The opening lines of this review of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland remind us that Lewis Carroll was virtually unknown before his bestselling novel was published. In contrast its illustrator, John Tenniel, was a household name due to his work for comic magazine Punch. The lines read, ‘Forty-two illustrations by Tenniel! Why there needs nothing else to sell this book, one would think’.
Wholly positive, the review describes the novel as an ‘exquisitely wild, fantastic, impossible, yet most natural history’. The review goes on to praise Tenniel’s illustrations, particularly noting how memorable they are, thus anticipating their enduring popularity. Indeed, the reviewer captures the reason why it is impossible to separate the illustrations from the text, writing that Tenniel ‘has entered equally into the fun and graceful sentiment of his author’ [editor’s emphasis].
In the last paragraph, the reviewer hints that Alice is not ‘knowledge in disguise’, i.e. a children’s book with a strong moral or educational message. Aunt Judy’s Magazine, on the other hand, was a monthly magazine for children whose aim was to simultaneously instruct and entertain.