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Dr. Morton Cohen, professor of English at Columbia University, speaking at St. John's University in Collegeville. Cohen’s address was titled, "The Alice Books, Why They Endure." Speech was part of celebration on the 150th anniversary of Carroll's birth.

Dr. Morton Cohen is a scholar of Carroll's many works and letters.

Dr. Robert Spaeth, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at St. John's University, introduced Dr. Cohen.

Read the Text Transcription of the Audio.

Welcome. Dr. Morton Cohen from New York City. Dr. Cohen has been a professor of English for many years at Columbia University. He was educated at Tufts and at Columbia itself. He's been honored by Fulbright Awards Guggenheim fellowships many times. He's the editor of the two volume letters of Lewis Carroll published a couple of years ago, and I've read that Lewis Carroll in the last 37 years of his life wrote 98,000 721 letters and dr. Cohen managed to hunt down some 7,000 of those to study.He's also the author of books on Rudyard Kipling and Rider Haggard and author of many many articles. He is in demand. He told me beginning about now for many many articles and lectures and appearances on behalf of the Lewis Carroll celebration. He once said to a interviewer that Lewis Carroll is a fascinating figure a miracle of a man. So it's a pleasure to announce his lecture Lewis Carroll and the Alice books why they endure a cone. Thank you. Thank you. Dr. Spaeth. It's a great pleasure to come to st. John's University to join in the world's first celebration in honor of Lewis. Carroll's hundred and fiftieth birthday. Unlike Lewis Carroll who almost never traveled far. I frequently take long trips, but I must confess that this is my first visit to Minnesota. Lewis Carroll's longest trip was to Russia. He never came to Minnesota. Clearly one of the few mistakes he made in his life. Besides marking my first visit here this season turns out to be something of an anniversary for me as well. As for Lewis Carroll. It's not I hasten to add my hundred and fiftieth birthday as I was going through my files the other day. I realized that it's just 20 years this Autumn since I began working seriously on Lewis Carroll and I can say outright that steeping oneself and Carroll's Works studying his Diaries transcribing his letters reading systematically through the mountains of books written about him 20 years of that makes a difference. And what exactly you may ask are the consequences of absorbing and okay so so much and over such a long time on one subject has Carol Mania set in or is it the Lesser disease more something like Carol itís well, I think actually that it's neither. Throughout my professional life. I've somehow kept my distance from the figures. I've worked on I never had any difficulty in this discovering traits in Rider Haggard that I didn't particularly like and in Madrid Kipling's case. Well one simply couldn't embrace all of Kipling often he and his Notions when strongly Against the Grain, in fact the greatest danger of identifying too closely with my subject arose with Carol for I know now that having worked with him longer than with any other historical figures. He emerges the most admirable of them all the most agreeable the one whom one could most would most like to emulate And yet I want has managed not to become Lewis Carroll or even to think like Lewis Carroll some natural self defense has allowed me to retain the necessary Detachment and I'm happy to know that I can come here after 20 years of living with Carol to talk about him with affection and admiration indeed, but all the time keeping him quite in his place and at a distance of something like a hundred years. I want to concentrate this evening on what Carol means to us and to our celebration. I don't think we would be interested in him had he not written the Alice books, but he did write them and by writing them became a celebrity and expose his life to repeat it examination. Both the life and the books have proved to be strong magnets. They attack many people and interest in them seems not at all to diminish with time. I'm going to speculate about the reasons for that continuing interest in both the man and his two great books. In a letter that Carol sent to a young friend in 1895, he wrote among the host of Virtues which as you are, no doubt aware form the background of my character a few trifling false being thrown in the foreground as ornaments merely by way of contrast a Readiness to adopt suggestions when they happen to coincide with my own inclinations is one of the most marked so prominent. In fact that my biographer will fail to do justice to it unless he devotes a whole chapter to the subject. nowhere else In all my work on Carol have I found him intimating even in jest that he might ever have a biographer or for that batter and enduring reputation? He would have been thoroughly abashed had anyone even suggested that his name would become a household word. And he would have been embarrassed and even distressed to think that a Lewis Carroll industry would spread the world over inspiring not only books their designs and illustrations sculptures of him and and reproductions of all the main characters in The Alice book Tales, but also a wide variety of artifacts. Some of them quite absurd tea towels soap and soap dishes babies mugs and cereal bowls elaborate and expensive glass and ivory figures postcards games chess sets. Umbrella handles and a myriad of other iconographic keepsakes. Even if he thought more than once about a biography of himself, he would never have believed that his life would be the subject of so much curiosity