Jenny Woolf Smithsonian Article on Dodgson's Changing Reputation

The current issue of Smithsonian magazine includes Jenny Woolf’s succinct summary of current critical and popular thought around Mr. Dodgson, focusing on how perceptions are at last changing to a less sensationalized and more fact-based, historically appropriate view: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/Lewis-Carrolls-Shifting-Reputation.html

California Lawyer calls Pseudo-Scholars' Posthumous Perversion Accusations 'Unpardonable'; Woolf 'Pleased'

Jenny Woolf points us to a nice letter-to-the-editor in June 2010′s Smithsonian, in response to her April article about “Lewis Carroll’s Shifting Reputation.”

Curiouser and Curiouser
As an attorney, I think “Unusual Suspect,” by Jenny Woolf, did a good job of documenting the modern-day habit of judging or casting spurious allegations based on hearsay and innuendoes. I agree that the photographs taken by Charles Dodgson, a.k.a. Lewis Carroll, were in vogue in the Victorian society of his day and did not condemn him. All the “suspicions” about his behavior arose several decades after his demise, coming from pseudo-scholars looking to make a name or a quick profit. Dodgson, unfortunately, cannot defend himself, and to smear his reputation in such a manner is unpardonable.
Jason Levi
Northridge, California

Says Woolf, “I’m pleased an attorney thinks I give a balanced view.” Her Dodgson biography “The Mystery of Lewis Carroll” was released in 2010 and is reviewed in Knight Letter Number 84.

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.)