Saturday, June 14, 2014

three more quotes from Woolf on Lewis

As well as his flights of fancy, his listeners also appreciated the way in which Carroll wove aspects of their own lives into his narratives. This characteristic of his can be spotted even in the story of Alice in Wonderland. He not only named some of the characters in the book after those who were present at the telling of the original story, but he also drew upon other aspects of the little Liddells' lives, turning them inside out and upside down in the process.

Alice's French book at the time was La Bagatelle. It contained a sequence of lessons titled 'The Rabbit,' 'The Fall' and 'The little girl who is always crying', while a later lesson is about 'the tea table -- take some bread and a little butter'. These lessons must have been dreary for Alice to recite, but it would have been very different when they had been imported into Wonderland and utterly transformed.

- The Mystery of Lewis Carroll, pp 116-117

(Capping a careful and fascinating analysis of his bank account, recorded in 'the thick ledger pages of Oxford Old Bank,' from 1856 to 1900) He began running into overdraft almost from the start. By the eighth transaction, his account was in the red, and he slid in and out of overdraft for ever after. At these times, a glance at the account gives the impression of a careless, emotional and headstrong man with little anxiety about debt and no interest in planning for the future. In fact, it is no exaggeration to say that at certain periods of his life, Carroll's account could be picked out of the many others in the ledger simply by the amount of red ink it displayed. His carelessness must have been as noticeable to the bank clerks as his fussiness was to his friends. Perhaps, standing at their desks in the back room of the bank, they occasionally commented upon Revd Mr Dodgson's habits, as the red ink bottle came out for him once more.

- ditto pp. 275-276

His bank account, of course, reveals the financial framework behind his various publishing ventures. Carroll funded the publication of Alice in Wonderland from his income from lecturing at Christ Church, and the account shows that this income was all he had, other than dividends from a few shares. Spending all this money on publishing his little book was a daring thing to do when he had no plans to become -- and never did become -- a professional children's writer. In fact, some might think that it shows a certain recklessness.

- p. 268

(Other classic authors who subsidized their own early publications: the Bronte sisters, Anais Nin, William Blake, Poe, Woolf, Austen, Whitman, Thoreau....)