or his books read by so many ongoing Generations. We know however that Lewis Carroll is one of the most popular writers to have lived on Earth that along with the Bible and Shakespeare. His works are most widely quoted by Statesmen literary figures and just just plain folks. And now here we are celebrating his hundred and fiftieth birthday. How many authors serious or humorous have their hundred and fiftieth birthdays acknowledged let alone celebrated? Charles lutwidge dodgson has come under repeated scrutiny scholarly editions of his Diaries and of his letters have been published. We have a third revision of a bibliography of his writings and a veritable mountain of literary criticism of his work. In fact name a serious critic poet or essayist and you'll probably find that somewhere in his career. He turned to Carol and wrote an essay a poem something about him the list of Carol commentators and and celebrators is long. It includes wh Auden Kenneth Burke John Chardy William. Empson Robert Graves Harry Levin Vladimir Nabokov sake Allen Tate Edmund Wilson, Virginia Woolf and Alexander woollcott to mention only a handful. As we approach the sesquicentennial year of Lewis Carroll's birth. We learn that we shall have a huge Exhibition at the Pierpont Morgan library in New York. I'm in the midst of mounting that and and have just finished writing the catalog for that exhibition. So I know what a huge exhibition that's going to be we shall have exhibitions in London and in Oxford a paperback selection of cows letters will appear on both sides of the Atlantic another volume of the new of new and original essays in the Lewis Carroll observed series will be published and there will be a fresh biography this one of Carol the mathematician as well as a biography of Alice little herself the first of its kind and as a dad I saw the other day Harold's a book to be published by the university University of Virginia. Which will be a catalog of Lewis Carroll's own library and entire issue of english-language notes will be devoted to Carol and we are promised a play on Broadway about Carol's life in a program about him on television. Editorials and articles in newspapers and magazines around the world will certainly appear. The the Lewis Carroll societies. There are four of them with two subchapters will all be commemorating the date with celebrations of their own and the North American society is actually planning a pilgrimage to London Oxford and other Carol venue during the summer of 1982. How very curious one might think that so much excitement should be generated by the birthday of a shy conservative Oxford Don a Victorian times just because he happened to write two children's books that made something of a splash. After all, he wrote a good many other books both for children and adults that never caught on and dozens of other top-notch authors like Charles Kingsley and Christina Rossetti wrote books for children that never have had anything like the wild success of the Carol two books. While all the interest in Carol and the festivities surrounding his birthday are immensely pleasing to those of us who are interested in him. We're LED nonetheless to ask the inevitable questions. Why does Lewis Carroll command such attention? How does he differ from other writers? Why does he Through The Years attract? So enormous a following of both adults and youngsters while other writers sleep undisturbed in the pages of literary history besides the continuing interest is by no means restricted to the books that Carole wrote The Man himself continues to Intrigue us all so much so that again questions arise. What is there about him that requires constant analysis? Why does he provoked so many biographies? Why does his life draw us to him? So Some answers to these questions emerge from the reams of material that has been written about Carol. But if we survey the criticism that the Alice books have inspired we realized quickly enough that no single standard interpretation or anything approaching a consensus about what they mean exists. No satisfactory explanation of why they touch us all so deeply or why they are so successful has really emerged. Obviously. They have a profound impact upon a wide reading public and critics in particular have a curiously intense reaction to them. Each Rider seems mesmerized but mesmerized by these books Retreats into a cocoon and then reappears with in with an individual sometimes eccentric formula for defining Alice and her Wonderland for those of us who seek reasonable explanations and favor rational approaches to literature. The experience of reading the critics can be unsettling. However much of a tribute to Carroll and his genius and here's in their efforts to explain his work. Of course these critical essays range widely. We have some distinctly autobiographical ones where the critics remember either reading the the Alice books as children or having them read to them. And in the course of the essay the the critic recreates the warmth the pleasantness the sunny all an aura of his own childhood these essays tend to be nostalgic lyrical tributes to the power of the Alice books upon Children books belonging to the happy summer of early years. At The Other Extreme we have the psychological detectives who appear engaged in a contest for a prize for the most outlandish interpretations one such critic is proved to his satisfaction that Alice was not written by Lewis Carroll at all, and that the true author was Queen Victoria. An earlier critic Ponder's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland as an allegory of the Oxford movement another as an allegory of darwinian evolution one tells us that Alice