“Do you think I’ve gone round the bend?”
“I’m afraid so. You’re mad, bonkers, completely off your head. But I’ll tell you a secret. All the best people are.”
― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland
I often hear people mention MacKenzie-Childs and Alice in Wonderland in the same sentence. I used to dodge this discussion because in many cases, I was uncomfortable with what popular culture has made of this masterwork of Victorian literature. At the very same time, I took it as the highest compliment for our company. My admiration of the works of Lewis Carroll has been lifelong and very deep. If someone saw affinities between what we do and that remarkable looking-glass world of his, then perhaps we were doing something right.
The lovely Charles Dodgson hid behind the pen name Lewis Carroll for his Alice books so that his fantastical creations wouldn’t be confused with the books he wrote about mathematics. He was an incredibly complex man; the son of an Anglican minister, he was himself a lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church Oxford (a position he held until his death in 1898), a photographer, an inventor, and as we all know, the author of two of the most celebrated and fantastic books ever written in the English language. Bullied at boarding school as a child, his health was precarious and he suffered with a stammer all his life. It is said that the character of the Dodo bird in Alice was a self-portrait: socially awkward, shy, and somewhat stiff in his manner, but very lovable.
For me, his appreciation of formalities and the social niceties, a well laid table, fine china, the ceremony of tea (door-mouse not withstanding), celebrations of birthdays (and unbirthdays!), the spirit of adventure and rising to a challenge, the importance of friendship, the notion that the back garden can be a universe all unto itself…and above all, good manners…these are all things that speak to me. It’s his point of view that’s so refined yet doesn’t take itself too seriously.