Alice ‘mid the Starships

Alice ‘mid the Starships
Glass lantern slide titled Alice 'mid the starships
Oh there, ‘mid the starships, Alice c. 1890. Photo by Alexander Gunn via State Library Victoria

“Normal” people get caught in social media quagmires, but I run down a different kind of internet rabbit hole.

When I first saw this image I was intrigued because it’s a Victorian glass lantern slide titled ” Oh there, ‘mid the starships, Alice, I know a”. And I was really curious about the starships.

The Magic Lantern

Here’s a lantern slide of a man demonstrating how to use a Magic Lantern slide (snort).

The Magic Lantern is basically a box housing a concave mirror placed behind a candle, to direct the light through the glass slide and out through the lens at the front.

Someone would read a story, or sing a song, to accompany the slides like a kind of Victorian-era tv show.

Like Longfellow’s poem The Village Blacksmith.

Magic Lantern
Man with Magic Lantern c. 1909.
Photo by Frank Ernest Allen (1887-1964)
via State Library Victoria

The Starships


After a bit of rabbit hole navigation, it turns out, there are no starships. There is only star-shine.

The image is for a song called Alice Where Art Thou? written by Wellington Guernsey (1817 – 1885) and set to music by Joseph Ascher (1829 – 1869).

The song goes like this:

The birds sleeping gently, sweet Luna gleameth bright,
Her rays tinge the forest, and all seems glad tonight.
The wind sighing by me, cooling my fevered brow;
The stream flows as ever,
Yet, Alice, where art thou?
One year back this even, and thou wert by my side,
One year back this even, and thou wert by my side. (hum)
Vowing to love me; One year past this even, and thou wert by my side.
Vowing to love me, Alice, whate’er might betide.

The silver rain falling, Just as it falleth now,
And all things slept gently, Oh! Alice, where art thou?
I’ve sought thee by lakelet. I’ve sought thee on the hill;
And in the pleasant wildwood,
When Winds blew cold and chill;
I’ve sought thee in forest, I’m looking heavenward now,
I’ve sought thee in forest, I’m looking heavenward now. (hum)
Oh! there ‘mid the star-shine;
I’ve sought thee in forest, I’m looking heavenward now,
Oh! there ‘mid the star-shine Alice, I know, art thou.

And something that’s funny about that, is that the tune was the theme for the BBC comedy Open All Hours.

If you’re curious, you can watch the Colonel’s video of a Heddle Nash recording (it has sound, but you’ll need to click play to get it going).


Sadly nothing to do with the 1902 Georges Méliès movie Le Voyage Dans la Lune (silent movie; you’ll need to click play), but interesting nonetheless.

I can’t help thinking Alice got out just in time. Her beau doesn’t appear to have much in the way of common sense, and it’s not hard to imagine her working three jobs to keep the family afloat while he wastes his time and her money.

The image title comes from a label attached to the slide, but without viewing the artefact, I can’t say whether the title was transcribed incorrectly on the slide or the digital record.

Maybe one day I’ll go look.

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