The Mystery of Lewis Carroll: Discovering the Whimsical, Thoughtful, and Sometimes Lonely Man Who Created “Alice in Wonderland”

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Throughout the years, several biographies about Charles Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll) have appeared. According to Jenny Woolf, each new biography was more and more about fiction instead of facts, and contained lots of speculation about his supposed pedophilia and drug use. Woolf tells us she tried to keep an open mind and stick to the facts, in order to describe the man he truly was.

Woolf not only turned to sources like Dodgson's diaries, but she also discovered Dodgson's bank account – a source that remained untouched by his family members, and she uses his sources of income and his expenses to shed more light into the matters Dodgson found important (or did not care about at all).

It is interesting to read lesser known facts, like Dodgson writing more about Harry (Alice's brother) in his diaries than he did about Alice herself, that his friendship with the Liddell's actually started through Harry, and that Dodgson did not only have child friends, but many female adult friends as well.

Woolf refutes the descriptions of Dodgson as a recluse, weirdo, or druggie, by pointing out that there is no evidence for it at all (on the contrary), but on the other hand she does not try to mask that Dodgson, in later life, did become quite a fussy and eccentric man, and that there was in fact some gossip going around about his friendships with women while he was alive.

Besides the facts, Woolf does make several assumptions herself and comes up with her own theories. Her most interesting theory is, that Charles Dodgson spent so much time with little girls because he wanted to reclaim his own innocence. He was not sexually interested in them at all - on the contrary: in the Victorian age, children were considered to be sexless and represented innocence. Dodgson was a very religious man and was very afraid of doing anything sinful. Jenny claims that Dodgson used little girls as an ‘antidote to sin', this sin being a probable love affair with a married woman.

She also states that Dodgson may have photographed girls in the nude, instead of adult women, because he loved to study the human body, but did not want to risk being sexually aroused by it.

So although Woolf does not just state the bare facts about Dodgson, but also tries to interpret them, and we cannot be sure that her interpretations are actually correct, she does it in a most convincing and plausible way. Her biography is pleasant and easy to read and I can recommend it to anyone who wants to know more about the man who wrote 'Alice in Wonderland'.

Description

A new biography of Lewis Carroll, just in time for the release of Tim Burton’s all-star Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll was brilliant, secretive and self contradictory. He reveled in double meanings and puzzles, in his fiction and his life. Jenny Woolf’s The Mystery of Lewis Carroll shines a new light on the creator of Alice In Wonderland and brings to life this fascinating, but sometimes exasperating human being whom some have tried to hide. Using rarely-seen and recently discovered sources, such as Carroll’s accounts ledger and unpublished correspondence with the “real” Alice’s family, Woolf sets Lewis Carroll firmly in the context of the English Victorian age and answers many intriguing questions about the man who wrote the Alice books, such as:

• Was it Alice or her older sister that caused him to break with the Liddell family?

• How true is the gossip about pedophilia and certain adult women that followed him?

• How true is the “romantic secret” which many think ruined Carroll’s personal life?

• Who caused Carroll major financial trouble and why did Carroll successfully conceal that person’s identity and actions?

Woolf answers these and other questions to bring readers yet another look at one of the most elusive English writers the world has known.


NON FICTION Biography
Alice in Wonderland

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