Monday, January 12, 2004

Lewis and Alice Expedition Through the Looking-Glass

12th Jan 04 Lewis and Alice Expedition Through the Looking-Glass

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, the third child of Charles Dodgson II, was born on January 27, 1832. He was one of eleven children that included seven girls and four boys.

His father was a brilliant scholar, who studied at Westminster and then Oxford, before entering the church. He was conservative with leanings toward Newman and Anglo-Catholicism and inclined toward High Church. Charles, father, retired to the country after marrying a cousin in 1827, eventually obtaining the office of Arch Deacon of Ripon and translated Tertullian.

Being the first-born son, he was named after his father and grandfather before him. He was precocious, already reading Pigrim's Progress when he was seven. Although naturally left-handed, he was forced to convert to his right, which caused complications throughout his life. When he was twelve, he was sent to school at Richmond, In 1845, he moved on to Rugby where he was apparently sexually abused during the night. In 1851, he entered Christ Church, Oxford when his mother died unexpectedly from a brain fever. Charles achieved Honors and received a Studentship and later given a Lectureship for Mathematics at Christ Church, which he maintained much of his life.

He suffered whooping cough when he was seventeen which caused an inner ear infection and resulted in a slight stammer from the haring loss. The stammar is often over-dramatized in biographies and played as if Dodgson was a shy, retiring fellow. In fact, he was not.

The world recognizes Charles Dodgson as Lewis Carroll who was born on March 1, 1856. The pseudonymn first appeared on a poem, Solitude in a Train. Dodgson was then teaching reluctantly at Christ Church when Henry Liddell appeared as Dean of the College with his wife and three daughters: Ina, Alice and Edith. Much has been written about the paedophile tendencies and the relationship between Alice and Charles Dodgson. Dodgson befriended the family, taking the girls and their mother on outings and on one such outing, the story of Alice falling down the rabbit hole was born. Alice requested the story written out, and Dodgson, seeing the potential of publication, did so.

Lewis Carroll became the public image of the author.

Later he described his relationships with younger women as "child-friend", but this did not necessarily indicate the person of whom he was speaking was a child or juvenile. He maintained relationships and correspondence with his younger acquaintances over a span of years until they were fully mature women, and frequently caused scandal within society for not conforming to the social pressures of Victorian High Church morals. The problem is that it is rather difficult to tell which is who—whether Dodgson was Lewis Carroll or Carroll really a myth looking back at society through the warped surface of the Looking Glass.

Dodgson was a prolific writer, keeping a lifetime of correspondence and diaries. He not only kept them, but indexed them, understanding the value of documentation of his life. However, his life and habits offended his family. Although not married, he was also not retiring and quite likely not chaste, certainly not the virgin of the lore spun by later biographers. He enjoyed the company of women and was active in society. At times, he kept company of married women and widows alike so that his sister feared of public scandal. Ladies were an integral part of his life, at times moving in and living with him, supping alone with him in his rooms. Not exactly the proper thing to do as an Arch Deacon's son or Mathematics Lecturer at Oxford. He defied the rules. Consequently, when he died suddenly after buying properties in Guildford, his brother took over the estate, liquidating it at public auction and destroyed much of the documentation that Dodgson had meticulously created. Much of his papers were not only destroyed, but the remaining diaries expurgated. Pages were cut out and the official biography of his life presented as a myth of what the family wanted the public to believe. Hence came the image of Lewis Carroll being reticent, stammering and a chaste pedophile, afraid to tangle with women after the age of fourteen. Unfortunately, biographers, like sheep, follow the herd without questioning the base of things, so that layer upon layer of myth has been added without much consultation to the documentation that does exist.

Unexpurgated letters and the diaries of Lewis Carroll were only published after 1970, nearly nineties years after his death. Recently past myths have been challenged as new evidence reveals the distorted image of Charles Dodgson laughing at those who try to penetrate the reflection of twisted image found in the Looking Glass where the world goes in reverse and things are backward.

Lewis Carroll links

Lewis Carroll Page

gives links to online texts and Lewis Carroll societies and organizations

Kirjasto: Lewis Carroll

Victorian Web: Lewis Carroll

Through the Looking-Glass 1899 edition
very beautiful site with Tenniel's illustrations
the biggest problem is the damnable yahoo dropdown

Through the Looking-Glass
twelve full page color illus by Blanche McManus

University of Virginia Etext Library Through the Looking-Glass
title of contents Published: 1862-1863 illus Tenniel

University of Virginia: Alice in Wonderland 1866

University of Virginia: Hunting of the Snark 1876 illus

Literature Net : Through the Loooking-Glass
searchable version with short bio of Lewis Carroll

about 800 articles recovered by Find Articles


4 Febr 04 Snow Queen: Old Woman's Flower Garden

2 Oct 04 Flower Stories

7 Dec 03 Snow Queen