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July 2006
 
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Davy and the Goblin; Or, What Followed Reading "Alice's Adventures In Wonderland," By Charles Edward Carryl (1884)

ON CHRISTMAS Eve, eight-year-old Davy drowses by the fireplace reading Lewis Carroll's classic novel. He is suddenly accosted by a kaleidoscopic Goblin who transforms the family's Dutch clock into a boat, transporting Davy to a weird land inhabited by storybook figures including Robinson Crusoe, Robin Hood (and his daughter Little Red Riding), Sindbad and his Roc, and Sham-Sham: the last of the Forty Thieves, who stirs a simmering cauldron filled with pocket-watches (although a watched pot never boils). Davy also encounters the Hole-Keeper (a two-dimensional sentinel who ties knots in holes) plus a whale in a waistcoat, the grotesque Cockalorum, and the notorious Butterscotchmen. After bizarre adventures, Davy is gently awakened by his grandmother and the friendly aromas of dinner.

Davy and the Goblin frankly imitates the Alice books, yet Carryl is nearly the equal of Carroll in his use of wordplay and corkscrewed logic. Davy includes several long poems of nonsense verse that are impressively Carrollian, including one nautical poem that has been widely anthologized, which begins "A capital ship for an ocean trip was the Walloping Window-Blind."

Charles Edward Carryl (18411920) was a millionaire who held a seat on the New York Stock Exchange for thirty-four years, but found time for occasional contributions to the children's magazine St. Nicholas, in which Davy was serialized. He dedicated this fantasy novel to his son Guy Wetmore Carryl (1873 1904), who went on to write some superb nonsense verse of his own.

—F. Gwynplaine MacIntyre

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