A desk of one’s own

On The Guardian‘s “Notes and Queries” web page, the question Any possible solutions to the Mad Hatter’s conundrum: Why is a raven like a writing-desk? brought the following contribution from Harold Somers, Chorlton, Manchester (harold@ccl.umist.ac.uk):

“JOHN FISHER, in his book The Magic of Lewis Carroll (Thomas Nelson 1973, Penguin 1975), quotes Carroll’s own answer, supplied in a preface to the 1896 edition of Alice in Wonderland: “Enquiries have been so often addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter’s riddle can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to be a fairly appropriate answer, viz: ‘Because it can produce a few notes, tho [sic] they are very flat; and it is never put with the wrong end in front!’ This, however, is merely an afterthought; the Riddle, as originally invented, had no answer at all.” ”

Christopher Fowler writes in The Book of Forgotten Authors (2017) of the author Mary Elizabeth Braddon (1837-1915) – see post of 5/9/19 – “At the age of six she was given a writing desk, and it sparked the desire to write…”

From the website of Pan Macmillan:

“Sarah Chauncey Woolsey was born in 1835 into a wealthy and influential family in Cleveland, Ohio. She worked as a nurse during the American Civil War before establishing a career as a successful and prolific writer of novels, short stories and poems. Her most famous book, What Katy Did, published under her pseudonym Susan Coolidge, was inspired by her own childhood growing up in a large family with younger siblings. Its publication in 1872 was followed by four sequels. She never married and lived most of her adult life in Rhode Island where she died in 1905.

…Twelve-year-old Katy is a dreamer. She invents exciting games, faraway lands and imagines that one day she’ll be charming and graceful. But in the meantime she gets into all kinds of mischief . . . until one day a terrible accident happens and life as Katy knows it turns upside down. Can Katy’s boisterous courage keep her dreams alive?

…A treasured children’s classic, Susan Coolidge’s What Katy Did is a vivid story of childhood bravery with a feisty heroine at its heart. This edition features original illustrations by Addie Ledyard and an introduction by award-winning children’s author Jacqueline Wilson, who writes:

Being now in possession of seven dollars and a quarter, Katy could afford to be gorgeously generous. She gave Aunt Izzie an exact description of the desk she wanted.

“It’s no matter about it’s being very big,” said Katy, “but it must have a blue velvet lining, and an inkstand, with a silver top. And please buy some little sheets of paper and envelopes, and a pen-handle; the prettiest you can find. Oh! and there must be a lock and key. Don’t forget that, Aunt Izzie.

That description has haunted me all my life, and though I now have a splendid writing desk myself, I don’t think it quite matches up to Elsie’s. What Katy Did has haunted me too…”.”

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