I've been remiss with my Snark blog and I apologize. As penance, I present what I call "Profiles in Nonsense," a series of postings focusing on the ten Snark Hunters (AKA B-Boyz), beginning with the Bellman, the presiding genius and master of ceremonies of Lewis Carroll's Hunting of the Snark.
Readers who care to do so may remember that the Bellman appears in the very first line of the Snark, crying: Just the place for a Snark!
This is of course, a tautology (and a rather clever parody of the
traditional Homeric invocation of the Muse) and not the first which this
avuncular, cozily insane personage will commit. Other Snarkologists
have already pointed out that the Bellman may well have been based on an
eponymous officer at Christ Church College, "Le Bellman", whose job it
was to ring a bell whenever some particularly inert don had finally
popped off for good.
Of such grim details are both great poetry
and academic life made! An insane man armed with a large, blunt, heavy
metal-and-wooden object with which he roams our poem and Oxford alike,
announcing the beginning of the verses and the ending of some other poor
college-wallah's life. No wonder this illustrator saw fit to flesh out
this lugubrious person's person with the above drawing.
sharp-eyed reader who eats his carrots will instantly ferret out, in his
offhand, weaselly ferret-like manner, the fleur-de-lys motif lurking in
the wallpaper. This outbreak of French monarchism has been induced by
the Bellman's notorious insistence upon the Rule of Three which occurs
immediately afterwards in the same opening stanzas:
Just the place for a Snark! I have said it thrice:
What I tell you three times is true.
pronouncements reek of royal diktats to this artist's ear; and
furthermore, the trefoil motif nicely complements the trinitarian
obsessions of what we now call the Clochetic Rule of Three. Learned
Snarkologists have found all manner of historical riffraff lurking
inside this Rule: a reference to a Victorian mathematical classroom
crib, perhaps a jab at the Mad Monadist, Charles Peirce and
his triunary blatherings, or it could even be a clever Protosurrealist,
anti-anachronistic reference to cybernetics and human cognition and
But we here at Chez Snarque are made of
sterner stuff! We think that the Bellman is nutters because he just is,
and we've dug up some really cool facts to support our Nutter Theory.
Firstly, the Bellman's odd physical appearance is based upon that of Sir John Tenniel, the quick-fingered illustrator of both of Carroll's Alice books, and a rascally bon vivant, to boot!
SIR JOHN TENNIEL
Sir John's illustrations for Carroll included several drawings of the
White Knight, that avuncular, cozily insane personage who assists young
Alice in her regal quest (zut! more monarchism!) in Through The Looking Glass.
Well-oiled Carrollians will grunt appreciatively at all this, knowing
that the White Knight was a stand-in for Carroll himself, who was
notoriously shy about being bruited about in public as a avuncular,
cozily insane personage.
Which leads us to our third observation,
and hence, owing to the Clochetic Rule of Three, our self-evident,
truly definitive and tyrannically final royal diktak upon the entire
matter: the following drawing by Sir John of the Admirable Carroll in
mufti as a White Knight who bears an uncanny resemblance to a certain
Bellman trying pass himself off as — gasp! — Sir John Tenniel disguised
as a certain Christ Church don named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson who had a
penchant for going out in public as none other than — gasp again! —
THE WHITE KNIGHT … OR IS HE?
I think that just about wraps it up for both the Bellman's little
scheme of trinitarian cross-dressing and more importantly, for whatever
little standing I still possess amongst legitimate Carrollian circles.
no applause, please, I have more simple tastes. Just rattle your
kippered herrings or something like that, I'm off for a nice lie-down
with some hot-gin-and-nautch-girl-compresses. I feel a lynch mob coming