You're probably more likely to know Charles Lutwidge Dodgson as British author Lewis Carroll. He wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. But what you may not know is how close a relationship he forged with a young girl named Alice Liddell, the real Alice in Wonderland, and the inspiration behind his novels. This relationship has been heavily studied and scrutinized, with many believing it had Lolita-esque aspirations.
Dodgson wrote under a pseudonym, and the first in the series, often shortened to Alice in Wonderland, centers on the titular character falling into a rabbit hole and meeting a serious of fantastical creatures. The book is one of a few that has maintained its popularity despite being published over 150 years ago, like Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House On The Prairie series.
Dodgson wasn't simply a writer. He studied mathematics at Oxford University and was a skilled photographer. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson photos are interesting due to their subject matter: over half of his surviving photographs depict prepubescent girls. Lewis Carroll and children go hand and hand - he loved children, and they loved him. But over the years, many have questioned his relationships with young girls, although there's no conclusive evidence that he acted on any inappropriate impulses.
His Relationship With Alice Abruptly Ended
In 1863, something happened between Dodgson and the Liddells that severed their relationship for quite some time. Prior to that, he saw the children nearly every day. Scholars don't know what caused the rift, but Dodgson stopped socializing with the Liddells for several months.
Following Dodgson's passing, a page in his diary was removed that may have provided some insight. Florence Becker Lennon wrote in Victoria Through the Looking Glass (1945) that Dodgson may have been interested in marrying Alice, who was 11 years old. His proposal may have scared the family because such a thing was not acceptable, even in the Victorian era.
Dodgson eventually reconciled with the Liddells but never again spent time with their daughters. In 1864, Dodgson gifted Alice his book, Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. The following year, when Alice was 12, Dodgson wrote that she had changed as a person.
He Took This Provocative Photo Of Alice As A Beggar Girl
One of his most famous photographs of Alice Liddell was taken by Dodgson when she was six years old; in it, she appears as a beggar girl. She has no shoes on, and her dress is falling off her shoulders. The image may have been inspired by the Lord Tennyson poem "The Beggar Maid." Alice is solemnly leaning against a wall in a garden.
She looks pitiful and yet, due to her ripped and ruffled clothes, serious gaze, and raised open hand (begging or beckoning), the image also takes on an uncomfortably suggestive quality.
He Once Wrote: "I Am Fond Of Children (But Not Boys)"
Perhaps one reason why scholars have questioned Dodgson's relationship with young girls was because he is credited with writing: "I am fond of children (except boys)." He was also an accomplished photographer, and most of his subjects were little girls. He met them in all kinds of places (the beach, on trains, through acquaintances) and became their friend. Alice Liddell, in particular, was one of his favorite little girls.
Artist Gertrude Thomson, who drew pictures of fairies and nymphs, received a letter from Dodgson in which he wrote:
"I confess I do not admire naked boys in pictures. They always seem... to need clothes, whereas one hardly sees why the lovely forms of girls should ever be covered up."
Looking backward, some historians posit that it's impossible to defend or indemnify Dodgson. While he may have felt romantic feelings for his child friends, there isn't evidence to suggest he acted on them.
Carroll Penned Warm And Suggestive Letters To His Young Friends
Dodgson was bold about the tenderness (and possible romantic love) he felt for his young female friends. He once wrote to a 10-year-old girl that he was happy to have her hair to kiss, but he'd rather kiss her instead:
"Extra thanks and kisses for the lock of hair. I have kissed it several times - for want of having you to kiss, you know, even hair is better than nothing."
It was common for Dodgson to write these types of things in his letters. In another, he wrote to a mother about bringing her daughter to dinner:
"And would it be de rigueur that there should be a third to dinner? Tête à tête is so much the nicest."