Sunday, November 15, 2009

Alice and Arthur

Buried just a few miles apart from each other in the New Forest are the graves of Alice Hargreaves and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Alice (Née Liddell) Hargreaves was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Arthur Conan Doyle created Sherlock Holmes. I can't think of two English fictional characters who have been more enduring, influential, inspirational and captured the collective imagination as much as Alice and Sherlock Holmes. It's like they've always existed and the authors just had to pluck them from the air and put them into print. The books are some of the richest and most imaginative stories ever created.

I was imagining they had bumped into each other during their lifetimes but Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) never actually lived anywhere near Minstead, the small village where he is now buried (as far as I can tell, the only reason he's buried there is one of his lesser known books, The White Company, is largely set there). He was moved there in the 1950s from East Sussex, where he had lived and died – and been buried there upright (because he was a Spiritualist, apparently). The church of England were 'mildly embarrassed' by his spiritualism, so buried him on the outskirts of the graveyard in Minstead. There's no mention of Holmes on the gravestone but we found a (broken) pipe on it.

Alice Hargreaves (1852-1934) lived in Lyndhurst in her later life and is buried in the graveyard of the church there. The house where she lived, Cuffnell's, was knocked down in the 1950s. Lyndhurst is celebrating the life of Alice this year with a range of arts and activities. There seems to be no discernible reason why this year has been chosen.

N.B. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle was, however, good friends with J.M.Barrie, creator of Peter Pan, another classic, timeless creation.

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