Thursday, 17 July 2008

Alice's Caterpillar

I'm rather intrigued by the notion (which, I'm surprised and a little ashamed to confess, has only just occurred to me) that Tenniel's Alice's Caterpillar is a satirical dig at the British judiciary. Martin Gardner notes how Tenniel made the first two rows of caterpillarian legs the being's nose and chin, which is very neat; and I remember thinking as a child how like a treble clef the curling of the hookah's line is. But to look at the image is to note the resemblance of the caterpillar's back to a judicial wig (Ede and Ravenscroft's Legal Habits: a Brief Sartorial History of Wig, Robe [pdf] makes plain that in the nineteenth-century (and unlike today) Judges wore 'a larger full-bottomed stle of wig' where attorneys and lawyers wore 'bobwigs' and 'pigtails' respectively); and the sleeve looks very like the sleeve of a judicial gown. The question is whether Tenniel had any larger point, beyond linking Judges with the indolence and orientalism associated with the hookah?


Mahendra Singh said...

Something along the lines of justice being the larval state of truth.

Adam Roberts Project said...

Or 'the legal profession is full of insects and drug-addicts'.