The Beaver in Lewis Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark"

One of the members of the Snark hunting party in Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark (1876) is a Beaver, who spends a lot of time with lace making, which, in the view of the Barrister is an "infringement of right".

273    The Boots and the Broker were sharpening a spade —
274        Each working the grindstone in turn:
275    But the Beaver went on making lace, and displayed
276        No interest in the concern:

277    Though the Barrister tried to appeal to its pride,
278        And vainly proceeded to cite
279    A number of cases, in which making laces
280        Had been proved an infringement of right.

This perhaps is one of the reasons why Carroll's Snark ballad oftenis is categorized as nonsense literature. Actually, Carroll called it nonsense himself, but Henry Holiday (the illustrator) categorized the poem as a "tragedy". I think, that it is a tragicomedy and that even the "lace making" is an allusion to a controversial issue which Holiday and Carroll wanted to address.

Carroll's and Holiday's book probably is full of allusions to historical people.

285    But the Butcher turned nervous, and dressed himself fine,
286        With yellow kid gloves and a ruff —
287    Said he felt it exactly like going to dine,
288        Which the Bellman declared was all "stuff."

As I already found some allusions to paintings of Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder and Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger in Holiday's illustrations, I searched for some paintings with yellow gloves. I found the gloves, and some scarves - which then had been re-interpreted by Henry Holiday in a quite whitty way. There was the Beaver again, held in the arms of his friend, the Butcher (who, however, is wearing a cap made of beaver fur).

I call Henry Holiday's illustration to which I linked here "Inspiration by Reinterpretation".

  • [left]: Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger: Catherine Killigrew, Lady Jermyn (1614)
  • [center]: Henry Holiday: Segment of an illustration to Lewis Carroll's The Hunting of the Snark
  • [right]: Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger: Mary Throckmorton, Lady Scudamore (1615)
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