Happily, Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in real life!) was a prolific letter writer. Even now, so many years after his death, some of his private correspondence can still surface–even if only long enough to pass from one private collection to another at public auction. But at least we obtain a new glimpse at the man in his own words.
On March 19th, Bonham’s is auctioning off a letter from November 9, 1891, in which Mr. Dodgson explains his dislike of being recognized as “Lewis Carroll” and even expresses, momentarily, the half-wish that he had never written any books because of all the attention their success brought:
“All that sort of publicity leads to strangers hearing of my real name in connection with the books, and to my being pointed out to, and stared at by, strangers, and treated as a ‘lion’. And I hate all that so intensely that sometimes I almost wish I had never written any books at all….”
Of course, those of us who have studied Mr. Dodgson in any depth know that he was more than willing to use the name Lewis Carroll to secure a social introduction when he wanted to! While he may have disliked being “lionized” there is no question that he went “lion hunting” himself with his camera and then his books on many occasions. So his statement here should be taken with more than a grain of salt. And we must also consider that he was writing to the woman who occasionally housed his child friends on visits to Eastbourne, where he went for summer vacations of peace and quiet. But the fact that he emphasizes the negative impact of the publicity on his private life does at least speak to the intensity with which he guarded his right to make a distinction between his private self and his literary persona–something well-known artists and figures struggle with to this day.
I am hopeful that this letter will pass into the collection of a library that will make it available to those who wish to see it for their own research, or if it passes again into private hands, that the new owner will be liberal in sharing this new letter with libraries for exhibits. Who knows what other Lewis Carroll correspondence still lies out there in private hands, waiting to be shared with the public?
To see the auction listing, click me.
To read an article about the auction, click me.
As you likely know, January 27th was the birth anniversary of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll. The UK publication The Guardian posted a quiz in honor of his birth.
To take their fun Alice Quiz, click me.
Audio fans! This just in:
“Life Elsewhere, a radio show from Tampa, FL, interviewed our current president, Mark Burstein, on Carroll’s birthday, January 27. The host, Norman B, was a bit obsessed with the usual canards about Carroll’s alleged fondness for young girls and drug use, which Mark defended to the best of his ability in a rather wide-ranging interview. Mark also begs your indulgence for any minor factual errors or anything else he uttered due to nervousness. The sound bites added afterwards are from the Jonathan Miller production. You can get a podcast or download an .mp3 at http://feeds.feedburner.com/wmnf/life_elsewhere (it’s the first half-hour).”
Our mimsy Knight Letter magazine editor has alerted me that Adam Roberts, a Professor of Nineteenth Century Literature at Royal Holloway University of London, is teaching a new course on Children’s Literature. Currently Roberts is examining the Alice books with his students, presumably with his binoculars facing the correct way. He has begun posting his theories and musings about the two books on his blog. He also teases out a few entertaining ideas for a sequel of his own.
The link I’m providing sorts his blog posts by “Alice” so you should read from the bottom of the page up, if you wish to explore his thoughts in chronological order.
To read these Carrollian posts, click me.
Professor Roberts also teaches Creative Writing, and is the author of several science fiction novels, among other things. To read more about him, click me.
This just in from one of our well-traveled mimsy minions:
Netherlands literary critic Carel Peeters has written, in Dutch of course, a fine series of essays, Het wonderland van Lewis Carroll, dealing with “seventeen sides of Carroll’s personality in his life and work.” You can find out more at:
And you can order a copy from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recent Carleton College graduate Lauren Millikan has created a web site called “Curiouser and Curiouser: The Evolution of Wonderland.” Here is a brief description of the site’s purpose, from the “About” page:
“The internet is a pretty crazy place. It’s very easy to get lost in it. Many of the people that you meet are very rude. Most of the things you see and read don’t make any sense. And even though it can’t make you grow taller or shorter, (except perhaps by spine compression if you sit in front of a computer for too long) the internet is a lot like Wonderland. This site is dedicated to exploring two questions: 1) how the experience of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (Chapters 5, 6, and 7) changes when experienced through the medium of the internet and 2) how this medium can be used to track how Wonderland has evolved in readers’ imaginations.”
To visit Lauren’s site, click me.
The Spring Meeting is galumphing towards us! Join us in Winston-Salem, North Carolina from April 19-21, 2013, for a three-day Carrollian carnival. Here’s a taste of what’s in store:
- The world premiere of Dan Singer‘s new play, A Perfect Likeness, about a meeting between Dodgson and Dickens
- Members of the Carolina Chamber Symphony Players performing a concert of Lewis Carroll’s favourite songs
- Talks by a range of Carroll experts from academia and beyond, including Jett Jackson, Mark Richards, Mora O’Neill, and Stephanie Lovett
- A Victorian Choral Evensong service featuring a sermon by Mark Goodacre based on an outline by Rev. Dodgson
- Keepsakes including an updated version of Charlie Lovett’s article “Lewis Carroll and His Hammond Type-Writer,” including a piece of Carrollian verse typed on Carroll’s own typewriter!
All are welcome to attend. For full details of events, accommodations, and meals, please read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the official program (PDF, 445 KB).
Please note the following deadlines:
Friday, March 29: Last day Holiday Inn is guaranteeing our reservations and rates.
Monday, April 1: Last day to confirm special dining arrangements. Please see the official program.
Wednesday, April 10: Last day to register for meeting and pay for meals.
Winston-Salem will be very crowded that weekend with other festivities. We strongly recommend you make plane, rental car, and other arrangements at your earliest convenience.
We hope to see you there!
Will you, won’t you, will you, won’t you, won’t you join the dance?
What’s the next best thing to unexpectedly inheriting first editions of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass? A public institution near you receiving them in an anonymous donation, that’s what. Which is good news for Carrollians in Utah as last week just such a bequest was made to the Marriott Library at the University of Utah. The value of the two books is estimated at $30,000. Read more here, or visit the books in person in the George S. Eccles Special Collections Reading Room on level 4 of the J. Willard Marriott Library, 295 S 1500 E, Salt Lake City. Visitors are welcome.
A lost mural of Alice in Wonderland and the archaeologist determined to bring it to light were the subjects of an interesting tale told by San Diego public radio station, KPBS, yesterday.
Seth Mallios, head of the anthropology department at SDSU, had been hunting down murals, once common all over campus, when he heard about the Alice mural from Evelyn Kooperman, a retired librarian.
When she was a little girl in the 1950s, her mother used to take her to see two murals tucked away in Hardy Tower. One featured the character of Odysseus. The other, was the “Alice in Wonderland” mural. “I just thought they were wonderful,” says Kooperman. “They were big and bright and colorful. And I just loved them and every year I would say to my mother, ‘I want to go see Alice! I want to go see Alice!’”
Read about Mallios’s discovery of the mural, and of the artist who painted it, on the KPBS website. You can also see an old photograph of the mural and listen to the original radio broadcast.