of decades.
It was devastating to read of Adair’s death in December 2011. His agent Julian Friedmann had told me that he had lost much of his vision due to a stroke he suffered the previous year, but he also told me that Adair had been very much looking forward to having the new edition appear.
I have tried to ensure that this edition is faithful to Adair’s original. In a few places I have made alterations: I have made sure that Carroll’s preference in writing “ca’n’t”, “sha’n’t”, “wo’n’t”, and “to-day” is implemented consistently throughout (the first edition had missed a few). I have made a few changes here and there to conform to Oxford orthography; I have replaced “:” with “:—” before verse (another Carrollian practice); single quotes are used consistently in nested speech; and in Chapter VIII I broke a paragraph so that a run-on word would fit on a single line. Of course I would have run these changes by the author had it been possible.
The book is embellished with Jenny Thorne’s splendid and lively illustrations; unfortunately, I have been unable to trace her. I have reproduced her original cover art (in greyscale, alas) as the frontispiece of the book, and have chosen illustrations from Chapters II and V for the back and front covers respectively.
I admit to publishing this work with a little selfish dismay. Gilbert Adair’s voice, his humour, his wit, echoes on every page, and I wish I had been able to meet him and talk about the edition with him. I’m sorry he didn’t live to see it, but I’m honoured to offer his book to a new generation of readers, now in his memory