The Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was a teacher of mathematics at Oxford and a deacon of the Anglican Church. Some colleagues knew him as a somewhat reclusive stammerer, but he was generally seen as a devout scholar; one dean said he was “pure in heart.” To readers all over the world, he became renowned as Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Alice was popular almost from the moment it was published, in 1865, and it has remained in print ever since, influencing such disparate artists as Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, just released in movie theaters nationwide, is only the latest of at least 20 films and TV shows to be made from the book. But if Alice has endured unscathed, its author has taken a pummeling….
In 1999, Karoline Leach published yet another Dodgson biography, In the Shadow of the Dreamchild, in which she quoted the summary of the missing diary information and argued that her predecessors, misunderstanding the society in which Dodgson lived, had created a “Carroll myth” around his sexuality. She concluded that he was attracted to adult women (including Mrs. Liddell) after all.
The reaction among Dodgson scholars was seismic. “Improbable, feebly documented…tendentious,” thundered Donald Rackin in Victorian Studies. Geoffrey Heptonstall, in Contemporary Review, responded that the book provided “the whole truth.”
Which is where Dodgson’s image currently stands””in contention””among scholars if not yet in popular culture. His image as a man of suspect sexuality “says more about our society and its hang-ups than it does about Dodgson himself,” Will Brooker says.
Read it all (in honor of his birthday this past weekend, and, yes, the emphasis is mine).