Thursday, June 11, 2009

Alice in wonderland

I decided to take another plunge into the rabbit hole last week when I came across “The Annotated Alice”. This time around, I had a Gardner by my side, Martin was his name and he revealed that there were many a things left unexplored when I first visited wonderland. Cleverly hidden math riddles, wordplay and illustrations, I was dazzled by it all. Curiouser and curiouser as I got, alas a dreadful question I asked, which was quite so eloquently put by Smokie when they sang…


Twenty-four years just waiting for a chance,
To tell her how I'm feeling, maybe get a second glance,
Now I've got to get used to not living next door to Alice...
Alice, who the fuck is Alice?

Alice Liddell photographed by Lewis Carroll

So I had questions, more questions than Alice had for the dormouse, about Alice and the Dodo with the pen name called Carroll. I was curiouser, that he chose a little girl as the protagonist. Was he a feminist? A social activist perhaps? How did he concoct this fantastical fantasy land? Much to my chagrin, Wonderland started transforming into Michael Jackson’s Neverland and my now disturbed mind was filled with images of Carroll Carroll (as Vladimir Nabakov referred to Carroll, comparing him with Humbert Humbert from Lolita). In fact, in the introduction to the annotated Alice, which I had conveniently skipped and proceeded to jump deep into Wonderland enjoying tea parties and croquet, there was a disclosure of some circumstantial evidence that Carroll might have been…(gag)…a pedophile.


Lewis Carroll


Of course the moment I read that, I was filled with disgust and I felt a shudder as I wondered about Alice and other ‘child friends’ that Carroll made over the years. Who was Alice? Was she a fictitious character or one of Carroll’s child friends? Many believe that Carroll designed Alice after Alice Liddell, who was the daughter of Henry Liddell, a friend of Carroll. He described Alice Liddell as ‘a child of quite unearthly beauty.’

He wrote a letter to Alice Liddell after she got married stating, “I have had scores of child-friends since your time but they have been quite a different thing.” Gardner mentions that it is also known that Mrs. Liddell was suspicious of Carroll’s kinship with Alice and took measures to discourage their interaction. Mrs. Liddell all of the early letters to Alice. Carroll would often sign off his letters to his special friends as 10,000,000 kisses. However, in Gardner’s view Carroll’s intentions could not have been sexual.


Gardner also mentions that Carroll was adept at meeting little girls and would carry knick knacks to peak the girls’ interest. This would include safety pins to pin up the skirts of the little girls when they decided to wade in the water at the beach. He would sketch nude photos of his child friends with polite permission from the moms no less. Didn’t MJ have notes from mommas of his PJ buddies too?

Once Carroll offered a piece of blotting paper to a little girl who was drenched in sea water and said to her, “May I offer you this to blot yourself up?”

Whether Carroll was sexually interested in these little girl is something that is not clearly known. Some say in those days, taking nude photos of little girls did not have sexual connotations. Little girls would be admired for their purity and virgin beauty. Even so, I find that the way he sought out and consorted with little girls, was a bit odd.

Now I return to the mock turtle and the Duchess.

“Well, there was Mystery,” the Mock turtle replied, counting off the subjects on his flappers…



7 comments:

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

What a coincidence. I am actually reading A in W right now! Although I've found the first 10 pages rather slow. So I've been consuming more of 'A day in the life of Ivan Denisovich' by Alexander Solzhenitsyn and a non-fiction economics book!

Crystal blur said...

So essentially you are reading Alice in the Gulag :)

Joy Forever said...

I don't know... I have the Complete Illustrated Works of Lewis Carroll at my home, and there are several poems there that are illustrated with pictures of nude little girls depicted as angels or fairies, and their size is shown such that they can sit on frogs and mushrooms. I don't think those drawings are by Carroll himself, but my point is that in those days that kind of pictures weren't unusual or obscene.

Crystal blur said...

In isolation, simply painting nude kids may not implicate him. But it is the multiple bits of info, specially the way he pursued little girls is a little creepy. At the end of the day it is all circumstantial evidence so we will never know.

Chandu said...

I don't mean to take away from the research, but I must point out that Smokie didn't ask that all important question. It was thought up by a bunch of dutch perverts called Gompie. That is, assuming Lewis Carroll wasn't the first to ask it.

Crystal blur said...

Yeah, I know...I should have mentioned Gompie...I had read the story of how the line got featured in the song. Glad you mentioned it.

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

LOL@Alice in the Gulag :)) That's funny! Actually, I'm sure she could've made the place a bit more cheerful. Right now its very depressing :( But I must read it.