other, either positively or negatively: "Intenscly frightened,
James stood motionless, etc." A Frenchman: "Alfred began
to tremble. A deathly pallor covcred bis handsome face. He
withdrcw, but with dignity." The Russian writer would pre-
fer to express himsclf thus: "M y hero, like a blackguard,
got cold feet and trudged off home." Pcrhaps even better:
"dashed off ho¡ne."
A first-rate critic, as distinct from a run-of-the-mill one, always
shows respect for the author he is considering, evcn in attack.
When his author docs something he disapproves of. he tries to
put himself in the author's place and asks, "What were his reasons
for doing this?" So, after objccting to Tolstoy's tendency to "nosc-
píck," Leontiev is wílling to concede that, much as he dislikes it,
Tolstoy. given the nature of hís readers, was probably justified:
The Russian reader of our time (especially the reader
who occupies a middle position in socicty) ... [has been]
educatcd .. . in such a way that a wart will make him be-
lievc more strongly in nobility, a snort will makc him feel
!ove more intensely, and so on; and if someone "with a
nervous gesture pours out a glass of vodka" and then, in-
stcad of smíling, "smirks," his confidence will be com-
plete! .. .
Tolstoy .. . has rendered his readers a patriotic service
by al! this slight, externa! humiliation of life.
I hope very much that someone will soon publish an English
translation of Leontiev's collected critical essays.
. J
the Reverend Charles Lut-
ln the evening of Fntlay, u Y 4, J , . .
widge Dodgson, lecturer and tutor in mathematlCS at Chnst Church,
Oxford, wrote in bis diary:
Atkinson brought. over to my rooms some fri.ends of his,
a Mrs and Miss Petcrs, of whom I took photographs, and
who afterward looked ovcr my album and stayed to lunch.
They then went off to the Muscum and Duck:vorth and I
madc an expediti on up the rivcr to Godstow the
Liddells: wc had tea on the bank there, and dld not re a e
Christ Church again till quarter past 8, we took thcm
on to my rooms to see my of
and restored them to the Deanery JUSt befot e 9·
"The three Liddells" were the daughters of the Dean of Christ
Cburch, one of the authors of famous Liddc_ll & Scott
lexi.con. Their names were Lonna Charlotte, Altee, and Edlt
nicknamed Matilda. Alice was ten years old_. . .
This was by no means their first expedltlon together. For
vears they had been seci ng a Jot of one another. In tbe
y would go to Dodgson's si: thc so fa
while he told them storics, which he Illustrated by penc!l or mk
drawings as he went along. Four or fivc times in the summer term


1 .
he would. take them out on thc river, bringing with him a Jargc
basket of cakes and a kettle. On such occasions, Dodgson ex-
changed his clerical suit for white fiarme) trousers and bis black
top . hat ,;or . a hard white straw hat. He always carricd himself
upnght as rf he had swallowed a poker."
Outwardly therc was nothi.ng to distinguish thc Godstow ex-
from any othcr. And nobody today would remcmber that
rt ever took place but for what scems almost a pure accidcnt. He
had the many stories beforc, to which they had Jis-
w1th delrght, ancl they hegged hirn to tell thern another. This
perhaps, he was in better storytelling form than usual, for
hrs fncnd Mr. Duckworth was evidently impresscd:
1 rowed stroke and he rowed bow . .. the story was
actuall y composcd ancl spoken over my shoulder for the
benctit of Al ice who was acting as "cox" of our gig.
1 remcmber turnrng round and saying "Dodgson, is this an
romance of yours'!" And he rcpli cd: "Yes, I'm
mveutrng as wc go along. "
Anyway, this time Alice did what shc had ncver done before-
she asked him to write !he story down. At fi rst he said he would
think it, bu.t she continucd to pester hirn until, cventually,
he gave llJS promrsc to do so. In his diary for Novemhcr I 3, he
notes: "Began writing the fairy-tale for Alice- J hope to finish it
by Christmas."
. In f.act, the tcxt was finishecl on February 1 o, 1863. Tenniel's
Illustratwns werc not compJetcd until September, 1864, and A [ice
1/7. was publishcd by Macmillan in 1865 (which is
also, mctdentally, the year of the first performance of another
masterpiece, Wagncr's Tris tan und 1 solde).
