Charles Dodgson [aka Lewis Carroll] had a very British family background that was steeped in service to the British Crown and the Church of England.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898), better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll, was an English writer, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and photographer.
Dodgson’s family was predominantly northern English, with Irish connections.
Conservative and High Church Anglican, most of Dodgson’s male ancestors were army officers or Church of England clergy.
His great-grandfather, also named Charles Dodgson, had risen through the ranks of the church to become the Bishop of Elphin.
His paternal grandfather, another Charles, had been an army captain, killed in action in Ireland in 1803 when his two sons were hardly more than babies.
Charles Dodgson’s father was a parson who married his first cousin and sired eleven children.
The oldest of these sons – yet another Charles Dodgson – was Carroll’s father.
He reverted to the other family tradition and took holy orders.
He went to Westminster School, and then to Christ Church, Oxford.
He was mathematically gifted and won a double first degree, which could have been the prelude to a brilliant academic career.
Instead he married his first cousin, Frances Jane Lutwidge, in 1827 and became a country parson.
Dodgson was born in the small parsonage at Daresbury in Cheshire near the towns of Warrington and Runcorn, the eldest boy but already the third child of the four-and-a-half-year-old marriage.
Eight more children were to follow.
Evidently, Charles Dodgson’s father enjoyed the very British predilection for keeping sex in the family and was [therefore] a parson who was well prepared for the hypocrisy of Victorian Britain and its strangely schizophrenic sexuality.
Victoria (Alexandrina Victoria; 24 May 1819 – 22 January 1901) was Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland from 20 June 1837 until her death.
From 1 May 1876, she used the additional title of Empress of India.
The word schizophrenia – which translates roughly as “splitting of the mind” and comes from the Greek roots schizein (σχίζειν, “to split”) and phrēn, phren- (φρήν, φρεν-, “mind”) – was coined by Eugen Bleuler in 1908 and was intended to describe the separation of function between personality, thinking, memory, and perception.
The term schizophrenia is commonly misunderstood to mean that affected persons have a “split personality”.
Although some people diagnosed with schizophrenia may hear voices and may experience the voices as distinct personalities, schizophrenia does not involve a person changing among distinct multiple personalities.
Charles Dodgson endured another very peculiar British predilection for packing their pre-pubescent progeny off to single sex boarding schools.
When Charles was 11, his father was given the living of Croft-on-Tees in North Yorkshire, and the whole family moved to the spacious rectory.
This remained their home for the next twenty-five years.
Charles’ father was an active and highly conservative cleric of the Church of England who later became the Archdeacon of Richmond and involved himself, sometimes influentially, in the intense religious disputes that were dividing the church.
He was High Church, inclining to Anglo-Catholicism, an admirer of John Henry Newman and the Tractarian movement, and did his best to instill such views in his children.
Young Charles was to develop an ambiguous relationship with his father’s values and with the Church of England as a whole.
At the age of twelve he was sent to Richmond Grammar School (now part of Richmond School) at nearby Richmond.
Richmond School was the first school in Richmondshire.
It accepted only boys and its only entry requirements were that pupils could read and write.
Its original founding date is not known, however it first appears in a registry estimated to have been written in 1361–1474.
It was awarded a charter ratifying its status on 14 March 1568 by Queen Elizabeth I and was one of the first free grammar schools in England.
In former times the school accommodated approximately twenty five boys, some fee paying who aspired to go on to university education, and some local youths who would leave to work in trades within the town.
Croft-on-Tees, England is 8.92 miles (14.4 km) from Richmond, Yorkshire, England.
Charles Dodgson then endured the very peculiar British purgatory of the English public school system with its pervasive and perverse peccadillo for penetrating pretty pre-pubescent pupils.
Rugby School is a co-educational day and boarding school located in the town of Rugby, Warwickshire, England.
Rugby School is a registered charity and is one of the oldest independent schools in Britain.
The influence of Rugby and its pupils and masters in the nineteenth century was enormous and in many ways the stereotype of the English public school is a reworking of Thomas Arnold’s Rugby.