represents Carol's birth trauma in the isolated Cheshire rectory where he first saw the light of day and other Freudian tell us that the book is about a woman in labor that falling down. The rabbit hole is an expression of Carol's Secret wish for coitus that the heroine is variously a father a mother a fetus or that Alice is a phallus that at least that at least offers us the rhyme. Yes. We can see her as a transvestite Christ if we prefer or if we follow the tortured reasoning of a recent writer, we can see Carol himself as the first acid head one eminent critic tells us that the story is All About toilet training and bowel movements and the paper. I heard not long ago suggested Alice is the symbol of the Fallen woman after all she does fold down the rabbit hole. You see we have your almost a worldwide competition in manufacturing absurdities. In addition to which we must remember that the efforts that are made to pry into Carroll psyche in sound Freudian tradition. They begin they all Begin by assuming that the analysts is is dealing with a forted even on the hinged personality words, like repression and Trauma in there inevitably replaced genius and inspiration and carry with them negative even damning connotations, but perhaps the most offensive characteristic of this school of theorizing is the underlying Axiom that to be imaginative and creative one must be peculiar and at odds with one's environment the well and the adjusted the Seine in the healthy it Those are unimaginative and done creative. But as highly developed as are critical techniques are as much as we have learned about the subconscious since Freud found the key to its Mysteries. We still have a long way to go before we can be sure. We know what forces provoked creative impulses and what the art object tells us about the Creator's psyche. We are much safer walking on more traditional terrain. It seems to me in trying to understand Lewis Carroll by using the external evidence that we that we actually have and in seeing him in his historical context as a human being dealing consciously with other human beings as a man who was large who was largely shaped by the forces that operated in his home and in his Society the historical examination does actually reveal a good deal about Carol's unabated appeal as a man just as a careful reading of the Alice books reveals ample reasons for the popularity that they have enjoyed. Strangely enough Carol led a rather ordinary life for his time and for his station and was all in all healthy and happy he was the son of a bright and sensitive clergyman in the north of England. He grew up with his ten sisters and brothers. He was the third child the eldest son. They all grew up in the in in the crotch in craft rectory in Yorkshire where their father was Rector. It was a good English family on both sides with a heavy sprinkling of clerics and an occasional Bishop here and there on the family tree. There's even a claim to a distant relationship to Queen Victoria. It was an upper-crust family conservative steeped in Tradition self-conscious reverential loyal and devoted to Social Service. The father could be witty and Whimsical at times but on the whole he was occupied with his clerical duties and must have given the impression of a strong solid authoritarian rather gloomy high and dry Churchman. We know less about Lewis Carroll's mother. She died before Carol was 19. She must have been a gentle creature and what with 11 children a busy one in his few Illusions to her cow shows real and real affection, but it's quite clear that his relationship with his father was the more important the two developed close sympathies early and in the course of being taught by his father while as a boy, he was well while he was still at home the young Carol adopted the father as his ideal and model. Dodson pair died in 1868 when Carol was 36, but even years later when Carol himself was an older man. He characterized this loss as the greatest sorrow of my life. The record shows that Carol had a good many pleasant memories of childhood after all he had a gaggle of sisters and brothers to play with and he enjoyed walks and outings in the Yorkshire Countryside. He was good at mechanical things and built a Miniature Railway in the back garden and a puppet theater for which he wrote original plays. He was also an Avid Reader had a good memory like to sketch and paint and to write poetry and short stories, but most of all he had learned to live a purposeful life and his dedication to his faith was to be a source of gratification. To him making his life meaningful to others he knew. Would be his own private way to Salvation when Cal left home for the first time to continue his education. He was 12 years old. He went to Richmond School. Not far away from his father's Parish, but far enough for him to Lodge their when he enrolled at Richmond. He was already at 12:00 already proficient in higher mathematics, and he could read Latin easily and write it flawlessly. He entered school one might argue with more in his head than most young people today have in there's when they enter perhaps even leave College. But what about the Whimsy The Whimsy that was to make him famous? Where does that come in? Well, it was there in his childhood to or at least the roots of it were those of Carol's youthful jottings that survive are delightful. His compositions are inventive clever spellbinding the moral tone the purposefulness. They're there to the contents of the Dobson family magazines reflect both The Whimsy and the seriousness and I will talk more about them in a moment. Carol remained at the Richmond school for only a year and a half boarding with the Headmaster and