As authors go , Lewis Carroll has to be one of the more bizarre characters in literature. Elusive yet dogged by rumours that seem to have little effect on the fact he wrote one of the most beloved children’s story’s of all time – Alice in Wonderland.
Truth be told , I’d heard the rumours – that he was a suspect in the Jack the Ripper case and even on his official website that it was rumoured he was a paedophile. To be honest , I didnt take much notice .
That is until I accidentally stumbled across a photo – or , to be more specific , a couple of photos that disturbed me greatly.
The first , was a photo taken by him of a young Alice Liddell , the inspiration for the character of Alice in Wonderland, draped in nothing but a sheet with parts of her skin exposed in what you may interpret as a provocative fashion . But it was the expression on her face that disturbed me , the girl looked seriously unhappy. It began to haunt me and I couldn’t get it out of my head.
The Second photo I found more alarming than the first – Lewis Carroll sat on a chair as Alice kissed him full on the lips. For me , as a mother it just didn’t seem right – a young girl of 8 kissing a man twenty years her senior.
It was enough to make me seriously wonder if there was any truth in these rumours ?
I decided to delve a bit further into Lewis Carroll and his relationship with the young Alice Liddle. It seemed I couldn’t settle until I found out more.
What I discovered only increased my uneasiness but also confusion ….
Lewis Carroll and the Liddell Family
Dodgson met the Liddell family in 1855; he first befriended Harry, the older brother, and later took both Harry and sister Ina on several boating trips and picnics to the scenic areas around Oxford. Later, when Harry went to school, Alice and her younger sister Edith joined the party. Dodgson entertained the children by telling them fantastic stories to while away the time. He also used them as subjects for his hobby, photography.
Alice in Wonderland
On a July afternoon in 1862, he took the three Liddell sisters on a stretch of the river between Oxford and Godstow and told them the story that would become Alice. Alice Liddell, then 10, was delighted that the main character bore her name and asked Dodgson to write down the story.
Lewis Carroll took numerous photos of the Liddell girls and also other young girls mainly between the ages of 8 – 11 .
It has even been stated he was very dissapointed in how much Alice had changed when she modelled for him after a brief absence when she was eleven.
It is known he wrote to Alice too about his special friendships with his young models “though not as special as ours” he assured her
But looking at the photos , in my mind it’s not just the apparent suggestiveness that concerns , it’s the obvious unhappiness Alice displays. Yet in photos including him she is constantly by his side albeit almost unwillingly.
Now, it has been explained by many experts and even his own biographer , that apparently taking photos of children in the nude was very much a thing in Victorian England where children’s innocence was loved to be celebrated. This was news to me – I have never ever heard such an explanation before.
I know when it comes to photography the Victorians were strange – they would take photos of the deceased etc and set up spirit photos but I was always led to believe they were very much of the ” children should be seen and not heard ” opinion so pictures of children’s “innocence celebrated” seems rather at odds with this view.
Another thing that seems suspicious is that although he took many photos of Alice and her sisters , he destroyed a large amount too. I wonder if the one s that survived can be seen as questionable then just what did these photos contain ?
In regards to this “explanation” where it could certainly be true , for after all this was a good 150 odd years ago and attitudes and opinions do change , and I acknowledge we live in a society that does automatically think the worst – it’s almost as if it’s saying paedophilia did not exist – it is merely something the 20th and 21st centuries gave us . This I sincerely do not believe. I believe it was just as rife in the Victorian period as it is nowadays , the difference being we are much more aware of it.
His thoughts on children
“I am fond of children (except boys).”
He once wrote to Gertrude Thomson, an artist who was sketching girlish fairies and nymphs, “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.”
He wrote to one 10-year-old girl, “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.”
Theres an intensity to the friendships that Carroll struck up with children, a hint of hunger, of never quite getting enough. It is disturbing.
Crucially, Carroll’s diaries from April 1858 to May 1862, a period which coincides with his friendship with the Liddell girls, are missing – this may be to do with a sudden rift that occurred between the Liddell family and himself which has been explained away by his descendants as a “marriage proposal gone wrong of Lorena Liddell/ attempt at seduction of the governess ” to more recently a newly discovered photograph belonging to Carroll of a nude photograph of Lorena herself – one no parent would consent to.
Even Alice s great grandaughter, Vanessa Tait, admits
“My understanding is that he was in love with Alice, but he was so repressed that he never would have transgressed any boundaries,”
He called the Alice books a “love-gift.
So whilst there is no definite proof , there is a lot of information that when examined does make a person concerned. Personally, I feel the explanations for the familys fall out , the missing diaries and the innocence of the photos do not ease my suspicions enough nor are they solid enough to be considered fact.
I think there are too many aspects that do not add up and the gut feeling I get , even now, when looking at those photos is that something is seriously amiss.
That considered , it’s quite distressing to consider the amazing piece of literature that Carroll produced in Alice in Wonderland was nothing more than a grooming attempt of a man obsessed with a child.