David Elliot | Snark: A Victorian Odyssey
Image: Some 10 years ago a book was published that shocked the global literary community to the quick. It was called Snark, Being a true history of the Expedition that discovered the Snark and the Jabberwock…and its tragic aftermath. The book (henceforth known simply as Snark) claimed to have found proof that Jabberwocky and The Hunting of the Snark – two of the most famous poems by celebrated author, Lewis Carroll – were not the fantasies they were believed to be, but were based on a real historical event.
The ‘proof’ was in the form of a recently discovered diary of a crew member, ‘The Boots’, that recorded an ill-considered and eventually doomed venture to capture a culinary delicacy, The Snark. Now in its 42nd (updated and award-winning) edition the controversy around Snark still rages. Is the book – as it claims – the ‘true history’ of these events? Or is it nothing more than a cruel hoax played on gullible readers? This exhibition includes selections from the Boots’ original drawings and notes. There are also quotes from Lewis Carroll and the author of Snark, Ashburton’s own David Elliot. Juxtaposed against these artworks are artifacts which have been kindly loaned by Otago Museum and other concerned individuals that may, along with the poems, have served as inspiration for an elaborate fraud. Perhaps it is in that imaginative space between the two that we will find the truth.
Image: Lee Baker, Snark Cooker, 2018, mixed media.