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Looking For Alice, Finding Carroll

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A Wasp In A Wig is a blog drawing on various themes of Lewis Carroll, and other 19th century English writers. The Annotated Alice has long been one of the best books around. Carroll’s allusions, mathematical puzzles, social commentary and creative humor make him a valuable resource in a fragmented age. His apparent pedophilia is reviled, while his literary works appreciated. This dichotomy is brought out in an entry on this blog celebrating his 173rd anniversary

Clearly we love the works of Lewis Carroll here. Personally I find his life an inspiration and a guiding light.

That said the hardest thing for me to deal with and accept was that Dodgson was a pedophile. The signs are everywhere but in my youth I chose to ignore them and believe that this man operated on a higher plane where love could exist purely for it’s own sake.

That accepted it most be noted that Dodgson died as a virgin. While he spent many nights wrestling with what he called his demons there is no indication that he ever harmed a child or entered into any inappropriate relationship.

He controlled his impulses and tried to force his love into the higher plane I imagined.

This self control adds to his pleasant legend.
There was much to love and ponder over the man.

Some interesting entries from “A Wasp In A Wig” include an exhibition of Alice Art in London and a new book on Lewis Carroll, annotating his bank account – well described by the author in the Times Literary Supplement

The account also shows conclusively that at least one major aspect of Dodgson’s famous image is absolutely wrong. His reputation has always been that of an obsessive, picking at detail in a way which could drive others frantic. As Isa Bowman recalled, before a railway journey Dodgson would “exactly calculate the amount of money that must be spent, and, in different partitions of the two purses that he carried, arrange the various sums that would be necessary for cabs, porters, newspapers, refreshments and the other expenses of a journey . . .”. Then there was his correspondence with Macmillan’s, beginning in 1875, after he had analysed the Alice accounts. “On every thousand copies sold”, he complained, “your profit is £20.16s 8d, mine is £56.5s 0d, and the bookseller’s £70.16s.8d. This seems . . . altogether unfair . . .” After bombarding Macmillan
with letters, Dodgson began fixing the sale prices of his books himself in order to secure a larger profit, earning himself the enmity of booksellers and enhancing his reputation for financial sharpness.

Behind the scenes at Parsons Thomson’s, though, it was a different story. When he did not have an elaborate and interesting plan involving railway journeys, or a David and Goliath battle to fight, Dodgson obviously couldn’t be bothered to notice how much was in his account from month to month. He began running into overdraft almost from the start. By the eighth transaction, his account was in the red, and he subsequently slid in and out of solvency in a careless way which was certainly not the rule among Parsons Thomson’s other distinguished customers. Using a rough rule of thumb of £50 (modern) to £1 (Victorian), Dodgson’s £148 overdraft in June 1863 was the approximate equivalent of £7,500 now, and that was fairly typical. For many years, these overdrafts were sufficiently low to be paid off as soon as he received his half-yearly salary from Christ Church. After Alice and his other books began producing income, the annual revenues, which quickly reached several hundred pounds a year, also helped his solvency.

The Looking Glass Company is currently enacting the world premiere of “Lookingglass Alice”, a musical, in Chicago.

Lookingglass Alice

Adapted from Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Ensemble Member and Artistic Director David Catlin

Directed by David Catlin

Alice falls, floats, flies, and defies gravity and the rules of logic on her wonderland journey through the looking glass to become a queen.

With a juggling Mad Hatter, a precariously balancing Egg, and a bumbling Knight who invents his way into Alice’s heart, Lookingglass Alice revisits the stories that inspired the founding of Lookingglass Theatre Company.

Muscular, acrobatic, percussive and dizzyingly playful, Lookingglass Alice is a show for all ages: adults who think they’re all grown up, kids who wish they were, and everyone who likes to pretend they never have to.

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  • Lono

    Lewis Carroll rules! As someone with an Literature degree, it should carry at least a little weight when I say Alice in Wonderland (which is actually two books) is the best book ever written. It is timeless, and never fails to impress or entertain me.

  • Aaman

    The concern about Carroll’s pedophilia is in line with our modern sensibilities, but his preferences were not out of place in his own times – when the (not yet) Bishop of Canterbury could propose to a twelve-year old, and nary a complaint.

    Great author, indeed – and talented in many more fields

  • Richard Porter

    Does this mean that we should embrace Carroll, just as Hollywood has embraced J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan (Finding Neverland)?
    This movie seems to have left out a major part of that author’s life, namely his fascination with young boys.
    By your accord, we should excuse Michael Jackson, Barrie and Carroll and anyone else because they are extremely talented, are geniuses or during their lifetime the world wasn’t civilized enough to realize how morally wrong their lusts would lead them.
    Praise the stories not the man.

  • Aaman

    Ah – I expected the comparisons – I did not excuse this element of his life. It may have been a motive force for his creativity, and was morally wrong. In fact, it was probably the main reason he did not take up the cloth, as it were. He knew he was tormented by these demons, unlike, say, Michael

    The contradictions exist in these people’s lives – do with them what you will.

  • Lono

    You are all losing track and making very serious accusations which I think are totally baseless. The Alice in the book was a real life girl, Alice Little. She was the daughter of a good friend who used to accompany them on picnics.

    Sure Dodgeson (pen name Carrol) was a strange fellow with a great imagination… that doesn’t make him a pedophile. If you are to use that same rule of them (that creators of children’s art are all pedophiles), then eveyr single employee of the Disney corporation should be charged and hung.

  • Mike

    This discussion of Carroll as a pedophile is pretty out of date isn’t it? The newest research shows that the whole image of his so-called ‘obsession’ with small girls was created almost entirely (and almost accidentally) by biographers and dreamers anyway.
    See the ‘Looking for Lewis Carroll’ website which had the latest research from the best writers on Carroll

  • Aaman

    Thanks Mike – great website.

  • Richard Astley-Clemas

    Everythings been said about this tiresome subject and little of it made sense anyway by applying todays morals and politically correct thinking to what happenned well over a century ago.
    No one seems to have realised that Dodgson/Carroll would have been impotent thus a threat to nobody

  • DrPat

    If impotence or virginity were a bar to pedophilia, Michael Jackson wouldn’t be in the trouble he’s in.

    Whether or not Dodson (or Barrie, for that matter) ever consumated their lusts, that they experienced a sexual urge toward children is part of the historical background of these men.

  • Shark

    Just wanna add a suggestion:

    Alice in Wonderland by Abelardo Morrell

    Beautiful and brilliant, it belongs in every Alice fanatic’s collection.

    PS: re – alleged pedophilia — get a life, morons.