Henry Savile Clarke

Lewis Carroll was a great theatre-goer, and the popularity of his two Alice books soon led him to consider the possibility of a stage version. To protect his copyright, as early as November 1872 he had asked his publisher, Macmillan, to engage copying clerks to write out the text in dramatic form, with speeches and speakers, and stage directions of entrances and exits; these were to be registered as dramas under the same titles as the books. He later gave permission to Mrs K. Freiligrath-Kroeker to publish two plays, Alice (1880) and Alice through the Looking-Glass (1882), although these contained excerpts only (and Alice was a mixture of the two books). He approached Sir Arthur Sullivan to see if he would write a musical score for an Alice operetta, but no progress was made with the idea. Finally, on 2 September 1886, Carroll gave permission to Henry Savile Clarke to produce a version, although insisting on working closely with him. The first performance was on 23 December 1886 at the Prince of Wales’s Theatre, London, with Phoebe Carlo as Alice. This first production was very successful, and went on to an extensive tour of the Provinces. The revival in 1888 at the Globe Theatre with Isa Bowman as Alice was not a financial success, and the operetta was not performed again until after Carroll’s death. The revival in December 1898 at the Opera Comique, with Rose Hersee as Alice, proved very popular, and there were productions almost every year in either London or the Provinces, for the next thirty years.

The Play Script

The finalised version of the 1886 published script is available here: Click to Download

Other Useful Sources

‘Through the Looking-Glass, and what Henry Savile Clarke did there.’
By Catherine Richards and Clare Imholtz
Chapter 18 in Alice Through the Looking-Glass. A Companion
Peter Lang, Oxford, 2024 [in press].

Click Here for full details.

‘About that Mysterious Prelude in the Alice Operetta.’
Presentation by Matthew Demakos
Produced in association with The Lewis Carroll Society of North America in 2024.
Available to watch on YouTube: Click Here

A presentation exploring a piece of music, included as a prelude in an 1887 performances of Alice, that could once have accompanied the deleted scene where Alice passes through the Looking-Glass.

'What is Missing from Henry Savile Clarke’s Musical Dream-Play Alice in Wonderland
By Catherine Richards
In: Theatre Notebook, Vol. 76, No. 3 (2022).
An examination of different forms of "absence" in different productions of the Savile Clarke play; missing characters, text, actors and the spirit of the original book.

Alice Takes to the Stage: Carroll’s Letters to Henry Savile Clarke
Presentation by Clare Imholtz
For The Lewis Carroll Society of North America, broadcast via Zoom on 6 November 2021.
Available to watch on YouTube: Click Here

A presentation exploring Carroll’s letters to Savile Clarke and what they reveal of Carroll’s personality, also touching on staging, performances, performers, reviews, the Clarke family and other Alice plays.

'Phoebe Carlo, Lewis Carroll’s First Stage Alice'
By Clare Imholtz
In: The Carrollian, No. 34 (December 2020).
Extensive biographical article on the first performer to play Alice in the Savile Clarke production.

Children and Theatre in Victorian Britain
By Anne Varty
Palgrave Macmillan, 2008
Major study of children in Victorian theatre, with numerous referenes to Lewis Carroll.

‘A note on Savile Clarke’s Alice in Wonderland: A Dream Play for Children, including a newly identified third edition‘
By Jon Lindseth

In The Carrollian, Issue 22, Autumn 2008, pages 25-30.

Lewis Carroll and the Victorian Stage
By Richard Foulkes
Ashgate, 2005
Wide-ranging analysis of Carroll's interest and involvement in the theatre.

Alice on Stage
By Charles C Lovett
Meckler 1990.
A detailed account of the early Henry Savile Clarke productions.

‘Savile Clarke’s Alice in Wonderland – A Dream Play, or the Case of the Crucial Comma.’
By Selwyn H. Goodacre and Jeffrey Stern
In: JabberwockyIssue 65 (Vol. 15, Nos. 1 & 2), Winter/Spring 1986, pages 7-13.

Ellaline Terriss and Blue-Bell in Fairyland

For Christmas 1900, Ellaline Terriss played the name-part in the revival of Henry Savile Clarke’s Alice in Wonderland at the Vaudeville Theatre, London. The following year, Terriss and her husband Seymour Hicks wrote, produced, and starred in their own musical dream-play, Blue-Bell in Fairyland. It is clear that Blue-Bell was an Alice imitation.

Click Here to view the printed programme

‘Blue-Bell in Fairyland, an Alice Imitation’
By Catherine Richards
Knight Letter, Vol. 3, Issue 5 (No. 105), Fall 2020 pp.24-30
A full discussion of the close relationship between the two productions.

Click Here to read this article on the Internet Archive

Lewis Carroll Resources: Alice Stage Productions

A separate section of this website giving details of Alice productions other than the Savile Clarke play.

Click Here to use this facility