These events are memorable bccause they rcveal a kind of
being who I believe, extremely rare- a man of genius
who, m regard t? lus genrus, is wi thout cgotsm. In othcr respects,
Dodgson was ner thcr selfless nor without vanity. As a mcmber of
Common Room, he was a difficult colleaguc, forcver com-
plarmng about sorne minor negligcncc or inconvenience. He held
and conservative views upon almost every question affect-
mg the College or the University, and the savagery of his polemical
pamphlets, li kc ''The Ncw Belfry of Christ Church" or "Twelve
Months in a Curatorship,'' cannot have cndeared him to his op-
He was proud of his photography, and justly so, for he was
one of the best portrait photographers of the century. He had great
hopes for his theory of Symbolic Logic, which is, I undcrstand,
more highly regarded today than it was at the time. As his diaries
show, he also thought well of his little inventions-and he was
always inventing something: a memoria technica for the logarithms
of all primes under 100; a gamc of ari thmctical croquct ; a rule for
finding the day of thc weck for any date of the month, a substitutc
for glue; a system of proportional reprcscntation; a method of
controll ing thc carriage tr·affic at Covcnt Gardcn; an apparatus for
making notes in thc dark; an improved stccring gear for a tricycle;
and he always sought publication for his light verse. But \Vhen it
carne to thc one thiog which he did superbly well, where he was
without any rival-namely, telling stories to children- the thought
of himself, of publication and immortal fame, ncver seems to havc
entered his head.
The two Alice books wcre no freak achievemcnts. There are
passages in letters to children where the writing is just as good. For
It's so frightfully hot herc that I've been almost too
weak to hold a pcn, and cven if 1 had been able, there was
no ink- it had aH evaporated into a cloud of black steam,
and in that state it has been floating about the room, inking
the walls and cciling till they' re hardl y fit to be secn: to-
da y, it is cooler, and a little has come back into the ink
bottle in the form of black snow.
He went on telling impromptu stories to children all his Ji fe,
which were never wlitten down and, for all we know, may have
surpassed the ones that were.
Though no human character can be explained away in terms
of his upbringing or environment, it is legitimate to look for in-
fluencing factors. In Dodgson's case, one such factor may have
been his position as the oldest boy-the son of a clergyman-in a
large family: he had se ven sisters and threc brothers. By the time
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he was eleven he had macle himself thc family entertainer. He con-
structed a train, built out of a wheelbarrow, a barrel, and a small
truck, which conveyed passcngers from one station in the rectory
garden to another, and in the rules he drew up for this game, the
Lewis Can·oll imagination is already evident:
All passengers when upset are req ucstcd to 1 ic still until
picked up- as it is requisite that at least three trains should
go ovcr them, to cntitle them to the attention of the doctor
and assistants.
Whcn a passengcr has no money and still wants to go
by train, he must stop at whatever station he happcns to
be at, and carn moncy- making tea for thc stationmaster
( who drinks it at al! hours of thc da y and night) and grind-
ing sand for the company (what use they make of it they
are not bound to exp1ain).
Two years later, he bccame the editor and chief contributor for
a succession of family magazincs, thc last of which, The Rectory
Umbrella, was still appcaring after he had bccomc an Oxford don
and first printcd thc opening quatrain of "Jabberwocky."
Tbus, at the bcginning of bis carecr as a writer, he was writing
directl y for an audicnce with which he was intimate and in which
he had no litcrary rival. The average writer, at least today, has a
very different cxperience. When he begins writing, he has no audi-
cnce except himself; his flrst audience is likcly to be one of rival ,
as yet unpubli shcd, authors, and his only chance of acquiring an
audicncc of bis own is to gct published, in little magazines or
popular ones; and this audiencc consists of readers whom he does
not know personally.
It seems clear that what, as an imaginative creator, Dodgson
valued most was the immediate and intimatc response of his audi-
ence, and i ts un di vided attention ( hence, perhaps, his passion for
the theater). Bis writings for adults, no less than his children's
stories, are for the "family"-Oxford to him was anothcr and
larger rectory. Even in the only company with whom he felt so
completely at home that his starnrncr disappearcd, the company of
little girls, he preferred to se e them singly. As he wrote to one
Would you kindly tell me if I may rcckon your girls as
invitable to tea, or dinner, singly. I know of
thcy are invitable in sets only (likc the
no veis) , and such friendships I don' t thin.k worth on
with. 1 don't think anyone knows what 1s, who
has only scen them in thc prcscnce of the1r mothers or
Many guesscs, plausible and implausiblc, have be.en made .as
to the historical origins of the characters and events m the A [¡ce
books, but one may be sure that many allusions which were ap-
parent to the Liddell childrcn are now irrecoverable. When he told
a story, it was always for a particular child. One of them, not
Al ice, rccords:
One thing that made his stories particularly charming to
a child was that he often took his cuc from her
a question would set him off on quite a new traJl of Ideas,
so that onc felt one had somehow helped to make the story,
and it seemed a personal possession.
