Thomas Cranmer’s Burning

Sources of the images:


This is about my assumption that there are pictorial and textual allusions to Thomas Cranmer in Lewis Carroll’s and Henry Holiday’s tragicomical ballad The Hunting of the Snark.

Pictorial Allusion

In The annotated … Snark, Martin Gardner wrote about Henry Holiday’s illustration to the last chapter of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark:

Thousands of readers must have glanced at this drawing without noticing (though they may have shivered with subliminal perception) the huge, almost transparent head of the Baker, abject terror on his features, as a giant beak (or is it a claw?) seizes his wrist.

I think, there is neither a beak nor a claw:

  • The upper two images are segments of an anti catholic propaganda print Faiths Victorie in Romes Crueltie (top image; published by Thomas Jenner, c. 1630) which shows the burning of protestant martyrs, especially a scene depicting Thomas Cranmer burning his hand – before he burned himself at the stake.
  • The lower two images are from Henry Holiday’s illustration (right side) to the final chapter The Vanishing of Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark (published in the year 1876).

The “giant beak” is a fire.


Textual Allusions

The Hunting of the Snark has been published by Rev. C. L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) in 1876. The Illustrator was Henry Holiday. In a handwritten remark by Holiday at the bottom of a page from a letter of Lewis Carroll, Holiday categorized Carroll’s Snark as a “tragedy” (image source: PBA Galleries). Please understand the image and this comment in that sense. The Hunting of the Snark is funny and tragical at the same time. In my view, possible references by Lewis Carroll to Thomas Cranmer are not meant as a joke. This is the Boojum.

I think that Henry Holiday’s illustration contains an allusion to Thomas Cranmer’s burning – when Cranmer met the Boojum after his own Snark hunt. This detail in Henry Holiday’s illustration could have accompanied a textual allusion by Lewis Carroll to Thomas Cranmer’s burning at the stake as well as to his Forty-Two Articles. Surely the Reverend Dodgson (aka Lewis Carroll) knew the Forty-Two Articles. As far as I know, Dodgson also refused to subscribe to the Thirty-Nine Articles and thus could not become an ordinated priest.

In Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark, The Baker is introduced with more lines than any other member of the Snark hunting party. There probably are references to Thomas Cranmer (four “burned” names and forty-two boxes), to St. Macarius (hyenas) and to St.Corbinian (bear):

021     There was one who was famed for the number of things
022         He forgot when he entered the ship:
023     His umbrella, his watch, all his jewels and rings,
024         And the clothes he had bought for the trip.

025     He had forty-two boxes, all carefully packed,
026         With his name painted clearly on each:
027     But, since he omitted to mention the fact,
028         They were all left behind on the beach.

029     The loss of his clothes hardly mattered, because
030         He had seven coats on when he came,
031     With three pairs of boots–but the worst of it was,
032         He had wholly forgotten his name.

033     He would answer to “Hi!” or to any loud cry,
034         Such as “Fry me!” or “Fritter my wig!”
035     To “What-you-may-call-um!” or “What-was-his-name!”
036         But especially “Thing-um-a-jig!”

037     While, for those who preferred a more forcible word,
038         He had different names from these:
039     His intimate friends called him “Candle-ends,”
040         And his enemies “Toasted-cheese.”

041     “His form is ungainly–his intellect small–”
042         (So the Bellman would often remark)
043     “But his courage is perfect! And that, after all,
044         Is the thing that one needs with a Snark.”

045     He would joke with hyenas, returning their stare
046         With an impudent wag of the head:
047     And he once went a walk, paw-in-paw, with a bear,
048         “Just to keep up its spirits,” he said.

049     He came as a Baker: but owned, when too late–
050         And it drove the poor Bellman half-mad–
051     He could only bake Bridecake–for which, I may state,
052         No materials were to be had.

As for missing material for bridecake, we can assume that no brides were to be had on board of the Snark hunters’ vessel.


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