On October 7, I attended a Jerry’s Picks event at Butler Library, the “Alice’s Adventures at Columbia” lecture by Dayna Huhn, the founder of the Lewis Carroll Society in Canada. Ms. Kuhn, in a lively 45-minute lecture, took the audience through her research on Alice Pleasance Liddell Hargreaves’ long-ago visit to Columbia University on the occasion of the Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) centenary.
In 1932, Ms. Hargreaves was almost 80 years old (she died two years later) and, through extensive correspondence and accommodations, she was enticed to leave England and come to New York. The highlight of her visit was when she received an honorary degree at a ceremony on campus and was feted as the important dignitary she was. The original manuscript of the book Alice’s Adventure Underground was loaned to Columbia and exhibited during her visit. Ms. Huhn wove in details of the correspondence between the President Nicholas Murray Butler, professors who were organizing the event, and Ms. Hargreaves’s son, who accompanied her to NY. She did a great job of placing this event into the context of the New York society and economy of the 1930s.
After the lecture, we went up to the sixth floor of Butler for a reception in the Rare Books and Manuscripts Library and had time to see the exhibition of photos, letters, and books pertaining to the Alice at Columbia visit. The exhibition is housed in the Chang Octagon Gallery, which is worth seeing as a fun architectural space. It was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half on the way home, learning something new and interesting in a great Columbia setting.
For more on Alice at Columbia, see this 2009 Columbia Magazine article.