Lewis Carroll’s “Double Acrostic” Poem


On May 20, 1871, Lewis Carroll sent the following poem to Mabel and Emily Kerr of Canada. The poem was titled “Double Acrostic”. Can you figure out where the acrostics are?

Thanks, thanks, fair Cousins, for your gift
So swiftly borne to Albion’s isle —
Though angry waves their crests uplift
Between our shores, for many a league!

(“So far, so good,” you say: “but how
Your Cousins?” Let me tell you, Madam.
We’re both descended, you’ll allow,
From one great-great-great-grandsire, Noah.)

Your picture shall adorn the book
That’s bound, so neatly and moroccoly,
With that bright green which every cook
Delights to see in beds of cauliflower.

The carte is very good, but pray
Send me the larger one as well!
“A cool request!” I hear you say.
“Give him an inch, he takes an acre!

“But we’ll be generous because
We well remember, in the story,
How good and gentle Alice was,
The day she argued with the Parrot!”

The acrostics are not apparent and even after a careful examination of the poem would prove to be futile. So, where are they?

Carroll used a little smokescreen to hide the acrostics. The last word of every stanza of the poem is an artifice. If you replace each of them with a similar word which rhymes with the last word of the second line of its respective stanza, then it would make more sense:

Leauge is substituted with Mile.
Noah is substituted with Adam.
Cauliflower is substituted with Brocolli.
Acre is substituted with Ell.
Parrot is substituted with Lorry.

Now, arrange this five words vertically:

M      il     E
A    da     M
B    rocoll  I
E       l      L
L     or     Y



Morton Cohen, et al. (Eds.), The Letters of Lewis Carroll: ca. 1837-1885, 1979

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24 thoughts on “Lewis Carroll’s “Double Acrostic” Poem

  1. Maybe you can help me — a while ago I ran across something on a Carroll poem which was a double acrostic in another way. I thought it was “The Mouse’s Tale,” but after reading your post I went back to search about it and couldn’t find it. Anyway, in one layout of the text, it makes a shape, but then if you layout the sentences by length it makes another. Very clever.

    So much cleverness in his work!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The Mouse’s Tale is from Alice in Wonderland and is not, as far as I know, an acrostic. It is however, a quadruple pun. You can read the links in this article to understand why:

      However at the end of Through the Looking Glass, Carroll wrote this poem–Alice Liddell of course was tCarroll’s little friend for whom he wrote the two Alice books.

      A boat beneath a sunny sky,
      Lingering onward dreamily
      In an evening of July—

      Children three that nestle near,
      Eager eye and willing ear,
      Pleased a simple tale to hear—

      Long has paled that sunny sky:
      Echoes fade and memories die.
      Autumn frosts have slain July.

      Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
      Alice moving under skies
      Never seen by waking eyes.

      Children yet, the tale to hear,
      Eager eye and willing ear,
      Lovingly shall nestle near.

      In a Wonderland they lie,
      Dreaming as the days go by,
      Dreaming as the summers die:

      Ever drifting down the stream—
      Lingering in the golden gleam—
      Life, what is it but a dream?

      Also, Carroll once sent the Liddell sisters, Lorina, Alice and Edith the following poem tucked into a book called Holiday House:

      Little maidens, when you look
      On this little story-book,
      Reading with attentive eye
      Its enticing history,
      Never think that hours of play
      Are your only HOLIDAY,
      And that in a HOUSE of joy
      Lessons serve but to annoy:
      If in any HOUSE you find
      Children of a gentle mind,
      Each the others pleasing ever–
      Each the others vexing never–
      Daily work and pastime daily
      In their order taking gaily–
      Then be very sure that they
      Have a life of HOLIDAY.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Here’s a little poem I composed in a similar vein to Carroll’s. Can you find the hidden message?

    Another time, another place,
    Though we never see the bloggers’ head,

    Yet he’s got reason to be proud
    I’ll sing some praises if permitted

    So raise your voices one and all
    Blast the trumpet, sound the voices

    This blog is really fun for me
    To read as I partake of drink

    You learn things that you never knew
    It’s a friendly mix, a hearty goulash

    Liked by 1 person

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