It is one of the original nine English public schools defined by the Public Schools Act 1868.
It is one of the best-known and most expensive schools in the country.
Originally it was for boys only, but girls have been admitted to the sixth form since 1975.
After three years of “annoyance at night” the physically and emotionally damaged Charles Dodgson appeared [on paper] to be the perfect public school product who was well groomed for Christ Church, Oxford and the hypocrisy of the Church of England.
As a very young child, he suffered a fever that left him deaf in one ear.
At the age of 17, he suffered a severe attack of whooping cough, which was probably responsible for his chronically weak chest in later life.
Dodgson had been groomed for the ordained ministry in the Church of England from a very early age and was expected, as a condition of his residency at Christ Church, to be ordained within four years of obtaining his master’s degree.
Christian denominations hold a variety of views on the issue of homosexual activity, ranging from outright condemnation to complete acceptance.
Most Christian denominations welcome people attracted to the same sex, but teach that homosexual acts are sinful.
The Episcopal Church’s recent actions vis-a-vis homosexuality have brought about increased ethical debate and tension within the Church of England and worldwide Anglican churches.
Thus, following in his father’s footsteps, Charles Dodgson arrived at Christ Church, Oxford.
He left Rugby at the end of 1849 and matriculated at Oxford in May 1850 as a member of his father’s old college, Christ Church.
In 1852 he obtained first-class honours in Mathematics Moderations, and was shortly thereafter nominated to a Studentship by his father’s old friend, Canon Edward Pusey.
In 1854 he obtained first-class honours in the Final Honours School of Mathematics, standing first on the list, graduating Bachelor of Arts.
Even so, his talent as a mathematician won him the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship in 1855, which he continued to hold for the next twenty-six years.
In 1850 Christ Church, Oxford was the quintessential British institution where closeted academics, adolescent aristocrats and erotic ecclesiastics intermingled [sometimes ecstatically] to help forge the British Ruling Class.
Christ Church (Latin: Ædes Christi, the temple or house (ædēs) of Christ, and thus sometimes known as “The House”) is a constituent college of the University of Oxford in England.
The college is associated with Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, which serves as the college chapel and whose dean is ex officio the college head.
Like its sister college, Trinity College, Cambridge, it was traditionally considered the most aristocratic college of its university.
It is the second wealthiest Oxford college by financial endowment (after St John’s) with an endowment of £310m as of 2012.
Christ Church has produced thirteen British prime ministers, which is equal to the number produced by all 45 other Oxford colleges put together and more than any Cambridge college (and two short of the total number for the University of Cambridge of fifteen).
Christ Church, formally titled “The Dean, Chapter and Students of the Cathedral Church of Christ in Oxford of the Foundation of King Henry the Eighth”, is the only academic institution in the world which is also a cathedral, the seat (cathedra) of the Bishop of Oxford. The Visitor of Christ Church is the reigning British sovereign, and the Bishop of Oxford is unique among English bishops in not being the Visitor of his own cathedral.
The head of the college is the Dean of Christ Church, who is a clergyman appointed by the crown as dean of the cathedral church.
Anthony Eden (Prime Minister 1955-1957) is one of the thirteen British Prime Ministers to have studied at the college, with others including William Ewart Gladstone (1828-1831), Sir Robert Peel (1841-1846) and Archibald Primrose (1894-1895).
Duke of Denver: “Well, it was like this. We’d had a long day on the moors and had dinner early, and about half-past nine we began to feel like turning in. My sister and Mrs. Pettigrew-Robinson toddled on up, and we were havin’ a last peg in the billiard-room when Fleming -that’s my man – came in with the letters. They come rather any old time in the evening, you know, we being two and a half miles from the village. No – I wasn’t in the billiard-room at the time – I was lockin’ up the gun-room. The letter was from an old friend of mind I hadn’t seen for years – Tom Freeborn – used to know him at the House”
The Coroner: “Whose house?”
