For as long as I can remember, Alice in Wonderland has been one of my favorite novels. I’m not even sure why, since it’s made of pure stuff and nonsense, but maybe that is part of its whimsical appeal for me. Mostly I think it’s the Cheshire Cat and Alice’s own Dinah, so it could be some secret understanding I have with a fellow silly blonde who likes cats… but who knows. My bridal shower was Wonderland Tea Party themed, I’ve dressed up as Alice for Halloween, and one of my favorite spots in Oxford is Alice’s Shop (the story itself was written by an Oxford man, so I loved her obvious legacy while I was there.) She is definitely a presence in my life, with all her curiousities.
Anyway, I “liked” Alice in Wonderland on Facebook, so occasionally little updates pop up on my newsfeed. The page recently posted this article, about Lewis Carroll (aka Charles Dodgson) and his real life inspiration for Alice, named Alice Liddell.
The article was written in a very matter-of-fact manner, with no agenda to speak of except for the reason the book came into existence at all. But I felt kind of uncomfortable by the end of it. It seems Mr. Dodgson had quite the interest in little girls, especially Ms. Liddell. He even went so far as to take photographs of them, including the slightly suggestive image of Alice below:
There was nothing implicit in the article to suggest anything blatantly suspicious, but I Googled Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson afterwards and found a plethora of material validating my instincts: there is evidence to suggest that Mr. Dodgson had inappropriate affections for little girls. There is no evidence that he acted on it, but he did write on various occasions about his affection for them, and how he liked to take partially nude photos of them. At one point, he even had a mysterious falling out with Alice’s family, with whom he had been friendly for many years. The relationship never fully recovered…
Critics of the pedophile theory argue that it was very common for celibate bachelors to be fond of young children during that time, and that child nudity was not the taboo back then in the way that it is now. It is possible that I am projecting my 21st century sensitivities onto the situation.
Still… it sounds like the Victorian era’s version of Michael Jackson, Neverland, and unproven-but-sketchy relationships with little boys. I still love Alice in Wonderland, but I am a little bit bummed!