Epilogue to Through the Looking Glass
By Lewis Carroll
A boat, beneath a sunny sky
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July–
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear
Pleased a simple tale to hear–
Long has paled that sunny sky:
Echoes fade and memories die:
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die:
Ever drifting down the stream–
Lingering in the golden gleam–
Life what is it but a dream?
“I am fond of children (except boys).” So said the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, otherwise known as Lewis Carroll; an utterance which ruled out a fair proportion of pre-pubescent humanity at a stroke and subsequently provided scandal mongers with endless scope to excavate into the darkest, and dankest corners of the reverend`s life. He took beautiful and melancholy photographs of little girls, and befriended them at every opportunity on trains, beaches, on the streets, and in the houses of friends. One young lady above all came to be his muse and great passion in life………Alice Liddell.
It`s unfortunate for Carroll that modern sentiments do not take kindly to men beguiled by little girls. It has been suggested that he was a closet, passive paedophile with an unhealthy obsession with the immature female body. His supporters are as vociferous in the defence of their hero as are his detractors. Methinks that perhaps both sides doth protest too much? It`s very easy to look back in time at a different age, with different social norms and condemn them out of hand. The Roman mob liked nothing better than watching men kill each other in the arena, and witnessed all manner of violence for their entertainment. It was normal for them to behave this way, and saw it as a reflection of the traditional Roman empire building virtues of strength and honour.
We live in an age awash with psycho analysis of every facet of human interaction: everyone in the public eye is presented, undressed and dissected in the most intimate and invasive manner leaving nothing to the imagination…….All for public entertainment. Social media has become the Roman arena of the modern world where reputations are gutted, and the entrails paraded around for the baying mob to bear witness to. The dead cannot defend themselves; they leave us a fragment of their voice in words, pictures and the memories of others who knew them. If none of those are either possible or almost non-existent, blatant fabrication will fill the breach thank you very much.
In his early years, the young Dodgson was educated at home, where he proved to have a precocious talent, and enthusiastically consumed books at a prodigious rate. He was less emotionally happy when he was placed in Rugby School, but was scholastically successful and moved to Christ Church College, Oxford in 1850. He was perhaps, happiest when inhabiting an interior world of imagination where his stammer was less of a hindrance; but then again, it was odd that his stammer was sometimes noticeable by children but not by adults, and vice versa at various times. It didn`t seem to inhibit him socially by all accounts; he had a tolerable singing voice, strutted the social catwalk, pressed the flesh, and walked the walk and talked the talk along with the best of them, at a time when one–on–one interaction was vital to get ahead and prosper.
When one thinks of a paedophile, perhaps a Nabokavian vision of a drooling, lustful predator heaves into view, but Dodgson`s inclinations and actions were the reverse. His affections for what he called “child friends” were a yearning, physically unfulfilled, quasi romantic intensity, whereby you are left with the feeling that he always seemed to want more from the object of his passive desires. He seemed forever hungry for the company of the little girls he had focused his attention on; so much so that on one occasion he asked a girl`s mother if he could come to dinner………,”And would it be de rigueur that there should be a third to dinner? Tete a tete is so much the nicest.”
Perhaps subliminally he was turning himself inside out to openly avoid the carnality of his feelings, and so created an amazing internal world of wonder to channel his desires in another, hidden direction. His works were a prolonged, and necessary love letter to feminine childhood as well as being an emotional, non–physical consummation.
If this was the case, he wasn`t the only one in the Victorian era who found himself drawn to pre-pubescent children. John Ruskin is an interesting case in point: Alice entranced him, as well as other young girls; one such Italian street urchin hit the spot squarely. Victorian sentimentality hid a dark multitude of sexual and physical urges which fed on and fattened themselves through the infamous Victorian sexual repression and squeamishness. Surfing this wave of sexual perversity was the sanctity and innocence of children enshrined in the Victorian psyche: of course, it was typical Victorian hypocricy at play. In the company of children it was perceived to be safe for certain sexually murky thoughts to flourish; hidden in full view.
This submerged, erotic fascination with the nubile female form was there for all to see, and that he was possibly tormented by his desires ” ……the inclinations of my sinful heart….unholy thoughts, which torture with their unholy presence, the fancy that would fain be pure”.
Dodgson`s response to his hidden heart`s desire, was to undergo a little personal psychoanalysis by floating along the glittering watery highway in a boat with Alice, and tell her ever more outlandish and exotic stories of disjointed, secret worlds, inhabited by manic, dangerous and psychotic creations. It was the only way he could tell Alice how much he loved her.
In the company of his beloved Alice, his imagination fled the real world into an unrequited, ethereal, sad love. He fought the good fight against his repressed, unconsummated desires, and turned them into talking chess pieces, rabbits with a time fixation, sadistic, malicious, psychopathic queens, stuttering tortoises and philosophizing, pot smoking caterpillars.
He had what would in his day and age have been described as ” impure thoughts”, but he dealt with them by turning them into some of the greatest, most wonderful and inventive works of fiction for children of all ages ever written. Perhaps what really matters here, is not what he was or thought, but how he chanelled those thoughts. We are all complicated individuals, and the Reverend Dodgson was no exception; His life long internalized struggle gave us truly great works of imaginative literature to enjoy and become children again……..
Oh, `tis love, `tis love, that makes the world go round