his huge family in what must have been a close replica of his own home when he left Richmond the Headmaster wrote to Carol's father. I shall always feel a peculiar interest in the gentle intelligent and well-conducted boy who is now leaving us. Lewis Carroll spent the next three years at rugby those years were not Carol's happiest probably because shy and contemplative by Nature. He didn't fit well into the rough-and-ready atmosphere of the public school boys world, but rugby and it's training left its mark on Carol nevertheless the strong militant preaching of dr. Thomas Arnold was still echoing in the school Chapel when Carol was a boy at rugby and he came away convinced us Arnold had had been before him that life on Earth was a struggle between good and evil between God and the devil and that it was his mission on Earth to defeat the Devil by means of self-denial and by righteous uncompromising thought and behavior. One had not only to be virtuous one had also to arrive to I'm sorry. What had also to strive to do good work in God's name. It's not surprising given Carol's family background and his training at home and at school that before his 30th birthday. He was ordained Deacon in the Church of England. But before then he went from rugby to Oxford to the same College where his father had earned a double first Christchurch himself achieved an excellent record In 1855 was made a student of Christchurch the equivalent elsewhere of a fellow and in the following year. He was appointed mathematical lecture at Christ Church. It's not until 1862 when he was already. Thirty years old that he first told the story of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland to the three daughters of his college dean as they rode languidly on the river Isis and even then it took another three and a half years before the tail made its way into print. Most people know about Carol's to Children's Classics and some know that he wrote works on mathematics and logic but few realize that by any standard Carol's life was one of enormous accomplishment that his bibliography actually contains some 300 separately published items. He was too we must remember an ordained clergyman and though he did not have his own Cura see he frequently took Sunday service for others on a number of occasions. In fact a university congregation filled st. Mary's Oxford to capacity to hear him. He held for over nine years the curatorship of Christchurch senior common room an arduous job that required close attention to detail and Keen business Acumen. He did a good amount of parochial work of one sort or another. All this he did in addition to performing his regular duties as a lecture and writing serious Works in his specialty. As was fairly common in his time for University lecturers, Carol lived quite simply all his mature life in college rooms. He allowed himself modest Pleasures but no extravagant Indulgence. He traveled abroad only once he always ate frugally when he ate it all and he usually dressed in black from much as for much of his life. He helped support his six unmarried sisters and a good many other people relatives friends even strangers. He was always willing to take on new students and he was happy albeit with a grain of genuine modesty to give young and old alike religious and spiritual instruction when he realized that his children's books would bring in a modest income for the rest of his life. He actually asked the University of Oxford to reduce his salary. But none of these none of these biographical details tells us how this chili stammering sheltered Dawn managed to Encompass two disparate worlds within one being writing serious tones on mathematics and Logic on the one hand and creating nonsensical flights into Wonderland on the other nor do they help us to explain the undying appeal of the man and his children's books. Perhaps the most important clue to understanding him and his work is his exceptional interest in children particularly in the female of the species who me generally preferred to adult society and who's in whose company. He usually lost his stammer. He had more than a preference for associating with children. He actually had an uncanny insight into their beings as well. But how could a Bachelor living in a monastic institution? How could he understand the child? So well well enough to go on and write stories that became children's Classics to find the answer. We have to go back to that Yorkshire rectory and recall that after all Lewis Carroll was once a child himself and a sensitive one at that whatever riggers were imposed upon him as a boy his memories of childhood clung happily to the man and he could Retreat to them when the realities of an adult World turned harsh and overbearing when he was 21. He composed a poem in which he reminisced. Nostalgically about those early years. Perhaps given the size of his family. We should not be so surprised that the poem Revere's silence and deep spiritual quiet. The kind that he experienced when he was able to escape the confines of the family the rectory human society and commune with nature in peace. The verse is called Solitude and his about the joys he experiences in the Natural Quiet of the countryside in the Stillness of the wood the music of the real while standing upon some Silent Hill here from the world. I win release. Nor scorn of man nor footsteps rude breaking tomorrow the holy piece of this quiet solitude. Wordsworth may have done it better but Carol's effort is respectable. He goes on to tell us something about his philosophy of life in this poem. He how he avoids the ugliness of the world how he seeks to order his existence he finds solace in the past particularly