Very few writcrs, l believe, howcver much .they desi.rc fame for
their books, enjoy being a public figure who JS recogmzed on the
street by strangcrs, but Doclgson hated publicity more
He refuscd to allow any picture of himself to appear- Nothmg
would be more unpleasant for me than to have my face known to
strangers"-and be gave orders that any lettcrs addressed to L.
Carroll. Christ Church, Oxford, were to be returned to the sender
with the endorsement "not known."
But tbanks to Alice Liddcll's importunity, and Juckily for us,
the intimate narrator became a world-famous author. As usually
happens with a masterpiece, the initial critica] reception of Alice
in Wonderland was mixed. The lllustrated London News and the
Pall Mall Gazette liked it; the Spectator, though generally approv-
ing, condemned the Mad Hatter's tea-party; the
it a "stiff, overwrought story," and tbe 1/lustrated T1mes, whtle
conceding that thc author possessed a fertile imagination, declarcd
that Alice's adventures "are too extravagantly absurd to produce
more diversion than disappointment and irritation. "
When, seven years later, Through the Looking-Glass appeared,
:; '
the knew, from the enormous public success of its predeces-
s.or, that 1t be good-though l can think of no more unlikely
IIterary companson t han that of Henry Kingslcy, who wrote: "This
is the fincst thing we ha ve had sin ce Martín Chuzzfewit. "
And thc b.ook's famc has continucd to grow. T have always
thought o.ne nught lcarn much about thc cultural history of a coun-
try by gomg through thc speechcs made by its public mcn ovcr a
ccrtain pcriod, in lcgislaturcs, in law courts, and at official ban-
qucts, and making a list of thc books quotcd from without attri-
bution. So far as Grcat Bri tain is conccrncd, 1 strongly suspect
that, the past fi fty years, the two A lice books and The Hunting
of the Snark havc hcadcd it .
How do American rcadcrs rcact? Though nearly alt the Ameri-
cans I know loved Lewis Carroll as childrcn, t hey may
not be of American taste in general. Certainly, in
cvcry Arnen can book reacl by children-from Huckfeberrv Finn
to thc Oz books-which 1 havc come across, nothing be
mor e remoLe frorn their worlds than thc world of Ali ce.
The American child-hero-are lhcre any American child-hero-
a Noble Savage, an anarchi st, and, cven when he reflects,
concerncd with movement a nd action. He may do
almos.t anythmg except sit still . 1-Iis heroic virtuc-that is to say, his
su.per.JOnty to in his freedom from convcntional ways of
thmkmg a nd actmg: al! social babits, from manncrs to creeds, are
r egardcd falsc or hypocritical or both. AII cmperors are r eaUy
naked . Ahce, surcly, must come to the average American as a shock.
To begin with, shc is a "lady." Whcn, puzzled by the novelty
of Wondcrland, she asks hcrself if she could have changed into
some other child, she is quite certain what sort of child she does
not want to be:
. ''I'm sure 1 can' t be Mabel, for 1 know all sorts of
thmgs, ancl shc, oh, shc knows such a vcry little ... . 1
must be M.ahcl after all, and I shall have to go and Jive in
that poky ltttle housc, ancl havc next to no toys to play with
. . . . No, J' vc made up my mind about it: if l'm Mabel
1'11 stay down here." '
Among grownups, she knows the difference between servants
and mis tresscs :
"He took me for his house-maid," she said to herself as
she ran. " How surprised he'll be whcn he finds out who 1
am. " .. .
" The govcrncss would never think of excusing my les-
sons for that. If she couldn't remcmbcr my name, she' d call
me ' Miss' as thc servants do."