Duke of Denver: “Oh, Christ Church, Oxford. He wrote to say he’d seen the announcement of my sister’s engagement in Egypt.”
Clouds of Witness – Dorothy L. Sayers – 1926
The origins of the quaint English tradition of cottaging was probably euphemistically named in honour of the house by graduates who downsized their entertainment emporium after leaving Oxford.
Cottaging is a UK gay slang term referring to anonymous sex between men in a public lavatory (a “cottage”, “tea-room” or “beat”), or cruising for sexual partners with the intention of having sex elsewhere.
The term has its roots in self-contained English toilet blocks resembling small cottages in their appearance; in the English cant language of Polari this became a double entendre by gay men referring to sexual encounters.
“Cottage” is documented as having been in use during the Victorian era to refer to a public toilet and by the 1960s had become an exclusively homosexual slang term.
Thus, it is evident that Alice [aka Charles Dodgson aka jailbait for erotic ecclesiastics, public schoolboys and schoolmasters] arrived in Wonderland [aka Christ Church aka The House] in 1850.
The term jailbait is derived from the fact that engaging in sexual activity with someone who is under the age of consent is classified as statutory rape.
The minor deemed sexually attractive is thus a temptation to an older person to pursue them for sexual relations at the risk of being sent to jail if caught.
In the 18th century, some businesspersons and aristocrats had, for the time, relatively open LGBT lifestyles.
Rictor Norton, author of Mother Clap’s Molly House: The Gay Subculture in England, 1700-1830 stated that in the 1720s London had more gay pubs and clubs than it did in 1950.
LGBT studies pre-1920s were entirely of males caught in scandals, and most of them were members of the Royal Family of the United Kingdom.
Homosexuality was decriminalized in the UK in 1967.
LGBT culture or LGBTQI culture is a culture shared by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning and intersex people.
It is sometimes referred to as queer culture (indicating people who are queer), while the term gay culture may be used to mean “LGBTQI culture,” or to refer specifically to homosexual male culture.
The defining moment for Charles Dodgson arrived in 1862 when, for “unknown reasons”, he was allowed to stay at Christ Church, Oxford without being ordained as a priest.
He delayed the process for some time but was eventually ordained as a deacon on 22 December 1861.
But when the time came a year later to be ordained as a priest, Dodgson appealed to the dean for permission not to proceed.
This was against college rules and initially Dean Liddell told him he would have to consult the college ruling body, which would almost undoubtedly have resulted in his being expelled.
For unknown reasons, Liddell changed his mind overnight and permitted Dodgson to remain at the college in defiance of the rules.
Uniquely amongst senior students of his time, Dodgson never became a priest.
These “unknown reasons” were sufficiently strong [or sufficiently embarrassing] that Charles Dodgson was able to remain [presumably unmolested] at Christ Church for the rest of his life.
Despite early unhappiness, Dodgson was to remain at Christ Church, in various capacities, until his death
Generally, academics have generally been content to stigmatise Lewis Carroll [aka Charles Dodgson] as an eccentric wordsmith famed for forging “literary nonsense” that defied “logical reasoning”.
His most famous writings are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, which includes the poem Jabberwocky, and the poem The Hunting of the Snark, all examples of the genre of literary nonsense.
He is noted for his facility at word play, logic, and fantasy.
Literary nonsense (or nonsense literature) is a broad categorization of literature that uses sensical and nonsensical elements to defy language conventions or logical reasoning.
Even though the most well-known form of literary nonsense is nonsense verse, the genre is present in many forms of literature.
Ironically, these academics appear to have studiously failed to recognise that Charles Dodgson perceived himself to be Alice living in the surreal Wonderland known as Christ Church, Oxford which [by definition] wasn’t a bastion of “logical reasoning”.
Academics and biographers have also been [generally] content to sexually stigmatise Charles Dodgson.
Referring to Carroll as “the Victorian era’s most famous (or infamous) girl lover“, academic, Catherine Robson writes that:
For those who wish to map the contours of the don’s desires, both his public, and more especially his voluminous private, writings provide acres and acres of relevant territory.
