Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Looking For Alice, Finding Carroll

A Wasp In A Wig is a blog drawing on various themes of Lewis Carroll, and other 19th century English writers. The Annotated Alice has long been one of the best books around. Carroll's allusions, mathematical puzzles, social commentary and creative humor make him a valuable resource in a fragmented age. His apparent pedophilia are reviled, while his literary works appreciated. This dichotomy is brought out in an entry on this blog celebrating his 173rd anniversary
Clearly we love the works of Lewis Carroll here. Personally I find his life an inspiration and a guiding light.

That said the hardest thing for me to deal with and accept was that Dodgson was a pedophile. The signs are everywhere but in my youth I chose to ignore them and believe that this man operated on a higher plane where love could exist purely for it's own sake.

That accepted it most be noted that Dodgson died as a virgin. While he spent many nights wrestling with what he called his demons there is no indication that he ever harmed a child or entered into any inappropriate relationship.

He controlled his impulses and tried to force his love into the higher plane I imagined.

This self control adds to his pleasant legend.
There was much to love and ponder over the man.
Some interesting entries from "A Wasp In A Wig" include an exhibition of Alice Art in London and a new book on Lewis Carroll, annotating his bank account - well described by the author in the Times Literary Supplement
The account also shows conclusively that at least one major aspect of Dodgson’s famous image is absolutely wrong. His reputation has always been that of an obsessive, picking at detail in a way which could drive others frantic. As Isa Bowman recalled, before a railway journey Dodgson would “exactly calculate the amount of money that must be spent, and, in different partitions of the two purses that he carried, arrange the various sums that would be necessary for cabs, porters, newspapers, refreshments and the other expenses of a journey . . .”. Then there was his correspondence with Macmillan’s, beginning in 1875, after he had analysed the Alice accounts. “On every thousand copies sold”, he complained, “your profit is £20.16s 8d, mine is £56.5s 0d, and the bookseller’s £70.16s.8d. This seems . . . altogether unfair . . .” After bombarding Macmillan
with letters, Dodgson began fixing the sale prices of his books himself in order to secure a larger profit, earning himself the enmity of booksellers and enhancing his reputation for financial sharpness.

Behind the scenes at Parsons Thomson’s, though, it was a different story. When he did not have an elaborate and interesting plan involving railway journeys, or a David and Goliath battle to fight, Dodgson obviously couldn’t be bothered to notice how much was in his account from month to month. He began running into overdraft almost from the start. By the eighth transaction, his account was in the red, and he subsequently slid in and out of solvency in a careless way which was certainly not the rule among Parsons Thomson’s other distinguished customers. Using a rough rule of thumb of £50 (modern) to £1 (Victorian), Dodgson’s £148 overdraft in June 1863 was the approximate equivalent of £7,500 now, and that was fairly typical. For many years, these overdrafts were sufficiently low to be paid off as soon as he received his half-yearly salary from Christ Church. After Alice and his other books began producing income, the annual revenues, which quickly reached several hundred pounds a year, also helped his solvency.

The Looking Glass Company is currently enacting the world premiere of "Lookingglass Alice", a musical, in Chicago.

Lookingglass Alice

Adapted from Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Ensemble Member and Artistic Director David Catlin

Directed by David Catlin

Alice falls, floats, flies, and defies gravity and the rules of logic on her wonderland journey through the looking glass to become a queen.

With a juggling Mad Hatter, a precariously balancing Egg, and a bumbling Knight who invents his way into Alice’s heart, Lookingglass Alice revisits the stories that inspired the founding of Lookingglass Theatre Company.

Muscular, acrobatic, percussive and dizzyingly playful, Lookingglass Alice is a show for all ages: adults who think they’re all grown up, kids who wish they were, and everyone who likes to pretend they never have to.

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Time traveler, world traveler, book reader