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.
The expedition ship Discovery in the Antarctic bearing the British National Antarctic Expedition, 1901–04, and two book by Lewis Carroll
We like to celebrate the fact that the Alice books have been enjoyed all over the world, but did you know that includes Antarctica? Last week, in a story reported by the UK national paper the Telegraph, we learned the interesting and quite touching fact that “Britain’s toughest explorers, who took part in Scott’s gruelling three-year journey to discover the Antarctic, whiled away the freezing dark nights by reading children’s story Alice in Wonderland…” (Read the story in full here.)
Well-travelled Alice books, Bonham’s Auction 19952, Lot 63
The books formed part of the library on board the Discovery, the ship that carried Captain Scott’s successful expedition to the Antarctic regions between 1901 and 1904. These travel-stained copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, which once sat among more likely-sounding titles such as Sir Walter Raleigh’s Discovery of Guiana and Marco Polo’s Voyages and Travels, are to be auctioned by Bonham’s in their Polar II Sale, December 4, with an estimated price of $3,200 – $6,400.
September may be a whole summer away, but plans for LCSNA Fall 2012 Meeting are already coming together. Confirmed speakers include Adam Gopnik on Sylvie and Bruno and Robin Wilson, who wrote Lewis Carroll in Numberland. The meeting will take place on Saturday, September 29 at the Fales Library in New York University (home of the fabled Berol collection).
In the meantime be sure to check out two Lewis Carroll book sales currently underway. Thanks to the generosity of some of our members both will benefit the Lewis Carroll Society of North America.
First, we have a selection of Carrollian books donated by former member Lynn Steveson.
Secondly, several items (mostly, but not only books) donated by member Barbara Mall. These items were first offered for sale a couple of years ago and those that did not sell are now available at a savings of (for most items) 50%. The prices listed are the new prices.
Please enjoy looking. To purchase, contact email@example.com.
Alice in Wonderland (1947) by Ayres Houghtelling, egg tempera and gouache on board
Ayres Houghtelling’s groovy painting of Alice in Wonderland, intricately imagined with egg tempura and gouache on a surprisingly small board, will go up for auction at Sotheby’s on April 5th with an estimated price of $10k-$15k. It was described by blogger Kathy Hernandez thusly: “No picture has ever drawn me in like ‘Alice in Wonderland’ by Ayres Houghtelling (b. 1912). Alice is pictured at least 24 times in this [22" by 28"] print as she makes her way through all the major events of the book.” An LCSNA member tipped us off with this nice note: “Hello, I have a print of this original, it is a favorite and I just found out the original will be up for auction this week. A beautiful work from an artist (1940′s) who loved fantasy and Alice. Ayres was also famous for many things, one being the drawing out of the NYC subway plans.” Houghtelling died six years ago in 2006.
The internet domain name www.twasbrilligandtheslithytovesdidgyreandgimbleinthewabe.com is up for auction on Ebay – starting bid only 1 cent!
It may be tricky to type, and it could be a struggle to fit it on your business card, but it sure is memorable.
Who are you?
Dr Michael Pritchard, a regular contributor to the British Photographic History Blog, has alerted us to his cautionary tale about the uncertain world of eBay bidding. The above daguerreotype, which if you can’t read it is captioned “Charles L. Dodgson Christ Church 1858,” recently sold on eBay for £3,300, about $5,300. The image, if you can’t see it either, is clearly not of Dodgson, in fact the sitter looks more like a cross between Benjamin Disraeli and the Mock Turtle. The suspicious back story to the sale and the insights of the photographic experts all make interesting reading here.
Mentioning every Carroll-related item that comes up for auction would be impossible, and not the good do-it-before-breakfast kind of impossible either. Nevertheless, here’s a couple of lots coming up at the end of this month that seem worth a mention.
Christie's Sale 5475, Lot #212
On November 30, Christie’s in London will be auctioning a number of books and pamphlets. Lot #212 (pictured left) is a uniformly bound set containing the first published edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (the true first edition was recalled by Carroll due its unsatisfactory reproduction of Tenniel’s illustrations) and a first edition of Through the Looking-Glass. Sale 5476 also features Algebraical Formulae and Rules for the use of candidates for responsions (Lot #214), never mentioned in the author’s diary, but possibly an expanded version of Algebraical Formulae for Responsions.
The following day, on the other side of the world, the Leonard Joel auction house in Sydney, Australia, will be auctioning a facsimile of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground (Lot #294), signed by the author and dated November 15, 1895. The lot also includes two letters to Olive Gould and one to Mrs Gould and, intriguingly, “part of a poem on bats.”
A photo of the poem is below. With a bit of squinting I can read that it begins “She gave it both some bread [and?] milk / and felt its furry wings / which were as soft as softest silk / and said all sorts of things,” but I can’t make out much of the rest. If you can decipher it, please leave a transcription in the comments! Click on the photo to see a larger image.
Part of a poem on bats. Leonard Joel Lot #294
Inscription reads: "Presented to H.R.H. the Princess Alice by the Author, Mar. 25, 1890."
Last week we blogged about an upcoming auction with an interesting lot: ceramic plaques, hand painted by Sir John Tenniel with characters from Alice’s adventures, used as menu cards at Tenniel family dinners.
We have just heard that the same auction contains another interesting item: a presentation copy of The Nursery Alice inscribed by Carroll for Princess Alice, the granddaughter of Queen Victoria.
The inscription, written in blue ink on the half-title, reads not “Alice, meet Alice,” unfortunately, but the rather more formal: “Presented to H.R.H. the Princess Alice by the Author, Mar. 25, 1890.”
On March 25, 1890, Princess Alice Mary Victoria Augusta Pauline was exactly seven years and one month old – just one month older than Carroll’s Alice when she fell down the rabbit hole. Was this a late birthday present perhaps?
The book will be auctioned by PBA Galleries this coming Thursday in San Francisco. It is estimated to go for between $8,000 and $12,000.
Menu cards (porcelain plaques), created by John Tenniel for family dinners, based on his illustrations for Lewis Carroll’s Alice books, are up for auction at PBA Galleries (133 Kearny St, San Francisco) – low estimate $20k, high estimate $30k. The product description from their website:
Six small hand-painted porcelain plaques by John Tenniel, each with its own wrought-iron miniature easel. Each has a character from Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or Through the Looking-Glass taking up about a quarter of the plaque, with the remainder blank, and “Menu” written at the top of each. The plaques measure 5×3½; the easels are about 7½” high.
|Marvelous and unique group of original hand-painted plaques used as menu cards for the Tenniel family dinners, descended in the family over the years. The night’s fare was evidently written in the blank spaces with a crayon or grease pencil, then wiped off after the meal was completed. The characters pictured are The White Rabbit (with his pocket-watch), the Mock Turtle (crying away), the Frog Footman (delivering a letter), the Walrus (without the Oysters and the Carpenter), the Leg of Mutton (taking a bow), and a frog with a rake. The plaques have a small wooden case with a removable top, on which is a label with writing “China (Delicate)”. The case top has two sides missing, some other wear.
Artist Lisa Snellings makes Poppets. In her words, “They’re adorable… and sort of… creepy.” Last year she made an Alice in Wonderland series that ran to eight or ten pieces and it seems she may be starting 2010 with a similar project. Currently she is auctioning Alice and the Caterpillar on Ebay (auction closes January 6th) but the item descriptions suggest more Wonderland Poppets may be on their way.