And when the Red Queen adviscs her : "Spcak in French when
you can' t t h.ink of thc English for a thing-turn out your toes as
you walk- ancl remcmber who you arc!"-she knows that the
answer to thc qncstion, " Who a m J?" is real! y: "l am Alicc Liddell,
daughtcr of the Dcan of Christ Church. "
What is most likely to bewildcr an American child, howevcr, is
not Alicc's class-cunsciousness, which is easy to miss, hut the
peculiar relation of chi ldren and grownups to law and social man-
ners. ll is the chi ld-heroinc Al ice who is invari ably rcasonable,
self-controlled, and polite, while all the ot her inhabitants, human
or animal, of Wonderland and thc Looking-Glass are unsocial ec-
centrics-at the merey of their passions and extrcmely bad-man-
nercd, like the Qucen of Hearts, thc Duchess, the Hatter, ancl
Humpty Dumply, or grotesqucly incompctent, likc the Whitc
Quecn and the Whíte Knight.
What Alice finds so cxtraordinary about thc peoplc and cvents
in thcsc worlds is the anarchy which she is forevcr trying to make
sensc and order out of. In both books, gamcs play an important
role. Thc whole st ructure of Through the Looking-Giass is b¡¡sed
on chcss, and t he Ouecn of Hearts' favorite pastimc is croquct-
both of them garnes which Atice knows how to play. To play a
game, it is essential that t he playcrs know and obey its rules, and
a re skillful enough to do the right or rcasonable thing at least half
Lhe time. Anarchy and incompetcnce are incompatible with pl ay.
Croquct played with hcdgehogs, flamingos , and soldiers instead
of the conventional balls, mallets, and hoops is conceivable, pro-
vided that thcy are willing to irnitate the bchavior of thesc inani-
mate objccts, but, in Wonderland, thcy behave as they choose and
the game is impossible to play .
In thc Looking-Glass world, thc problem is different. I t is nol,
Iike Wonderl and, a place of complete anarchy where everybody
says and does whatcvcr comes into his head, but a completely
determined world without choice. Tweedledum and Tweedledec,
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the Lion and the Unicorn, the Red Knight and the White, must
fight at regular intervals, irrcspcctive of thcir feelings. In Wonder-
Jand, Alice has to adjust herself to a lifc without laws; in Looking-
Giass Land, to one governed by Jaws to which she is unaccustomed.
Shc has to lcarn, for example, to walk away from a pl ace in arder
to reach it, or to run fast in order to rcmain where shc is. in
Wonderland, shc is the onl y person with self-control; in Looking-
Glass Land, thc only competent one. But for the way she plays a
pawn, one feels that the game of chess would never be completed.
Tn both worlds, one of the most important and powerful char-
acters is not a pcrson but the Engli sh language. Alicc, who had
hitherto supposcd that words were passive objects, discovers that
they havc a life and will of thcir own. When she tries to remember
poems shc has Jcarned, new lincs come into her head ur.bidden,
and, when shc tllinks she knows what a word means, it turns out to
mean something elsc.
"And so these thrce little sisters-they were learning to
draw, you know- "
"What did they draw?" . . .
"Trcacle-from a treaclc we/1 . .. . "
' 'But thev were in the well."
" Of couise they wcre: well. in. " . . .
"How old did you say you wcrc?"
" Sevcn years and six months."
"Wrong! You never said a word like it!" ...
"You take sorne flour. "
" Whcre do you pick thc flower? In a garden or in the
"Well, it isn' t pícked at al!: it's ground. ''
"H.ow many acres of ground?"
Nothing, surely, could be more remate from the American
image of the pioneering, hunting, prepolitical hero than this pre-
occupation with language. 1t is the concern of the solitary thinker,
for language is the mother of thought, and of the politician-in
the Greek scnsc--for speech is thc mcdium by which wc disclose
ourselves to others. The American hero is neither.
Both of Alicc's "dreams" end in a state of developing chaos
from which she wakcs just in time beforc they can become night-
mares :
At t his the whole pack rose up in the air , and carne
fl ying down upon her ; she gave a little scream, half of fright
and half of anger, and tricd to beat them off, and found
hcrself lying on thc bank with her head in the lap of hcr
sister . ...
Already severa] of the guests werc lying down in the
dishes, and the soup ladk was walking up the table towards
Alice's chair, a nd beckoning to her impatiently to get out of
its way. . .
