AUTOGRAPH MANUSCRIPT OF AN UNPUBLISHED IMPROMPTU VERSE 'BREATHES THERE THE MAN WITH SOUL SO DEAD...', 6 lines in two three-line stanzas, incorporated in an autograph letter signed ('CLDodgson') to 'My dear Lewis', in which he discusses the relative merits of painting and photography ('...painting is a far higher line of Art than photography: but yet in the latter you can do so much in so short a time that I rather wonder all artists don't use it, if only to make memoranda of attitudes, lights, & shades...'); he continues with 'a number of "data"', extolling the delights of Oxford in an attempt to persuade his friend to come to stay with him ('...Dinners at our High Table are not ill-cooked...Oxford will be looking its best for this next 6 weeks...') and ends 'I forebear to draw any logical conclusion, which might be more dry & Scientific...', 3 pages, octavo, Ch[rist] Ch[urch], Oxford, 21 April 1880
Breathes there the man with soul so dead,
Who never to himself hath said
"I'll build a studio!
And every day for evermore
I'll photograph my children, four
All sitting in a row!
The recipient of this unpublished letter was probably Arthur Lewis of Moray Lodge, Campden Hill, who he gave lavish parties where, according to the Times in 1901 'there were to be met in the seventies and eighties many of the most distinguished painters and musicians of the day.' He married in 1867 Kate Terry, sister of Ellen Terry (the latter of whom Dodgson photographed). Dodgson stayed with them regularly and took some of the Terry children to the theatre. He wrote to Lewis in 1870 of his daughter Katie and his niece Alice Holdsworth: 'I think I fell in love, half with one and half with the other, when I met them at your house - an unfortunate occurrence in this country where bigamy is not regarded with favor.'
Here Dodgson combines his wit as a letter writer, his skill as a poet and his hobby of photography, particularly of children. The impromptu verse is almost certainly unpublished. It is an adaptation of Sir Walter Scott's celebrated lines from Lay of the Last Minstrel: 'Breathes there a man with soul so dead / Who never to himself hath said / This is my own my native land / Whose heart hath near within him burnd / From wandering in a foreign strand...' See the poem by Churchill in this collection for his use of the line.
No manuscript of this poem is recorded in Index of English Literary Manuscripts. It does not appear in the Complete Works of Lewis Carroll, 1994 and is therefore almost certainly UNPUBLISHED AND UNRECORDED. Most of Dodgson's known verse manuscripts are located in American libraries.
PROVENANCE: Desmond Clarke.
REFERENCES: Index of English Literary Manuscripts, Volume IV, 1800-1900, Part I, compiled by Barbara Rosenbaum and Pamela White; Complete Works of Lewis Carroll, 1994.
- We have been informed by Edward Wakeling that he published a transcript of the letter in a footnote to page 261 of Lewis Carroll's Diaries, volume 7, 2003.