Letter after letter, journal upon journal, dedicatory poem and book inscription bear witness to Carroll’s ceaseless pursuit of juvenile feminine company.
Is it innocent? Is it sexual?
Some late twentieth century biographers have suggested that Dodgson’s interest in children had an erotic element, including Morton N. Cohen in his Lewis Carroll: A Biography (1995), Donald Thomas in his Lewis Carroll: A Portrait with Background (1995), and Michael Bakewell in his Lewis Carroll: A Biography (1996).
Cohen, in particular, claims Dodgson’s “sexual energies sought unconventional outlets”, and further writes:
We cannot know to what extent sexual urges lay behind Charles’s preference for drawing and photographing children in the nude.
He contended the preference was entirely aesthetic.
But given his emotional attachment to children as well as his aesthetic appreciation of their forms, his assertion that his interest was strictly artistic is naïve.
He probably felt more than he dared acknowledge, even to himself.
Cohen goes on to note that Dodgson “apparently convinced many of his friends that his attachment to the nude female child form was free of any eroticism”, but adds that “later generations look beneath the surface” (p. 229).
He and other biographers[who?] argue that Dodgson may have wanted to marry the 11-year-old Alice Liddell, and that this was the cause of the unexplained “break” with the family in June 1863, an event for which other explanations are offered.
Biographers Derek Hudson and Roger Lancelyn Green (Green also having edited Dodgson’s diaries and papers) stop short of identifying Dodgson as a paedophile, but concur that he had a passion for small female children and next to no interest in the adult world.
Ironically, these academics and biographers appear to have studiously failed to remember that Charles Dodgson did not welcome “annoyance at night” from public schoolboys, schoolmasters or [even] English ecclesiastics emboldened by their infamous choirboy crushes.
There was a young parson named Bings,
Who talked about God and such things;
But his secret desire
Was a boy in the choir,
With a bottom like jelly on springs.
Bawdy Limericks – Rictor Norton – 1998
However, the intellectual tide is beginning to turn and some scholars are beginning to realise that Charles Dodgson’s Alice is “truly subversive” because [like her author] she is “critical, defiant, and self-assertive” when confronted by “arbitrary and domineering” authority figures.
Alice, unlike other Victorian child protagonists, is critical, defiant, and self-assertive.
She is the only one to stand up to the arbitrary and domineering Queen.
“The underlying message of Alice, then, is a rejection of adult authority, a vindication of the rights of the child.”
This, not its nonsense, is the truly subversive element in the Alices.
Dodgson’s Dodges – Thomas Christensen – 1991
Furthermore, some scholars have realised that “the evidence failed to support” many of the myths spitefully spun around Charles Dodgson.
Since 1999, a group of scholars – including Karoline Leach, Hugues Lebailly and Sherry L. Ackerman, John Tufail, Douglas Nickel, and others – argued that what Leach terms the “Carroll Myth” has wildly distorted biographical perception of his life and his work.
Those such as Carolyn Sigler and Cristopher Hollingsworth have joined the ranks of those calling for a major reassessment. Leach’s book, In the Shadow of the Dreamchild, claims that:
In general terms, Dodgson’s life has been simplified and “infantilised” by a combination of inaccurate biography and the longstanding unavailability of key evidence, which allowed legends to proliferate unchecked.
By the time the evidence did become available, the “mythic” image of the man had become so embedded in scholastic and popular thinking it remained unquestioned, despite the fact the evidence failed to support it.
If the evidence were examined dispassionately, it shows many of the most famous legends about the man (e.g. his “paedophilia” and his exclusive adoration of small girls) are untrue, or at least grossly simplified.
Therefore, it seems, inquisitive minds should turn to the contemporaneous English writers of fiction and “literary nonsense” if they wish to glimpse behind the mask of Victorian Britain because most academics can only recognise a “small part” of themselves in a looking glass.
The college was the setting for parts of Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, as well as a small part of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.