Posted by: Brittany M | October 29, 2009

Just An Innocent Story?

*

Charles Dodgson never wrote for hopes of becoming a famous master of literature. He wrote out of pure kindness of wanting to bring joy to young Alice Liddell and her sisters. His true passion was photography, primarily children’s photography. He loved capturing still life photos and taking pictures of people. He was popular amongst the children, who loved to hear his stories and jokes because in a way, he shared the same sense of humor as a young child.  He was a math teacher of impeccable knowledge, but found teaching to be mundane and boring. He used his skill of knowledge and teaching for financial support, but found joy at the London theatre’s, art galleries, and telling stories to local children. He found the minds of children to be very intriguing which came in handy for making him such a good teacher and children’s writer.

His most famous piece of literature has to be Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the story of a young girl who follows a rabbit down a deep mysterious hole on a hot summers day. The story tells the adventure of young Alice when she reaches the bottom of the hole and thoroughly displays the range of imagination of Dodgson.

It is an enjoyable tale told by many parents to young children who see the innocence in the story but was it written with innocent intentions?

Dodgson was a very private person about his life,but was very open for his love of children. Due to the secrecy of his life there are many speculations that Dodgson may have possibly been a drug abuser and had a liking for children that went beyond just taking their pictures. Many pictures were burned from his nude portfolio previous to his death which came across as very suspicious, and because he never married caused thoughts of drug addiction. He was very private and because he never married or ordained there was reason to believe he was a child pornographer and drug abuser. Portions of his diaries have been found but a couple were burned before is death and many pages were torn out of the one’s found today. Is it possible that he was under the influence when writing Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or was he simply an imaginative writer who truly wanted to bring joy to a young girl whom he found himself to be good friends with.

Either way it is clear that Charles has written one of the most popular stories amongst both children and adults, whatever his intentions may have been or what his motivation was.

Does the fact it  was written by a suspected drug abuser change the fact it is a childhood classic?

*can be found in the link on the front page of the blog under the Author Rackman’s Original Sketches (1907).

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Responses

  1. I think your post offers some insights into Lewis Carroll and his writing and life.

    I also think that we have to be careful with speculation. It’s easy to “rebuild” someone’s life from a few ‘clues” while not entirely knowing all the facts.

    My question is, is it necessary to know the history of an author to enjoy his work? Some critics would say yes, some no.

    What does knowing something about the author add to your understanding? Or does it interfere with it sometimes?

    Can the work stand alone?

  2. For those who don’t feel like searching for the specific part of the intro that deals with this issue:

    “There has been much argumentation about whether Carroll was in love with Alice Liddell. If this is taken to mean that he wanted to marry her or make love to her, there is not the slightest evidence for it. On the other hand, his attitude toward her was the attitude of a man in love…There is no indication that Carroll was conscious of anything but the purest innocence in his relations with little girls, nor is there a hint of impropriety in any of the fond recollections that dozens of them later wrote about him. There was a tendency in Victorian England…to idealize the beauty and [purity] of little girls. No doubt this made it easier for Carroll to suppose that his fondness for them was on a high spiritual level, though of course this hardly is a sufficient explanation for that fondness…Carroll’s little girls appealed to him precisely because he felt [safe] with them (Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition, page XIX).”

  3. For what it’s worth, it’s probably useful for everyone who has responded to this post to read the ‘intro’ to The Annotated Alice to get a) some context, b) some perspective, and c) some historical insight.

    Otherwise — and I mean this politely — everyone will be tempted to react to 1 or 2 phrases without actually knowing the real story.

    It’s tempting when watching the news or reading an Internet article to jump to conclusions, but everyone one of you has access to the actual ‘intro’ that fully explores these questions…and puts reactive assumptions to rest.

    For what it’s worth, I think you’ll find the real story worth reading.

  4. Wow, I did not know most of these facts about him. To think that a childpornographer wrote one of the most famous books is crazy. If an author today, say Dan Brown, the author of the DaVinci Code, was found to be a child pornographer, would we still think of him as a great author. Almost none of the books he would write would be famous just because he was a chldpornographer. Another thought that he was influenced by drugs is more acceptable than his other accusation. I do not know if drugs were looked on as bad during his time but it does not make his work any less effective because of his background. Actually, his background is what inspired him to write this great novel. It is funny to think this, but if he was not into child pornography and did not do drugs, then we would not have one of the most popular children’s stories.

  5. I loved your post. It really sheds some light on where the darker side of this innocent child’s story came from. Of course if this book was written by a (by society’s definition) normal man, it would not be the same story. Even though Carroll’s mysterious private life frightens me, this story would not be the same if someone else had written it.

    To be in his exact state of mind and to question society and life, the way Carroll did through this story is just too fascinating to push aside. The fact that he could be a child pornographer and druggie does take away the genius of this story at some level, though. It’s really a lose lose situation. I wish he was a normal man with no scary hidden past, but on the other hand if he was just a ‘normal’ man this story wouldn’t be half as enchanting, perplexing, and clever as it is now.

  6. Wow! This post just made my jaw drop. I didn’t know any of these facts until just now. I like the point you made;

    “Does the fact it was written by a suspected drug abuser change the fact it is a childhood classic?”

    It was made very clear that he was a drug abuser. Maybe that was just a stage in his life that he went through. Maybe he got over it and then decided to write children’s books. But, if he was a child pornographer while writing this children’s story, then I am kind of freaking out. It does kind of change my perspective on the book. There are going to be many different opinions about him now as a writer. But what doesn’t change is that he did write a very good children’s book. No matter if he was under the influence he still did write a book that has INFLUENCED children from the past and now further into the future. I love this blog post. Very good Brittany!

  7. Oh my goodness. This is an interesting idea you’ve proposed. To think that a child’s story writer may have been infact quite “messed up”. Like Morgan, your post made me think twice about this book. It’s very plausable that Charles was abusing drugs to a level where he thought something like Wonderland existed. Maybe with all the drug abuse he would see these crazy things in his head and decided to write a book about it. However, it seems all too odd to be true.

  8. I love this post! It makes me think twice about the story. It is interesting that if you think about it, a lot of childrens’ stories are dark. Most popular children stories are centered around death. This is the same way. It does seem strange that he liked children and drawing them. Separately, these things would be okay. It does seems as though Dodgsen was “under the influence” with the character of Alice. Very interesting!

  9. Perhaps the fact that he was a suspected drug user makes the story so unique and out there. Definitely one of the more different fairy tales that we grow up. There is no prince, no falling madly in love in the end, no main character being apart of royalty, and so many more that we’re going to find out. It makes the story so different, but I love it. Disney’s interpretation maybe have been a somewhat cleaned up version of the actual story, but maybe for the safety of the children. Carroll is different, and a tad bit insane, but his suspected drug use makes the story go round, and made it a timeless classic. Forget about his past himself-focus on the story and the fascinating imagination, whether brought on by drugs or true vivid imagination, that he had to write a story that will always be a classic.

  10. This was a very interesting post. I enjoyed learning a little more about Dodgson’s past. I would personally argue that he was merely one of the more colorful, eccentric and harmless characters we often have the privilege to meet in our daily lives. I feel that his past unique only adds a bit more intrigue to the reading of his books for a reader who wishes to look a little deeper. Considering the background of an author can sometimes add a whole new dimension to their work. Although from the perspective of a modern reader one can defiantly understand how his lifestyle may seem questionable.


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