DODGSON, CHARLES LUTWIDGE (1832-1898, 'Lewis Carroll', author and mathematician)
DODGSON ON THE CHARMS OF CHILDREN. This letter by Dodgson is notable for its comments on the charms of children, here represented by Prince Charles Edward, Duke of Albany (1884-1954) and Princess Alice, later Countess of Athlone (1883-1981), the children of Queen Victoria's youngest son Prince Leopold (1853-1884). He had met them at Hatfield House only a few days before, as he told Isa Bowman in a letter dated 8 June 1889: '...Then there is the Duchess of Albany here, with two such sweet little children...the girl is "Alice", but I don't know the boy's Christian name: they call him "Albany", because he is the Duke of Albany. Now that I have made friends with a real live little Princess, I don't intend ever to speak to any more children that haven't titles. In fact, I'm so proud, and I hold my chin so high, that I shouldn't even see you if we met!...' He seems later to have warmed to Princess Alice, according to his Diaries for 16 November 1891, a day he spent with her and her brother: 'The little Alice is improved, I think, not being so unruly as she was two years ago: they are charming children. I taught them to fold paper pistols, and to blot their names in creased paper, and showed them the machine which, by rapid spinning, turns the edging of a cup, etc., into a filmy solid: and promised to send Alice a copy of [William Allingham's] The Fairies...I mark this day with a white stone.'
The reasons behind Dodgson's comments about Princess Alice may be found in a letter written by him to her mother the Duchess of Albany on 1 July 1889, in which he discusses at length 'a remark made by one of your children, on a scene in the life of Our Lord - a remark which...gave a humorous turn to the passage...Is it not a cruelty...to tell any one an amusing story of that sort, which will be for ever linked, in his or her memory, with the Bible words, and which may have the effect...of robbing them of all their sacredness and spoiling all their beauty?...it is a matter about which I feel very deeply...'. Princess Alice later gave her own views on her relationship with Dodgson: '[He]...was especially kind to Charlie and me, though when I was only five I offended him once when...he was telling a story. He was a stammerer and being unable to follow what he was saying I suddenly asked in a loud voice, "Why does he waggle his mouth like that?" I was hastily removed by the lady-in-waiting' (For My Grandchildren, 1966, p. 66). Another remark is more vindictive: '...he was always making grown-up jokes at us...we thought him awfully silly...' (Kenneth Rose, The Later Cecils, 1975, p. 31).
In view of Dodgson's attachment to Alice Liddell (Lewis Carroll's own "Alice"), it is interesting to note that the father of the two children, Prince Leopold, was once involved in an affair with her; Queen Victoria, who wished her son to marry royalty, opposed and finally ended their courtship. The Prince named his daughter "Alice" in memory of his former lover, just as Alice Liddell (as Mrs Hargreaves) named her son Leopold.
Dodgson took charge of Maggie Bowman during her stay in Oxford to act in Bootle's Baby (9 to 13 June 1889), and commemorated this event in his poem Maggie's Visit to Oxford. Her older sister, Isa Bowman, who at that time was one of Dodgson's 'chiefest' child friends, played the part of Alice in the revival of Savile Clarke's dream play which opened at the Globe Theatre on 26 December 1888. In fact, this production introduced all five of the Bowman children to the stage, and the girls later became professional actresses. The dedicatory poem of Sylvie and Bruno is a double acrostic on the letters of the name of Isa Bowman. She was to write a memoir about their friendship, The Story of Lewis Carroll (1899).
Dodgson finally decided on a book to give to the Prince: a copy of Merry Elves; or, Little Adventures in Fairyland. In his letter of thanks, the Prince wrote: 'Alice and I want you to love us both.' (S. Collingwood, The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll, 1898). Dodgson composed an acrostic spelling out of both their names which was published as the poem Puck Lost and Found in Three Sunsets and Other Poems.
Mrs R. Shute, the author of the book mentioned in the present letter, Jappie Chappie, was the widow of a Christ Church tutor and friend of Dodgson, who wrote to her on 26 December 1887: 'I keep ordering batches of the Jappie book: and they flow out, in the direction of young (and sometimes old) friends, nearly as fast as they come in...when the final smash comes, it is to be hoped that the Report, of the proceedings in the Bankruptcy Court, will end like this..."It is understood that an illustrated book, such as he was likely to buy in large quantities, had been most artfully prepared by a designing friend, and that the enormous outlay, into which he was thus drawn, was the chief cause of the catastrophe."'
This letter is unpublished; it does not appear in The Letters of Lewis Carroll, edited by M.N. Cohen, which includes only one other letter by Dodgson to Princess Alice, in which he tells her about 'Children's Tins' ('...Whenever Charlie is very naughty, you can just pop him in, and shut the lid! Then he'll soon be good...'). He continued to write occasionally to the two children until the early 1890s, and to send them books ('...you'll say to yourself "Oh dear, oh dear!...Here's another horrid book: and oh what a lot of reading! Why didn't he send me a Kitten?...').