In 1870, illustrator John Tenniel wrote to Lewis Carroll suggesting that he delete an episode from Through the Looking-Glass:
Don’t think me brutal, but I am bound to say that the ‘wasp’ chapter doesn’t interest me in the least, & that I can’t see my way to a picture. If you want to shorten the book, I can’t help thinking – with all submission – that there is your opportunity.
For more than 100 years, the text of this “wasp” scene was presumed lost; in 1974, however, Sotheby’s brought to auction what appeared to be the galley proofs of the missing section. It was published in Martin Gardner’s Annotated Alice (1998) and now appears in some modern editions of the book.
Doubt has been expressed about the authenticity of the passage—with some saying that the writing is not up to the quality of the rest of the work (perhaps not surprising for a passage the author chose to delete) and others pointing out that no analysis of the paper, ink, or handwriting has ever been performed.
Here is the full text:
…and she was just going to spring over, when she heard a deep sigh, which seemed to come from the wood behind her.
“There’s somebody very unhappy there,” she thought, looking anxiously back to see what was the matter. Something like a very old man (only that his face was more like a wasp) was sitting on the ground, leaning against a tree, all huddled up together, and shivering as if he were very cold.
“I don’t think I can be of any use to him,” was Alice’s first thought, as she turned to spring over the brook: – “but I’ll just ask him what’s the matter,” she added, checking herself on the very edge. “If I once jump over, everything will change, and then I can’t help him.”
So she went back to the Wasp – rather unwillingly, for she was very anxious to be a queen.
“Oh, my old bones, my old bones!” he was grumbling as Alice came up to him.
“It’s rheumatism, I should think,” Alice said to herself, and she stooped over him, and said very kindly, “I hope you’re not in much pain?”
The Wasp only shook his shoulders, and turned his head away. “Ah deary me!” he said to himself.
“Can I do anything for you?” Alice went on. “Aren’t you rather cold here?”