Poetry and Fiction

The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits.

By Lewis Carroll.

Illustrated by Henry Holiday.

London: Macmillan and Co., 1876.

First Edition. Lewis Carroll’s most popular book outside of the Alice books, Snark is a long, humorous—yet dark—narrative quest poem. Nine timid, ill-matched, and ill-prepared adventurers (a Butcher, Beaver, Billiard-marker, etc.) whose names each begin with the letter “B,” are led by a Bellman and set out on a voyage to find a mythical creature called the Snark.

Carroll said that the poem’s last line “For the Snark was a Boojum, you see” came to him out of nowhere, the cornerstone upon which the rest of the work was devised.

Adam Gopnik has called it the first surrealist poem, for its details hang together perfectly well while its overall meaning is inexplicable. Martin Gardner has written that Snark “is a poem over which an unstable, sensitive soul might very well go mad.”

Exhibit item 5.4