I am thirty. Have been for a few months. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, had he decided to live forever, would be hundred and eighty four. Of course, Lewis Carroll is alive, and well, has decided to live forever, and, at the moment, is a great grand old man of hundred and fifty three. (How? Left as an exercise to the interested reader. Clue? Solitude.) It’s been five years since I decisively tumbled into the rabbit hole (Alice, Inception). Yet here I am, at it again.
Hauriant (pronounced \hawr-ee-uh nt\ or, for the phonetic adepts, \ˈhȯrēənt\) is a heraldic attitude that applies to sea creatures. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it thus, “being in pale with the head up as if rising for air.” (Thanks to a fellow aficionado of unusual words for the tip.)
In Through the Looking-Glass Lewis Carroll describes one of the White King’s messengers, Haigha (the March Hare), as adopting “Anglo-Saxon attitudes.” Hauriant being one among many heraldic “attitudes,” I took the cue and picked up Martin Gardner’s Annotated Alice to explore.
All this was lost on Alice, who was still looking intently along the road, shading her eyes with one hand. “I see somebody now!” she exclaimed at last. “But he’s coming very slowly—and what curious attitudes he goes into!” (For the Messenger kept skipping up and down, wriggling like an eel, as he came along, with his great hands spread out like fans on each side.)
“Not at all,” said the King. “He’s an Anglo-Saxon Messenger—and those are Anglo-Saxon attitudes.”
In his references to Anglo-Saxon Attitudes, Carroll is spoofing Anglo-Saxon scholarship of his day. Harry Morgan Ayres, in his book Carroll’s Alice, reproduces some drawings of Anglo-Saxons in various costumes and attitudes, from the Caedmon Manuscript of the Julian Codex, and suggests that they may have been used as a source by both Carroll and Tenniel [John Tenniel, the illustrator of the Alice books].
Just why Carroll disguised the Hatter [“Hatta,” the other messenger] and the Hare as Anglo-Saxon messengers (and Tenniel under-scored this whimsy by dressing them as Anglo-Saxons and giving them “Anglo-Saxon attitudes” ) continues to be puzzling.
These are the Tenniel drawings Gardner is referring to:
It’s curious that in the second illustration, if you squint, both Haigha and Hatta seem to be practically hauriant in their attitudes.
I would love to hear more about this from my loyal readers. (I know you’re there!) In the meanwhile, I’ve discovered Morton N. Cohen’s monumental biography Lewis Carroll, a veritable rabbit-hole all in itself and, also, Martin Gardner’s annotated edition of The Hunting of the Snark. The latter is worth the price of admission just for this one wonderland-of-a-gloss:
Carroll’s quite different rule-of-three plays a central role in the plot of a bizzare science fiction story, “Chaos, Coordinated,” by John MacDougal (pseudonym of Robert Lowndes and James Blish). The earth is at war with a distant galaxy, where the various races are coordinated by a gigantic computer. An earthman manages to disguise The Hunting of the Snark as an “observational report” and feed it to the giant brain. The brain accepts literally the order “What I tell you three times is true.” All it had been told once or twice in the past is regarded as unverified, and new observational reports are not accepted because they are made only once. As a result, the entire galaxy becomes, so to speak, snarked.
Snarked! Now, read on …