Curiouser and Curiouser: A Mad Tea Party
There was a table set out under a tree in front of the house, and the March Hare and the Hatter were having tea: a Dormouse was sitting between them, fast asleep, and the other two were using it as a cushion, resting their elbows on it, and talking over its head. “Very uncomfortable for the Dormouse,” thought Alice; “only, as it’s asleep, I suppose it doesn’t mind.”
The table was a large one, but the three were all crowded together at one corner of it: “No room! No room!” they cried out when they saw Alice coming. “There’s plenty of room!” said Alice indignantly, and she sat down in a large armchair at one end of the table. The table was stacked with plates and dishes, teapots and jugs, intricately painted. Some were worn as though they were centuries old.
“Have some tea,” the March Hare said in an encouraging tone.
Alice looked around the table, but there was nothing on it but tea. Her teacup had little playing cards painted on the inside and intricate writing around the rim “I don’t see any tea,” she remarked.
“There isn’t any,” said the March Hare.
“Then it wasn’t very civil of you to offer it,” said Alice angrily.
“It wasn’t very civil of you to sit down without being invited,” said the March Hare.
“I didn’t know it was your table,” said Alice; “it’s laid for a great many more than three.” The tabletop was made Alice saw of intricate ceramic tiles; each one had a painting of a scene of some sort. Alice was inspecting one particular scene which was made up of people on a frozen lake when the Hatter finally spoke up:
“Minton Hollins and Company, Stoke-Upon-Trent.”
Alice didn’t have any idea what he was talking about. “Excuse me, what do you mean by that?”
“Skating” replied the Hatter “1886.”
He must have been talking about the tiles thought Alice, she continued perusing the table, there was a man ploughing a field, a very busy seaside scene and a group of people with a hay-stacked cart. Alice stopped when she arrived at a strange blue scene, it was a group of naked cherubs surrounding a plant, “Please, could you expla…” she was cut off by the March Hare. “You shouldn’t ask personal questions” he said tersely “it’s very rude.”
Alice thought to argue with him that it wasn’t a personal question, but her eye fell upon the most curious little dish. It was no good for eating off nor did it look practical for a tea party in any way, it was a mossy stone shaped dish upon which sat two ceramic lizards. It made Alice think of Bill.
“I want a clean cup,” yelled the Hatter, interrupting Alice’s daydream: “let’s all move one place on.”
He moved one seat over as he spoke, the March Hare moved one over, and Alice rather unwillingly took the place of the March Hare. The Hatter was the only one who got any advantage from the change: and Alice was a good deal worse off than before, as the March Hare had just upset the milk-jug into his plate. The milk-jug itself was shaped like a cow, only it was a vibrant shade of pink. The milk glugged out until the plate was full.
“The Keiller Collection” said the March Hare “Guess how many there are?”
“you’re asking me?” questioned Alice, very much confused, “I don’t think—”
“Then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter.
This piece of rudeness was more than Alice could bear, she got up in great disgust, and walked off. Neither the Hatter nor the March Hare took the least notice of her going, though she looked back once or twice, half hoping that they would call after her. The last time she looked back, they were trying to put a dormouse into a cauliflower teapot.
“At any rate I’ll never go there again!” said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. “It’s the stupidest tea-party I was ever at in all my life!”
She started when she spotted a great bird, it was blue and green and seemed to have eyes in its feathers. Alice crept closer so as not to frighten the poor thing, when she realised this too was ceramic. She was beginning to wonder who could have possibly made the bird and left it out in the wood when she spotted another ceramic bird, this time an owl. It seemed to be a flask of some description, with an empty, detachable head for a cup and Alice presumed it had been misplaced by a member of the tea party.
It was only then Alice noticed the tree behind the owl had a door leading right into it. “That’s very curious!” she thought. “But everything’s curious today. I think I may as well go in at once.” And in she went.
Once more she found herself in the long hall, and close to the little glass table. “Now, I’ll manage better this time,” she said to herself, and began by taking the little golden key, and unlocking the door that led into the garden. Then she went to work nibbling at the mushroom (having kept a piece of it in her pocket) till she was about a foot high: she walked down the little passage and she found herself at last in the beautiful garden.
Continue the Story
Discover and Play
Chapter 7 Featured Object:
…the last time she saw them, they were trying to put the Dormouse into the teapot. `At any rate I’ll never go THERE again!’ said Alice as she picked her way through the wood. `It’s the stupidest tea-party I ever was at in all my life!’
The theme of madness in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is illustrated by the strange behaviour of the Mad Hatter and the March Hare.
The phrase “mad as a hatter” is associated with the hat-making industry of the 19th century . A mercury solution was commonly used during the process of turning fur into a felt covering for hats causing the hatters to breathe in the fumes of this highly toxic metal. Over time the build-up of mercury in the workers’ bodies would result in symptoms such as trembling, loss of co-ordination and slurred speech. It is thought that Lewis Carroll’s character of the Mad Hatter could have been inspired by the example of the hat-makers’ exposure to mercury.
To be as “mad as a March hare” refers to the excitable behaviour of hares during the month of March – their breeding season – which includes boxing at other hares and jumping vertically for no apparent reason.
Chapter 7 Blogs, games and activities: