Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Mystery of Lewis Carroll

The unwholesome rumors of our post-Freudian age are swept aside in a new biography. (Via Hermes.)
Lewis Carroll, the elusive author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, has been the subject of enduring fascination for the past hundred years. Born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the son of a country curate, he would spend almost his entire life in the quiet, studious surroundings of Christ Church College, Oxford, shunning publicity and becoming increasingly guarded as the years went by. However, in his posthumous existence, he has been retrospectively psychoanalysed; condemned for his supposed sexual perversions and alleged addiction to opium. The destruction of many major documents about his personal life by his descendants has only magnified the mystery. Jenny Woolf’s biography, published to coincide with the release of the new Tim Burton Alice in Wonderland film, lays waste to the myths and suspicions that have obscured Carroll’s reputation by placing him firmly in the context of his own time. (Read entire article.)
Here is a post about Alice Liddell, who is said to be the inspiration for the heroine of Wonderland. (Via Hermes.)
Dodgson's photographs of children would have been seen differently by the sentimental Victorians as portraits of innocence. Alice's siblings – also photographed that day – would have been present, as would, almost certainly, Alice's formidable mother Lorina, or at least her governess, Mary Prickett, any of whom could presumably have stopped anything inappropriate happening.

The evidence is that the Liddell children doted on Dodgson, though Mrs Liddell eventually tired of the frequency with which he brought his Thomas Ottewill Registered Double Folding camera to the deanery garden. When there was eventually a rupture in his friendship with the Liddells, it now seems not to have been about his friendship with the children but about his unsuitability as a suitor for their oldest daughter, Ina, four years older than Alice and approaching marriageable age. They thought the governess would be more appropriate for his station in life. Oxford dons at that time were expected to remain bachelors, and Dodgson did: no one would have thought that odd. (Read entire post.)


Julygirl said...

Children offer endless fascination, and no one questioned Piaget as he sat in a park watching children in order to write his brilliant study on childhood behavior.

Hope said...

Interesting links. I always take a skeptical view of those who make money by impugning a long-dead person's character. Lewis Carrol is one of the best examples. I look forward to reading this biography, which sounds like a much more reasoned study of his life.