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This report is taken from PN Review 101, Volume 21 Number 3, January - February 1995.

A Cheshire Cat's Grin Lawrence Sail

I have always thought that one of the best things about Alice in Wonderland is the Cheshire Cat. Its claim that it is mad, along with everyone else, is the only unconvincing thing about it - probably part of its cover, and anyway if madness is universal it must have become the current normality. In all other respects, it's a very cool cat, especially as it appears in Tenniel's four drawings in the text (though in the third one it is already in the process of disappearing) with its, well, yes, demented grin, and the way it hovers like a felix ex machina above the Queen's croquet ground, out of reach of the raging royals and the executioner's axe below. But most magical of all is its ability to become invisible, grin last.

A year or so ago, a well known English poet was speculating, in the course of a conversation, on the subject of invisibility. What if, in this age of relentless publicity and promotion, no one had really discovered the foremost writer of the time? Maybe he or she was working away entirely without recognition, perhaps even not having published anything as yet, and to be discovered only subsequently by some perspicacious literary archaeologist. This thesis may do less than justice to human vanity and the desire actually to communicate fully, it may also seem to beg the question of what is meant by 'foremost': but it remains intriguing nonetheless. As well as pointing to ...


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