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Lost in Blunderland: The further adventures of Clara
A political parody based on Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland

Lost in Blunderland

By Caroline Lewis

First edition, 2010. Illustrations by J. Stafford Ransome. Cathair na Mart: Evertype. ISBN 978-1-904808-50-3 (paperback), price: €10.95, £8.95, $12.95.

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“Now, the proper way,” the Goat continued, to reduce yourself with these tabloids is to swallow them with your eyes shut as tight as possible, and then to go immediately to the country. That’ll reduce you quickly enough.”

Clara, like her Aunt Sarum, was always fond of quack remedies, so she did as she was told and swallowed the tabloids.

They were very nasty, and tasted like a mixture of Board Schools, County Councils, and Curates; but she, got them down at last.

Then a most curious thing happened. No sooner had she swallowed the drugs than everything seemed to go round and round, and she found herself swimming about in a great pool of water. The Goat and the shop and everything else had disappeared, and she realized at once that she was quite at sea.

   
Clara at sea

Clara in Blunderland was written in 1902 and details the adventures of Arthur Balfour while being groomed to become Prime Minister—the Clara of Lost in Blunderland, published in 1903, is Balfour once he got the job. The two novels deal with British frustration and anger about the Boer War and with Britain’s political leadership at the time.

Caroline Lewis is a pen-name, that of the team of Edward Harold Begbie (1871–1929), J. Stafford Ransome (born 1860), and M. H. Temple. Much of Begbie’s work was as a journalist, though he also wrote non-fiction, biographies, and some twenty-five novels, ranging from children’s stories to explorations of per­sonal psychology and spirituality. He wrote some of his best-known investigative and satirical work under the pen-name “A Gentleman with a Duster”.

J. Stafford Ransome, the illustrator of both Blunderland books, also worked as a journalist. Moreover he wrote on such wide-ranging subjects as labour relations, engineering in South Africa, and woodworking machinery.

In 1902 M. H. Temple collaborated again with Begbie and Ransome in The Coronation Nonsense Book (in the style of Edward Lear). In 1894 he contributed satirical political verse to The Hawarden Horace by Charles L. Graves.

Caroline Lewis’ jokes and allusions are too rich and densely woven into this book to explain them all—more a theme for an academic thesis than for a foreword like this, and I am no expert in any case. But I can supply a few biographical summaries (to 1903) and photos to assist the reader to put the cartoon parodies into context, and guide the reader who wishes to pursue an interest in any of these characters, or in the particulars of Balfour’s early premiership.

But you don’t need to be an expert in early twentieth-century British politics to enjoy either book—the story’s parody of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland books is still fresh and funny even more than a century later. Politics and politicians haven’t changed much, it seems, in a century. That may be regrettable—but at least Caroline Lewis can still make us laugh about it!

Michael Everson
Westport, 2010

   

 
HTML Michael Everson, Evertype, Cnoc Sceichín, Leac an Anfa, Cathair na Mart, Co. Mhaigh Eo, Éire, 2010-03-21

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