Alice Hargreaves Honorary Degree Ceremony, 1932
In May 1932 Alice Pleasance Hargreaves, the "Alice" of Lewis Carroll's works, came to New York City and Columbia University, in particular, to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Lewis Carroll's birth. Festivities at the University included an exhibition held in the Avery Library of "Carrolliana" assembled from collectors throughout the country.
Mrs. Hargreaves' participation took two forms. On May 2, in a private ceremony, she was awarded an honorary Doctor of Letters degree by Columbia President Nicholas Murray Butler in the Rotunda of Low Memorial Library. In her acceptance speech, Mrs. Hargreaves said: "I shall remember it and prize it for the rest of my days, which may not be very long. I love to think, however unworthy I am, that Mr. Dodgson – Lewis Carroll – knows and rejoices with me."
On May 4, 1932, in the University Gymnasium, she was the guest of honor at the final ceremony in the Carroll Centennial celebrations – which coincided with her own 80th birthday. Mrs. Hargreaves, President Butler and Professor Harry M. Ayers of the Department of English all spoke at the ceremony attended by some 2,000 guests of the University.
Below are some short recordings from the speeches made at the Centennial Celebration. The recordings were captured on two aluminum discs, which appear to hold no more than 5 minutes of audio per side.
Mrs. Alice Hargreaves
The recording begins with what must have been a standing ovation. As the student newspaper Spectator described her, Mrs. Hargreaves was "[a]s quiet as if she were seated between the Mad Hatter and the Dormouse." In her remarks, she laments how many stories the world has missed since Carroll never wrote anything down.
Prof. Harry Morgan Ayres
The full text of Prof. Harry Morgan Ayres's prepared lecture on "Lewis Carroll and the 'Alice' Books" was published in the Columbia University Quarterly, Vol. XXIV, June 1932, 158-177. The recording below runs from about half way through the first page to a portion of the second page only.
President Nicholas Murray Butler
In the first selection, Butler quotes Rev. Charles F. H. Souldby's eulogy of Lewis Carroll develiverd at Christ Church. He talks about Carroll's legacy and also mentions that "in Avery Hall yonder, there is the most extraordinary exhibit of materials relating to Lewis Carroll that ever has been or ever could be brought together."
In the second selection, Butler talks about Carroll's life and works. He had an "indescribeable charm and fascination, great personality, famous name, splendid ideas," and made "contributions in publications which were recognized then and are recognized now." Butler also speaks to Lewis's (or Dodgson's) pen name: "Lewis Carroll he became, Lewis Carroll he is, Lewis Carroll he will remain."
Behind the speakers, the stage was decorated with a colorful banner depicting the various fantastic characters from the books, all patterned after the original illustrations by John Tenniel. The banner was executed by Miss Marjorie Simmons, a graduate student in the Department of Fine Arts of Teachers College. Parts of the "Alice in Wonderland" suite of Edgar Stillman Kelley were performed by a special chorus of 120 voices from Barnard and Hunter College Glee Clubs accompanied by the 70 members of the Columbia University Orchestra. The program was broadcast through this country and Europe over a NBC hook-up.
When it was her turn to speak, Mrs. Hargreaves told the large audience: "If Lewis Carroll had told me the story which I am living today it would have seemed as strange as the whimsical stories which he used to tell me, using me as his 'Alice'."
Materials related to this event can be found in the Historical Biographical Files (Alice Hargreaves, Box 129, folder 8). There is correspondence between Nicholas Murray Butler and Alice Hargreaves (including the invitation to the exhibition and the offer of the honorary degree) in the Nicholas Murray Butler papers (Alice Hargreaves, Box 179).
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