in the memory of childhood and he tries he tells us to live enjoys that once have been to put the cold world out of sight and deck life's Drear and Barren scene with Hues of rainbow light for what to man The Gift of breath if sorrow be his lot below if all the day that ends in death be dark with clouds of whoa. Shall the poor transport an hour repay long years of sore distress the fragrance of a lonely flower make glad the wilderness. Ye golden hours of life's young spring of innocence of Love and Truth bright beyond all imagining towel fairy dream of Youth. I'd give all wealth that years have piled. The slow result of life's Decay to be once more a little child for one bright summer day. Age 21 as the eldest boy in a family of 11 children. He naturally very early in life took it upon himself to amuse and instruct his younger siblings. In fact in the family magazines that he wrote and edited. He actually got his start as a creative writer for children. Those family magazines were supposed to be communal efforts all the dogs and children. It is certainly all the Elder ones were supposed to contribute to them. But in the end, it appears that not only the editing of the magazines but the creating the composing fell to our young shy poet Lewis Carroll in all there were eight magazines Carol himself tells us much but only for survived the first two in the last two Never mind, the missing ones those we have tell us quite enough. They tell us for instance that Lewis Carroll. The boy was singularly gifted as a versa fire that he was already drawing and painting pictures as a lad that were beyond what any ordinary adult could hope to produce and that he possessed a vocabulary that would that would suit a fully mature and well educated person that he wrote with a firm clear hand that he had perfected an assured self-confidence Style. But perhaps most significant of all is that The Whimsy we know so well from the Alice books is already present in the lad of 13 and that beneath or alongside the Whimsy lies the earnestness that he took from his father his home his family the Christian ethic. The earliest of these scrapbooks is entitled useful and instructive poetry. It was composed entirely by Lewis Carroll when he was 13 or earlier and it is dedicated to a younger brother and sister age 7 and 5, it contains 15 verses and some sketches three of the verses are called punctuality charity and rules and regulation. One could reasonably expect Stern lessons in verse in the manner of the time but not at all the moral undertone is there. All right, but The Whimsy the fun that has its say the first verse that appears in this collection complete with a moral tag is entitled my fairy. I have a fairy by my side, which says I must not sleep when Once in pain, I loudly cried it said you must not weep. If full of Mirth, I smile and grin it says You must not laugh. When once I wish to drink some Gin it said you must not quite half. When once a meal I wish to taste it said you must not bite went to the wars. I went in haste. It said you must not fight. What may I do at length? I cried tired of the painful task the fairy quietly replied and said, you must not ask no no Morrell. You mustn't throughout throughout these family magazines. There's a tacit celebration of the close-knit family of a Brothers love for his sisters and brothers of a natural happiness that can occur only on a comfortable English Hearth, but most of all Lewis Carroll seems to be celebrating childhood and the particular happened happiness that he himself knew in childhood. Those early years must have carved themselves deeply into his heart for he always remembered them. They were much more for him than what he implies in the poem Solitude that is much more than a realm to which one may Escape in times of trouble and heavy responsibility. They represented to him an ideal Human Condition one to be prolonged as long as possible one to be nurtured in others. And that is why he devoted himself. So to the young to trying to understand them their desires their fears. He knew conversely the harsh treatment that the no-nonsense world visited upon the child and he sought to avoid the unintentional callousness of which children often find adults guilty. Early in his own maturity. He must have decided to devote much of his time and energy to studying the child to trying to understand childhood to nurturing children when he could into finding ways of pleasing them of amusing them of making them shriek with laughter. Godson surely agreed with Victor Hugo who once said Christopher Columbus only discovered America. I have discovered the child. But childhood we know too well has its place and we are expected to grow out of it. We might go on and ask if it was unforgivably frivolous in a clergyman to spin tales that made his readers burst with laughter. Well, the answer is that no not in Lewis Carroll's view. He believed that enjoying life didn't diminish its seriousness nor violate either the canons of the church or the lessons of scripture for him. There was nothing wrong with fun and laughter at the right time. And in the right place, we might also ask how a professional mathematician thinking customarily along strict straight disciplined lines. Could Abandon All logic and create disjointed worlds where systems and Order break down completely and we're only nonsense rules, but perhaps a professional mathematician likes to take a holiday once in a while to and let his mind run out of the confining grooves of academic thought besides no one unskilled in logic could have created the special brand of a logic that so Delights Us in the Alice books in the hunting of the snark and in other Carol