'Dressed as a New Zealander': A Photograph of Ella Monier-Williams by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)

21 March – 3 July 2016

Archive Case (First Floor)

Photograph of Ella Monier-Williams taken in July 1866 by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll). [2012.107.1]Displayed here is a photograph of a young girl ‘Dressed as a New Zealander’. It is an original albumen print, made from a wet collodion negative. The photograph was taken by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) in his studio in Badcock’s Yard, St Aldate’s, Oxford, on 9 July 1866. The sitter is the eight-year-old Ella Monier-Williams (1858–1945), daughter of Monier Monier-Williams, the University of Oxford’s Boden Professor of Sanskrit. In the photograph Ella is dressed in a Maori cloak, with a beaded woollen sash from the Eastern Woodlands of the USA around her head. On her left ankle she wears a Hawaiian boar-tusk armlet. In her left hand she holds a Maori knife. She sits on a Tongan mat, with a South African gourd beside her and a Maori paddle at her feet. A bow from Mozambique leans against the wall.

Another print of the same photograph survives in a family photograph album preserved in the Bodleian Library. This is reproduced below, along with a print of another photograph in the album that was clearly taken during the same session. In the second photograph, Ella is dressed in the same cloak and anklet, but without the ‘scarf’. Around her right wrist is an African lion-tooth bracelet and in her left hand she holds two southern African wristlets. She sits on the same mat, loosely holding the same paddle, with a Tahitian gourd to her right and a Tongan necklace on the floor behind her. Dodgson borrowed all these objects from the Ashmolean Museum in Broad Street (now the Museum of the History of Science) to use as 'props'. We know that he returned them, because they survive at the Pitt Rivers Museum (in a collection transferred from the Ashmolean in 1886). The Tongan mat, the Maori knife, the Tahitian gourd, and the Tongan necklace are from the Museum's important Forster collection made during Captain James Cook’s second voyage to the Pacific (1772–5).

Maori korowai, cloak of flax, worn by Ella Monier-Williams in both photographs by Dodgson described here (possibly part of a collection given to the Ashmolean Museum by John Thomas Bigge in 1834; transferred to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1886). [1886.1.1127]In his diary entry for 8 July 1866 (covering the previous week), Dodgson notes that he has taken photographs of a number of the Monier-Williams family. In particular, he notes that he has taken ‘a good many of their little Ella’. He also records that he has borrowed ‘some New Zealand articles from the Ashmolean’, and that he ‘took a picture of her asleep, covered with a native cloak, and with anklet etc.’ In the entry for the next day, he notes: ‘Did two large pictures of Ella with New Zealand cloak’. Dodgson appears to have made at least two prints of the photograph displayed here, and given them both to Ella. In creating these images Dodgson may have been inspired by paintings like those published by George French Angas in The New Zealanders Illustrated (1847).

In March 1928, it was announced that ‘Alice’s Adventures Under Ground’, the original manuscript of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was to be sold at auction. Ella, now Mrs Bickersteth, was one of a number of people who wrote to The Times to express the hope that the manuscript would remain in Britain, and to reminisce about being one of Dodgson’s child friends. She also loaned eight loose prints from ‘a bundle precious to me’ to The Illustrated London News for reproduction in a special feature inspired by the news of the auction sale. The print in the Pitt Rivers Museum’s collection is reproduced at bottom right of the feature (see below). In 1932 six of the prints in Ella’s possession were mounted on a card for display at the Lewis Carroll Centenary Exhibition held in London. In 2001 this card was put up for sale at Sotheby’s, but failed to find a buyer. Later, the six prints were removed from the card and offered for sale individually.

The print on display [2012.107.1] was purchased by the Pitt Rivers Museum in 2012, with the support of the V&A Purchase Grant Fund and the Chadwyck-Healey Fund. For further information, see Jeremy Coote and Christopher Morton, ‘“Dressed as a New Zealander”, or an Ethnographic Mischmasch? Notes and Reflections on Two Photographs by Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll)’, in Journal of Museum Ethnography, no. 28 (March 2015), pp. 150–172. This article is also available online in the ‘Further Resources’ section of the Pitt Rivers Museum’s ‘Cook-Voyage Collections’ website.

Display curated by Jeremy Coote and Philip Grover.
Graphic design by Katherine Clough.
Case display by Jon Eccles.
Special thanks to Christopher Morton and Jeremy Uden.


The Pitt Rivers Museum’s print of Ella Monier-Williams by Charles Dodgson, purchased in 2012 [2012.107.1]. The unmounted albumen print reveals the full extent of the uncropped original. The damage which the original negative had sustained before the print was made can be seen, as well as the discolouration suffered by the print itself over time.On the reverse of the print are various annotations and printer’s marks. [2012.107.1]Mounted albumen print made from the wet collodion plate of the same photograph of Ella Monier-Williams as above, taken by Charles Dodgson on 9 July 1866; from an album in the Bickersteth Family Papers, Special Collections, Bodleian Library. Courtesy, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford (Ms Photograph D.21, Item 73).

Mounted albumen print from a wet collodion plate of another photograph of Ella Monier-Williams taken by Charles Dodgson during the same session on 9 July 1866; from an album in the Bickersteth Family Papers, Special Collections, Bodleian Library. Courtesy, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford (Ms Photograph D.21, Item 72).Beaded woollen sash from the Eastern Woodlands of the USA (acquired by the Ashmolean Museum by 1836; transferred to the Pitt Rivers Museum in 1886). [1886.1.965]Maori knife, maripi, of wood and shark’s teeth, from New Zealand [1886.1.1161]; part of the Forster collection. This knife, and the Tongan mat [1886.1.1177] on which Ella sits, are both on display in the Museum’s ‘Cook-Voyage Collections’ Case.Entry for Sunday 8 July 1866 in Charles Dodgson’s diary: ‘The week has glided away, and left almost no results, except a few photographs I have taken’. Copyright British Library Board (Add.54344, fol. 112).‘Children on the Banks of the Waipa’ and ‘Children at the Boiling Springs’; in George French Angas’s The New Zealanders Illustrated (London, 1847). Courtesy, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford (850.121 t.1, Pl. XXII).‘Alice in Wonderland’, a letter from Ella C. F. Bickersteth (née Monier-Williams) published in The Times on Saturday 24 March 1928. Courtesy, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford (N. 2287 a.1, 24 March 1928, p. 15, Col. E).Page from The Illustrated London News for Saturday 14 April 1928, a special feature reproducing eight ‘Photographs by the Author of “Alice”’. The image at bottom right has been reproduced from the print now in the Pitt Rivers Museum’s collection. Courtesy, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford (N. 2288 b.6, Vol. 172 (1928), p. 615).Copy of the Catalogue of the Lewis Carroll Centenary Exhibition, held in London in 1932, edited by Falconer Madan and published by Messrs J. & E. Bumpus (on loan from a private collection). The ‘Bickersteth Exhibit’ included, as item 536, the set of six photographs mounted together that was later offered for sale at Sotheby’s in 2001.Page from the catalogue of the sale of photographs held at Sotheby’s, London, on Thursday 10 May 2001. The set of six mounted photographs by Dodgson, reproduced in the catalogue, was offered for sale as lot 319. The print at top right of the card is the print now in the Pitt Rivers Museum’s collection. Courtesy, Sotheby’s, London.