21 March – 3 July 2016
Archive Case (First Floor)
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).
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.