The E-BNR aims to build a comprehensive & unique cross-artform guide to
the British neo-Romantic tradition,
from 1880 to the present day.
While the British Romantics of 1789-1824 have spawned a vast industry of
publishers, conferences & tourism, the later neo-Romantic traditions
remain largely neglected. The E-BNR is aimed at bringing this hidden
tradition to light.
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WHAT IS NEO-ROMANTICISM ?
Neo-Romantic artists have drawn their inspiration
from artists of the age of Romanticism or earlier.
Characteristic themes in their work include a
mystical approach to the British landscape...
ENTRY: Carroll, Lewis
The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (b. January 27, 1832 – d. January 14, 1898), better
known by the pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English author, mathematician, logician, Anglican clergyman, and photographer.
His most famous writings are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There
as well as the fantastic poems "The Hunting of the Snark" and "Jabberwocky". His works have contributed immesurably to
the influence of fantasy and surreal narratives in English culture. In placing 'the child' at the heart of his work,
he can be seen as continuing a tradition begun by the Romantics. His best photography, notably the 'Xie' works, evoke
the subtle boundaries in English culture between fantasy, history and reality.
Dodgson's family was predominantly northern English, and Dodgson was the son of a conservative country parson.
Dodgson was born in the little parsonage of Daresbury in Warrington, Cheshire. When Dodgson was aged 11,
his father was given the living of Croft-on-Tees in north Yorkshire, and the large family moved there.
This remained their home for the next twenty-five years.
Dodgson was educated at home, before
attending a small private prep school at nearby Richmond. In 1845 Dodgson moved on to Rugby School.
From January 1851 he went up to Oxford, attending his father's old college, Christ Church.
His talent as a mathematician won him the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship, which he continued to
hold for the next twenty-six years. The income was good, but the work bored him.
Many of his pupils were older and richer than he was, and almost all of them were
uninterested. However, despite early unhappiness and continuing ill health, Dodgson was to remain at Christ
Church, in various capacities, until his death.
He suffered from a stammer and had a slightly ungainly gait. Despite this he was also quite socially ambitious,
anxious to make his mark on the world as a writer or an artist. His scholastic career may well
have been seen as something of a spring-board to other more exciting attainments that he desired.
In the interim between his early published writing and the success of Alice, he began to
move in the Pre-Raphaelite social circle. He first met John Ruskin in 1857 and became friendly
with him. Dodgson developed a close relationship with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his
family, and also knew William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais and Arthur Hughes
among other artists. He also knew the fairy-tale author George MacDonald well —
it was the enthusiastic reception of Alice by the young MacDonald girls that convinced him
to submit the work for publication.
In 1856, Dodgson took up the new art form of photography, first under the influence of
his uncle Skeffington Lutwidge, and later his Oxford friend Reginald Southey. He soon
excelled at the art and became a well-known gentleman-photographer, and he seems
even to have toyed with the idea of making a living out of it in his very early years.
A recent study (Roger Taylor and Edward Wakeling's Lewis Carroll, Photographer, 2002)
exhaustively lists every surviving print, and Taylor calculates that just over
fifty percent of his surviving work depicts young girls. Alexandra Kitchin,
known as 'Xie', was a favourite photographic subject; Dodgson made over
fifty studies of her from 1869 until his cessation of photography in 1880,
when she was sixteen years old.
He also found photography to be a useful entré into higher social circles.
During the most productive part of his career, he made portraits of notable
sitters such as John Everett Millais, Ellen Terry, Dante Gabriel Rossetti,
Julia Margaret Cameron, Michael Faraday and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Dodgson abruptly ceased to photograph in 1880. Over 24 years, he had completely mastered
the medium, set up his own studio on the roof of Tom Quad (inspired by a visit to
the new studio of O.G. Rejlander), and created around 3,000 images. Fewer than
1,000 have survived time and deliberate destruction. His reasons for abandoning
photography remain uncertain.
With the advent of Modernism tastes changed, and his photography was forgotten
from around 1920 until the 1960s. He is now considered one of the very best
Victorian photographers, and is certainly the one who has had the most influence
on modern art photographers.
In 1856, a new Dean, Henry Liddell, arrived at Christ Church, bringing with him a young
wife and children, all of whom would figure largely in Dodgson's life, and greatly
influence his writing career, over the following years. He became close friends
with the children, particularly the three sisters Ina, Edith and Alice Liddell.
Though information is scarce (Dodgson's diaries for the years 1858-62 are missing), it
does seem evident his friendship with the family was an important part of his life
in the late 1850s, and he grew into the habit of taking the girls on rowing trips to
nearby Nuneham or Godstow.
It was on one such expedition, on July 4 1862, that Dodgson invented the outline
of the story that eventually became his first and largest commercial success.
Having told the story and been begged by Alice Liddell to write it down,
Dodgson eventually (after much delay) presented her with a handwritten,
illustrated manuscript entitled Alice's Adventures Under Ground in November 1864.
The work was finally published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865
under the Lewis Carroll pen name which Dodgson had first used some nine years earlier.
The illustrations this time were by Sir John Tenniel; Dodgson evidently realised
that a published book would need the skills of a professional artist.
The overwhelming commercial success of the first Alice book changed Dodgson's
life in many ways. The fame of his alter ego 'Lewis Carroll' soon spread
around the world. He was inundated with fan mail and sometimes unwanted
attention. He also began earning quite substantial sums of money. However,
perhaps oddly, he didn't use this income as a means of abandoning his
post at Christ Church.
In 1872, a sequel — Through the Looking-Glass — was published. In 1876,
Dodgson produced his last great work, The Hunting of the Snark a fantastic
'nonsense' poem, exploring the adventures of a bizarre crew of variously
inadequate beings, and one beaver, who set off to find the eponymous creature.
It contains some of Dodgson's best and most mature writing.
Dogson continued to teach at Christ Church until 1881, and remained in residence
there until his death. His last novel, the two-volume Sylvie and Bruno,
was published in 1889 and 1893 respectively. Its extraordinary convolutions
and strangeness baffled most readers and it achieved little commercial success.
Dodgson died in his Guildford home on January 14, 1898 of pneumonia
following influenza. He was not quite sixty-six years old.
Cohen, Morton N. Lewis Carroll: A Biography (1995)
Taylor, Roger & Wakeling, Edward. Lewis Carroll, Photographer (2002) (Catalogues very nearly every Carroll photograph known to be still in existence)
Dreaming in Pictures: The Photography of Lewis Carroll (2004)
Commentators have higlighted Dodgson's undeniable fondness for little girls, together with his
lack of interest in forming romantic attachments to adult women; and have made psychological
readings of his work—especially his large number of photographs of nude or semi-nude young girls.
These have all led to speculation that he was, in modern parlance, a paedophile.
This has been suggested by Dennis Potter's play Alice, his feature film Dreamchild,
and numerous recent biographies, including Michael Bakewell's Lewis Carroll, a biography (1996),
Donald Thomas's Lewis Carroll: A Portrait with Background (1996) and Morton N. Cohen's
Lewis Carroll: A Biography (1995). All of these latest works more or less unequivocally
assume that Dodgson was a paedophile, albeit a repressed and celibate one.