DODGSON, Charles Lutwidge ("Lewis Carroll"). "The Beggar-Maid." Original albumen photograph of Carroll's child-muse ALICE LIDDELL, full-length in costume dress as a beggar-girl. Circa 1858. 165 x 109 mm (6 x 4 5/16 in), on plain board mount (chipped at lower right corner, slightly cropped at top).
LEWIS CARROLL'S PORTRAIT OF THE ORIGINAL ALICE
"My mental picture is as vivid as ever, of one who was, through so many years, my ideal child-friend," wrote the aging Lewis Carroll to Alice in her married years. "I have had scores of child-friends since your time: but they have been quite a different thing" (Letters, pp. 560-61). Carroll took this captivating photograph in 1858 (two years after their first meeting) in the Deanery Garden, Christ Church, Oxford, when Alice was aged six. In his album Dodgson titled it "The Beggar-Maid," and designated it as print number 354. Carroll's nephew and biographer, Stuart Dodgson Collingwood wrote that on one occasion Dodgson showed the poet laureate Tennyson "a photograph which he had taken of Miss Alice Liddell as a beggar-child, and which Tennyson said was the most beautiful photograph he had ever known" (Collingwood, p. 79; see also Letters, p. 39 and note).
Despite its status as probably the best-known photograph by Carroll, there are not many surviving examples known. What may account for this is that these pictures were intended only for distribution among his close friends and family, not as commercial ventures, and the privacy Dodgson sought in his relationship with young Alice Liddell. Lewis Carroll's own copy, one of two known hand-tinted copies, is at Christ Church, Oxford, and the Ovenden collection in Cornwall has both a full-length and half-length version. There are four other examples in America: The Owen D. Young copy at NYPL (Berg Collection), which is hand-tinted, and measures 170 x 130 mm; the example in the Parrish Collection at Princeton University, which is also full-length but with a small flaw just below the subject's left knee caused during developing; and the copy in the Arthur A. Houghton, Jr. Collection at The Pierpont Morgan Library, a half-length version measuring 92 x 59 mm. mounted as a carte-de-visite on larger board. The Gilman Paper Co. copy was the one that appeared at auction in 1977, and now in New York. No other examples are in the Lewis Carroll collections at Harvard, Rosenbach, or the University of Texas. The only copy to appear at auction in more than fifty years (measuring 162 x 109 mm) sold in 1977 (Sotheby's Belgravia, 1 July 1977, lot 316, for 5500).
Provenance: Miss Mary Prickett, who served as Governess to the Liddell children for 19 years, and afterwards married Charles Foster, a prosperous local wine merchant (ink inscription on mount verso in an unidentified hand: "Alice Liddell photograph taken by 'Lewis Carroll' in fancy dress as a beggar girl in grounds of Deanery at Christ Church, Oxford. Given to Miss Prickett (afterwards Mrs. Foster) - when governess to the Liddell girls - she was in that position for 19 years."). Her role as educator, disciplinarian and companion is well-documented in Anne Clark's biography of Alice Liddell, which suggests Miss Prickett may have been Dodgson's model for the White Queen: formal, strict, pedantic, yet kind.