"I can't stand this any longer!" she cncd, as shc ¡umped
up and seized thc table-cloth wi th both hands : one
pull, and plates, di shes, guests and candles carne craslung
down together in a heap on the floor.
Wonderland and Looking-Glass Land are fun to visit but no
placcs to live in. Evcn when she is thcrc, Alice ask hcrsclf with
some nostalgia "if anything would ever happen 111 a natural way
again," and by '' natural" shc means the opposite of what Rousseau
would mean. Sbe mcans peaccful , civilized society.
Thcrc are good books which are only for aclu\ts, becausc their
comprehension presupposcs adult experiences, but thcre are no
good books which are only for children. A child who the
Alice books will continue to cnjoy t hcm wben he or she 1s grown
up, though bi s " reading" of what they will probably
In assessing their val ue, thcre are two quest tons one can ask: fi rst,
what insight do they provide as to how the world appears to a
chi!d?; and, sccond, to what extent is the world really like that?
According to Lewis Carral!, what a child desires befare any-
thing else is that t he world in which he finds himself should
sense. lt is not the commands and prohibitions, as such, whJch
adults i mpose that the child resents, but rather that he cannot per-
ceive any law linking one command to another in a consistent
Thc child is told, for example, that he must not do sucb-and-
such, and then sees adul ts doing preciscly that. This occurs espe-

• 1
cially often in thc realm of social manners. In well-bred society,
people trcat each othcr with courtesy but, in trying to teach their
children to be po1itc, their method of instruction is oftcn that of
a dril! sergeant. Without rcali zing it, adults can be rude to children
in ways which, if they wcre dealing with one of their own kind,
would get them knocked down. How many children, when they are
silenced with the command, "Speak whcn you' re spoken to!" must
have longcd to retortas Alice docs:
"But if cvcrybody obcyed that rule, ami if you only
spokc when you werc spoken to, and the other person al-
ways waitcd for you to begi n, you sce that nobody would
ever say anything."
lt would be an exaggcration to say that children sce adults as
thcy rcally are, but, like servants, they see them at moments when
they are not concerned wi th making a favorable imprcssion.
As evcrybody knows, Dodgson's Muse was incarnated in a
s ucccssion of gi rl s hetwccn thc ages of eight and eleven. Little boys
he fea red and dislikccl: they wcrc grubby and noisy and broke
things. Most adults he found inscnsitive. At the agc of twenty-four,
he wrotc in bis diary:
1 think that thc character of most that I meet is mcrely
refined animal. How fcw sccm to care for the only subjccts
of real interest in life!
Naturally, most of his "child-fricnds" carne from middle- or
upper-middle class English homes. He mentions having met one
American child and thc encounter was not a success :
Lily Alice Godfrey, from New York: aged 8; but talked
likc a girl of 15 or r 6, and dcclined to be kissed on wishing
good-by, on the ground that she 'never kissed gentle-
men' .... I fear it is true that there are no children in
And the childrcn he understood best were the quiet and imagi-
native ones. Thus Irene Vanbrugh, who must have been going
through a tomhoy phase when she mct him, says:
He had a decp !ove for children, though I am inclined
to think not such a great understanding of them . ... His
great delight was to teach me his Game of Logic. Dare I say
this made the cvening r athcr long, when was play.;
ing outsidc on the parade, and the moon shmmg on the sea.
The question for an adult readcr of Lcwis Carroll, is
not the author' s psychological peculiarities, but the validtty of h1s
heroinc. I s Alice, that is to say, an adcquate symbol for what evcry
human being should try to be like?
1 am inclined to answcr yes. A girl of eleven (or a boy of
twelve) who comes from a good home-a home, that wherc
shc has known both !ove and discipline and whcrc the hfe of the
mincl is taken seriously but not solemnly- can be a most remark-
able creature. No longer a baby, sile has learned ac-
quired a sense of her idcntity, and can think logically wlthout
ceasing to be imaginative. She does not know, of course, that her
sense of identity has been too easily won-the gift of her
rather than her own doing-and that she is soon going to lose It,
first in the Sturm und Drang of adolescencc and then, when she
cnters the adult social world, in anxictics over moncy and stat.us.
But one cannot meet a girl or a boy of this kind without feelmg
that what she or he is-by luck and momentarily-is ":hat,. aftcr
many years and countless follies and errors, one would hke, m the
end, to become.

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