works. Our then a sensitive childhood a good memory a sense of fun and an adventurous illogic enough to explain Lewis Carroll. Well, not really. There's at least one more important element to consider his genius after all he told the first Ellis story spontaneously on a river picnic near rocks are near Oxford. He knew that a story would amuse his child Companions. And so he made one up in those few moments on that River Charles dodgson the Oxford Dawn became Lewis Carroll the story tell her tell her ultimately this transformation led to a new vocation one that became an important part of his life as as important as mathematics. He recognized that the spark that set off the tail about Wonderland was something precious something give not given to all he treasured it in fanned it into being again and again, Some biographers who worry about dodson's interest in female Children See. Mr. Hyde lurking behind. Dr. Jekyll. But Carol, the man was no fool. He knew both that his friendships with young girls were on the one hand done. So unsullied and also that they could raise suspicions the better one gets to know Carol the clearer one sees that his association with young females while indeed romantic achieved quality of life. That far from being base was wholly uplifting see how he writes on the subject of love. Photographers are I'm sorry photographs are very pleasant things to have. He says in the letter to one child, but love is the best thing in the world don't you think so? Of course, I don't mean it in the sense meant when people talk about falling in love. That's only one meaning of the word and only applies to a few people. I mean in the sense in which we say that everybody in the world or to love everybody else. But we don't always do what we ought I think you children do it more than we grown-up people. Do we find so many faults in each other? Elsewhere he wrote to the mother of another young friend many. Thanks for again lending me in it. She is one of the dearest children. It is good for one. I mean 41 spiritual life and in the same sense in which reading the Bible is good to come into contact with such sweetness. To another mother he wrote you need to thank me for the for kindness to her who could help being kind to her. And where is the Merit of doing what one cannot help? It is very sweet to me to be loved by her as children love. Carol always worshipped innocence Purity and Beauty as he saw it and as he found it and he knew full well where to draw the line. He was a master of regulating his life and superhuman in controlling his impulses. Obviously Carol as a man is worth studying for himself. Worth studying for his work in mathematics and logic and for his achievements as an early art photographer. Still Carol would interest only Specialists had he not written the to Alice books his Fame rests upon them. But why do they continue to attract readers? Why do they go on arousing curiosity about the author's mind? And why does he still enjoy an ever-growing Coterie of admirers even worshippers? Well, I hope that I have already suggested what a remarkable person Carol was and the history of children's literature gives us a few other clues about the books. Children's books had already existed for centuries when Carol came along but his first children's book was different from those that preceded it considerably different for one thing. The children's books before Alice almost all had a lofty purpose. They had to be educational or and moral like the primers that instructed children in religious ways along with teaching them the alphabet For the letter A. They taught that in Adams fall, we seen it all and for the letter F the idle fool is whipped at school and on and on this way. Children learn their catechism learn to pray learn to fear sin. Even if they sometimes heard about the joys of doing good deeds and about the happiness to be reaped from nature the family friends and study. They were all the same often frightened by warnings and threats and their waking hours were burdened with messages much of the children's literature of Lewis. Carroll Carol's time the books. He himself must have read when he was a boy reflect this door approach to The Growing Child. The pros of pre Carol children's books is worth considering two most authors before Carol and after Carol for that matter wrote down to children. They were condescending and patronizing they never gave the young credit for much intelligence sensitivity or imagination the writing in these books wavered between the saccharine and the purple it tended to be monosyllabic reverent dull in addition almost all of them lack mirth was almost as if encouraged by the Puritan ethic a tradition had become deeply rooted that children's books must be must never be light frothy or trivial. Growing up with this was indeed a serious Affair and the devil if he didn't already possess the child Soul certainly lurked in the shadows pitch pitch fork at the ready. He had to be exercised or exiled when simply couldn't dispatch him with laughter. Carroll's Alice breaks radically with this tradition perhaps the differs so markedly from its predecessors because it came into being accidentally and therefore reflects Carol's own unconscious reaction to some of the stern days. He spent in the Yorkshire rectory and that the schools where he grew up but whatever the reasons the first Alice flew in the face of convention destroyed it and gave the Victorian child something no child had really had before. The first thing it has not got is a moral. Oh, yes critics have said that an underlying moral is to be found here. But the truth is that they all invent their own individual morals. Cal himself was