Special Report: Was Lewis Carroll a gay Mormon and were the Alice books written by J.D. Salinger?

From a 1952 edition of AAIW (Juvenile Productions) with watercolors by Willy Schermele

This blog doesn’t regularly deal with certain questions (italics mine, as was the rest of that sentence.) And the new LewisCarroll.org’s FAQs don’t go there. Contrariwise, Mark Burstein usually starts his question-and-answer sessions with: “The answers to the first two questions are ‘No, he wasn’t’ and ‘No, he didn’t.’”

The LCSNA doesn’t shy away from these bothersome issues even if they’re occasionally bothered by them. However, there are reputable places on the internet specializing in debunking Carroll myths. For instance CarrollMyth.com, which offers various levels of depth depending on how long your myths want to spend being debunked. That user-friendly and aesthetically-pleasing website is run by Karoline Leach, author of In the Shadow of the Dreamchild: The Myth and Reality of Lewis Carroll (Peter Owen Ltd., 1999, $29.95). There’s also a new blog: carrollmyth.wordpress.com. Here she is at work:

The respected journo Robert McCrum reviews Jenny Woolf’s book The Mystery of Lewis Carroll in the Guardian, and concludes…what exactly? That Carroll has been misunderstood and somewhat abused, as Ms Woolf suggests? That a re-assessment is overdue, as Ms Woolf suggests? That, at last, we’re getting a clearer picture of a complex man?

Nope. He concludes Dodgson was either (sigh, not again) in love with little Alice Liddell , or – this is the best bit – with her ‘ten-year old brother’!?

Here it is in his own words:

More than either of these, it is a poignant love story: the repressed yearning of a solitary man for a resolution to his inner frustrations. Was he in love with Alice’s 10-year-old brother or, with Alice Liddell herself? No one will ever know the truth of that mystery .

Ookay…

Well, ’solitary man’, ‘repressed yearnings’, this is all the standard vocab of anyone writing about Carroll for the past sixty years, but not even the most myth-bound commentator has ever suggested Carroll was gay (well, apart from Richard Wallace, but he also thought Carroll was Jack the Ripper, so, you know, enough said), and Jenny Woolf’s book does not (I know for a fact), contain any insane riffs about possible pederasty involving young male Liddells.

So, the truth of that particular ‘mystery’, Mr McC, is that you just made it up.

Jenny Woolf, for her part, has a related article in the April 2010 Smithonian Magazine, which just went online today, called “Lewis Carroll’s Shifting Reputation: Why has popular opinion of the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland undergone such a dramatic reversal?

And as for the Far-Flung blog, we will devote more time to the farthest flung among us (there are books proving that Mark Twain and Queen Victoria wrote Alice, exegeses outlining his Orthodox Judaism, and we weren’t kidding about his being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints: Carroll has been posthumously baptized by the Mormons at least eight times.)

8 comments to Special Report: Was Lewis Carroll a gay Mormon and were the Alice books written by J.D. Salinger?

  • Justin

    Don’t you think myths ought to be debunked, if they can be shown to be myths? Wouldn’t it be fairer to Carroll’s memory, as well as more use to the people doing the asking, to give reasons for not thinking he was a paedophile or a drug user – instead of sitting there smugly saying ‘no he wasn’t and ‘no he didn’t’ as if debate is beneath you?

  • Hi, Justin – I was doing exactly that, addressing the issue, by linking to a good website and a good article about it!

  • andrew

    Justin, James’s initial post made it clear Mark’s comment was a humorous starting point to a typical FAQ discussion session with an audience, not his full answer. The humor comes from the sheer predictability of the questions, and the audience enjoys it. :-)

    To some extent, our whole LCSNA site is an answer to Frequently Asked Questions about Lewis Carroll, along with some less-frequently asked ones. And our FAQs list is always growing; I just don’t want any one page to become too unwieldy in length. People should explore our whole site, and do some reading. That should answer any questions they have about purported paedeophilia, drug use, etc. That said, based on the questions I’ve had in many interviews this season, I will probably craft a brief FAQ on whether LC did drugs (homeopathic only, thank you very much), and whether he was epileptic or a migraine sufferer (no, and no, based on all hard evidence to date), as two those seemed to come up the most this past year. I recently added an FAQ to make it clear that we can’t tell everyone how much their old copy of “Wonderland” from the attic is worth.

    I hope people with questions about Lewis Carroll and his works take the time to examine the answers available from reputable, well-researched sites like this one and that of the UK Lewis Carroll Society. Unsupported theories may be attention-getting, and provide the people proposing them with a moment in the spotlight, but we prefer to stick to facts, and let the spotlight rest respectfully on Carroll and his works, where it belongs. And whenever reliable new information is discovered on any Carrollian topic, of course we will always share it on this site as soon as possible.

  • Oh, I just discovered your link to us! Many thanks. Has someone really suggested he was a Mormon? How marvellous.

    • andrew

      Anytime! Joel had a link on the old site, and I migrated that link to the new site. Then when I saw your new link announcement on Facebook, I updated the one we had here. :-)

  • [...] The Lewis Carroll Society of North America’s newest blog entry is all about Contrariwise! This blog doesn’t regularly deal with certain questions (italics [...]

  • Jon

    I must confess that I am a n00b with respect to Lewis Carroll’s life and work, but after reading the entry for him on Wikipedia (which is not the most valid source of information, of course) the idea that he might be gay did occur to me. A quick google search on the topic led me here, but yielded little else in terms of a serious discussion about this possibility. Based on what I have been reading so far, I think that several pieces of evidence could be used to support this claim. The terms “solitary man” and “repressed yearnings” could certainly be characteristic of homosexual men during the Victorian era as well pedophiles, so I wonder why would everyone leaves homosexuality out of discussion… has there been evidence, perhaps in his diaries, that eliminate this possibility? Thanks!

  • Well Jon’s comment has seeded a bizarre ‘debate’ on the Contrariwise Blog Who is Damien? Any ideas?