Author Topic: Jenny Woolf, THE MYSTERY OF LEWIS CARROLL (2010)  (Read 132 times)

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Offline agate

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Jenny Woolf, THE MYSTERY OF LEWIS CARROLL (2010)
« on: June 06, 2014, 11:36:44 am »
WOOLF, JENNY

    THE MYSTERY OF LEWIS CARROLL: DISCOVERING THE WHIMSICAL, THOUGHTFUL, AND SOMETIMES LONELY MAN WHO CREATED ALICE IN WONDERLAND (2010)


The mania for absurdly long book titles seems to have affected this author severely, but aside from the title length, this is a very readable and fair account of the life of C. L. Dodgson/Lewis Carroll.


    Lewis Carroll was not primarily an author of children's books. He was a mathematics instructor--and is also known for some contributions to mathematics.

The Alice books for which he is known were written for the entertainment of Alice Liddell, a little girl of his acquaintaince.

Photography was just evolving in Carroll's lifetime, and he was a very enthusiastic photographer though the process involved transporting a considerable amount of equipment around.

Jenny Woolf describes his photography efforts in detail and is at pains to demonstrate that, given Carroll's situation and upbringing and the styles in photography at the time, the photos of little girls that he took by no means suggest that he was perverted or even that he was overly attracted to young girls.

Indeed, the photos I have seen--and I don't know if these were all of them--hardly seem to warrant any brouhaha at all. Not one of them could be called provocative. These are pre-pubescent girls, many of them covered, and not one in a suggestive pose.

The biographer's point about Carroll is that as the eldest son of a vicar, he was devoutly religious throughout his life so far as anyone has been able to determine.  The child, particularly the young girl, was idealized at the time as the quintessence of innocence, as anyone familiar with Romantic poetry can attest.

Carroll also believed that draping the human form was almost sinful as it was covering up God's handiwork. However, in compliance with the mores of the time, all but a few of the many photos taken by Carroll are heavily d****d.

Woolf also points out that of the young girls whom Carroll photographed, most remained in contact with him and on friendly terms for many years into their adulthood, and not one account of any improper advances on Carroll's part has come to light.

She does have to deal with the fact that some of Carroll's personal records and diaries, covering over a decade, were apparently destroyed by his survivors.  She speculates on many possible reasons for the destruction of the records and concludes that since we can't know the reasons and there is no other evidence of his pedophilia, we cannot make assumptions about him.

It is regrettable that she has had to spend so much time explaining away the scandal-mongering charges that have been made. Even so, this seems to be a thorough account of the life of this remarkable literary figure.
« Last Edit: May 28, 2015, 06:06:00 pm by agate »
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