determined that the book would not have a moral when about a year after Alice appeared in print Carol sent a more conventional children's book as a New Year's gift to a young friend. He wrote to the child. The book is intended for you to look at the outside and then put it away in the bookcase. The inside is not meant to be read. The book has got a moral. So I need hardly say it is not by Lewis Carroll. He was of course joking, but behind his just lay a serious principle children were overwhelmed with morals and he was not purveying anymore. Not only not purveying anymore. But he went as far as to parody the entire practice of adults adults forever moralizing especially moralizing to the young in chapter 9 you remember Alice had quite forgotten The Duchess and was a little startled when she heard her voice close to her. Ear. You're thinking about something my dear and that makes you forget to talk. I can't tell you just now. What am what the moral of that is, but I shall remember it in a bit. Perhaps it hasn't won Alice ventured to remark Tut tut child said The Duchess everything's got a moral. If only you can find it. Carol's prose is equally unconventional for one thing. He used big words Paula syllabics sophisticated Concepts Notions of the child could never be expect expected to grasp but the narrative is plain enough a string of Adventures a child can follow easily If the child is engrossed in the story. What does it matter that he doesn't get at once the full flavor of the me the or the meaning say of the the antipathies in the first chapter? Or better still If the child is being read to here's an opportunity to introductory interrupt the parent or The Nanny and ask what the word means a difficult concept or word here and there doesn't put the child off. It challenge challenges him or her to reach for a definition. It might even challenge an adult to give an interesting. He or she hasn't yet achieved. The meaning of particular words that Alice leads us to the problem of meaning in general. What does Alice's Adventures in Wonderland mean what anyway is the role of meaning in these books? Wonderland is a mysterious place where people do not live by conventional rules and we're even the laws of nature. The law of gravity for instance doesn't work or they don't work as they should but why do words have to mean at all? The Sounds they make are surely as important if not more so than their meaning and the way one feels the way one feels about the sound of a word or for that matter about the events that occur or about human relationships the way one feels about these things matters more than the way one thinks about them. Wittingly or not. The reader feels along with Alice throughout the book and those feelings are the most important part of the journey through Wonderland feeling emerges as a new phenomenon in children's books. Thanks to Lewis Carroll. Is it surprising that James Joyce knew the Alice books? So well? Talz language suits the mood and contributes a good deal to the fun of the Peace. He's a he's a genius at Double meanings. We know that playing games with words and and he challenges every child who picks up the book to play the game with him and when the child catches Carol's second, meaning, you know, ambition distraction uglification and derision as the four branches of arithmetic taught at the bottom of the sea, the child experiences a sense of elation and satisfaction. He has played the game right and can share a private joke with the inventor of the game paradoxically one has to be a serious reader to get at all the laughter, but it's worth the effort worth trying worth training the mind to search for hidden Dimensions when the rewards are fun and laughter. Yes, Carol banished seriousness all the characters in Wonderland not least of all Alice take themselves. Most seriously. No child reader is meant to regard them. So nor would any do so the language the characters use the games they play the lives. They lead all provoke mirth and laughter. At least from the child's point of view. The rabbit The Duchess the Red Queen the Mad Hatter are all figures of fun. Perhaps the most important difference between the Alice books and the conventional children stories of mid Victorian. Britain is a difference in the author's attitude toward his audience. For a middle or upper class child growing up in Victorian times growing up. Then may have been or probably was less than a happy experience. It was the age of The Nanny and the governess the age when children were shunted off to the nursery brought in to spend an hour with their mothers in the late afternoon and then whisked off again when they reach school age, they were packed off to boarding school where they learn to fear their school Masters and Mistresses and even more so one another for school was the area of the child bully violence was often rampant behind the back of the master and mistress to survive at the English boarding schools. One had to be strong enough and clever enough to outwit ones classmates brutal enough to strike fear into the hearts of the bullies even Carol the adult knew about childhood but some magical combination of memory and intuition came together in him and by this combination he had some deep knowledge a keen appreciation of what it's like to be a child in a grown-up Society. What it meant to be scolded rejected ordered about and Carol also knew how to make the reader sympathize with the child Ellis the victim of the unpredictable undependable Arcane world of adults into which she has accidentally Fallen Carol Champions. The child in the child's can't profit confrontation with the adult world. And in that regard to his books differ from many predecessors and contemporaries. He treated children both in his books and in real life as equals. He spoke a language they understood he had a way of seeing into their minds and hearts and he knew how to train the one painlessly and move the other constructively. As an adult he devoted more of his time money and energy to doing things for children then to any other single end. And so it was with the Alice books. He first told the tale of Alice in order to entertain three-wheeled little girls and then he published the book in the hope that it would give pleasure to others and the letter to the father of one of his child friends. He wrote in 1877 the pleasantest thought I have connected with Alice's that she has given real and innocent pleasure to Children a similar intent lay behind most of his other works too when some children from the United States wrote asking him to explain the meaning of the hunting of the snark. He answered. I'm very much afraid. I didn't mean anything but nonsense but he went on to add the best explanation of any possible meaning in the poem that I've seen is by a lady that the whole book is an allegory on the search for happiness. I think this fits beautifully in many ways particularly about the bathing machines when the people get weary of life and can't find happiness. Town or in books when they rush off to the seaside to see what bathing machines will do for them. There it is the essence of Carol the mixture of fun and respect. Carol himself knew that people would ask why he wrote the Alice books and he had his own answers. They were not trendy answers, but I think they bring us closer than some other explanations to understanding his character and his motives. One of the deepest secrets of life. He once wrote to his friend Ellen Terry is that all that is really worth doing is what we do for others. Elsewhere commenting on Alice in Wonderland, he wrote the why the why of this book cannot and need not be put into words those of those for whom a child's mind is a sealed book and who seek? No Divinity in a child's smile would read such words in vain while for anyone who has ever loved one true child. No words are needed. No deed, of course. I suppose it's really unselfish yet. If one can put forth all one's powers in a task where nothing of reward is hoped for but a little child's whispered. Thanks, and the Airy Touch of little child's pure lips one seems to come somewhere near to this. One of the tasks I had to perform while editing Carol's letters was to seek out and collect all the reminiscences about Carol that were at one time or another recorded by people who knew him particularly by his child friends in a few cases. I was lucky enough to come upon the scene before the child friend then an ancient lady died and to request that the surviving chronicler either write out her memories on paper for me or record them on a tape recorder or on film. Always I was on the lookout for some disparaging remark about Carol some uttered reservation some disclosure that would make him more nearly human than I had myself found him to be but no, I found no concession only praise praise boring praise until I decided that he must indeed have been an extraordinary man with remarkable gifts. One child friend of his Ethel Raul wrote of her debt to him for teaching her logic and compelling her to that arduous business of thinking and she remembered that he gave her something else as well. He gave me a sense of my own personal dignity. He was so punctilious. So courteous so considerate so scrupulous not to embarrass or offend that he made me feel I counted in. Mr. Dotson's presence. I felt proud and humble with the pride and humility which are the grace of Personality Grace conferred thus upon an ignorant schoolgirl by the magnanimity of a proud and very humble and very great and good man. apparently the Alice books do the same sort of thing for children of all time a 17-year old student of mine confirms this notion in a paper on 19th century fantasy. She wrote Lewis Carroll gives equal time to the child's point of view. He makes fun of the adult world and all the arbitrary restrictions that adults impose upon children Alice suffers all the hurt feelings that most children suffer and she is caught in the contradictory condition of growing up and still being small as a young adult. I personally find myself constantly identifying with Alice as I move through this bewildering world of ours the books help the child develop self-awareness and assure her that she is not the only one feeling what she feels with luck. They lie. They lead even Beyond developing the child's self awareness and show adults how to be better aware of the Child and the needs of children. They really make it easier for a child to grow up. Lewis Carroll did not understand did not only understand childhood. You see he also respected and revered it. He didn't play jokes on children. He shared jokes with them and in doing so gave them the self-confidence. They needed the extra boost to make them take another step forward in the often precarious business process of growing up along the road. He made them laugh without requiring them to pay for their laughter. It all adds up to something remarkably decent even today Carol helps children see themselves in you and to like what they see. That's why the Alice books have been translated into practically every language that children speak on Earth and why he commands an audience in every new generation. It's also the reason for are celebrating the hundred and fiftieth birthday of the reticent Oxford on named Charles lutwidge dodgson. Thank you.


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