The Secret Life of the Reverend Lewis Carroll: theater, photography and ... little girlsBy Pictolic https://pictolic.com/article/the-secret-life-of-the-reverend-lewis-carroll-theater-photography-and-little-girls.html
The Reverend Lewis Carroll, aka Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, left behind wonderful children's books and, as befits a Victorian clergyman, an impeccable reputation. Contemporaries did not even have anything to write about this gentleman, he was so pure before God and the law.
Already in our days, in the era of great revelations, it turned out that his loving sisters took care of Carroll's bright memory, carefully cleaning up all his archives and settling specific cases. And the deacon, writer and mathematician himself had a whole list of weaknesses that his contemporaries would definitely not forgive him.
The real Charles Dodgson, not refined by the efforts of the sisters, was a very strange man for his time. As a clergyman, he studied theology and commented on the Bible and the Gospel. At the same time, as a person of the most advanced views, he kept a selection of books on feminism in his library, was fond of theater, was professionally engaged in mathematics.
In addition, his weakness was girls and photography. These two hobbies intersected with him — staged photos with young ladies were in the full sense of the word Professor Dodgson's obsession. Photo shoots were necessarily prepared in advance, with a careful selection of locations and costumes, with the choice of the ideal angle and suitable lighting.
Everyone who could watch the reverend at such moments noted that Dodgson turned from a good-natured holy father into a real tyrant, who simply harassed his models by seating, laying folds on dresses, choosing the tilt of the head and other important little things for him. He was completely immersed in the process and there was something manic about it.
Biographers of Charles Dodgson tend to find the origins of his oddities in childhood. For a long time, he was the only son in a family where girls were born one by one. Deprived of the company of boys, Charles was forced to spend all his free time with his sisters and participate in their fun.
Children's photo of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
In those days, dressing up was very popular — girls came up with costumes and turned into princesses, mermaids, elves and witches. Most likely, these children's games led to the fact that already in adulthood, Dodgson adored messing with girls and endlessly dressing them in different outfits.
Lewis Carroll, who shared feminist views, tried to make the life of the girls with whom he communicated rich and interesting. Concerned that young ladies had more modest educational opportunities, he made a special edition of the works of Shakespeare, which was previously considered immodest and unnecessary for schoolgirls. In addition, Carroll insisted that girls should study mathematics and logic as well as boys, without which a quality education is unthinkable.
The monk himself also constantly studied and improved. In his spare time from preaching and exact sciences, he was occupied with painting and sculpture. Carroll was repeatedly noticed at exhibitions and in galleries near portraits of young naked nymphs, which he examined with suspicious attention for a priest.
"I study art, composition," Carroll would say confusedly, as if justifying himself when he noticed that he was being watched. Salon painting of the 19th century was saturated with nudes, which the Victorians lacked so much in real life. Therefore, it was really difficult for the young professor to avoid erotic scenes when studying masterpieces.
Looking at Carroll's photographic works, it is easy to notice that he tended to complex, multi-figure compositions. Very often, three sisters became his models — in the families with whom the monk was friends, there were almost always girls close in age. These are not only the Liddell sisters, one of whom was the same Alice for whom the professor wrote his famous work. There were also the Hutch and Harrington girls, and possibly others.
The same Alice Lidell, who became the prototype of the literary girl Alice
But the Lidell sisters, Edith, Lauren, and especially Alice, were undoubtedly Carroll's favorites. In the middle of the 19th century, photography was not an easy task for both the master and the models. To get a decent quality picture, the girls had to sit still for a long time, which the Lidell sisters coped with perfectly.
So the prolonged gatherings in front of the professor's lens were not too burdensome for the sisters. In addition, the monk appreciated the high creative potential of these children, who not only followed his instructions, but were full-fledged participants in the creative process, offering interesting angles and unusual options for the entourage.
In the Victorian era, photographing naked children was not considered something reprehensible, although the existence of pedophiles was already well known at that time. Lewis Carroll photographed girls without clothes, but always in the presence of their mothers. The reverend greatly valued his reputation, the loss of which would have closed the doors of the families with whose girls he was so friendly to him.
Carroll was so trusted that his parents sometimes left "little friends"with him for several weeks or even months when they needed to go somewhere. This was the case with Isa Bowman, who later became a famous actress. She wrote in her memoirs that she had lived with Carroll for quite a long time and she was about 11 years old at the time. Iza did not notice any oddities in the professor and wrote that he just loved children very much.
Yes, Isa wasn't the Reverend's only weakness. He was seen in friendly communication with several other aspiring actresses who had barely crossed the 16-year mark. In the theater, Carroll was his own person and could even go into the dressing rooms of his young proteges, which was very unusual, given the mores of that time. Of course, all this was associated with a love of art — such a fan of the theater as the professor had to be searched for.
It is worth paying tribute to the holy father, none of his young friends complained about his unworthy behavior and never a single scandal with unexpected pregnancies, which were typical for the 19th century, was associated with the name of Carroll. Only once did the professor commit an act that was misinterpreted — he kissed the daughter of his colleague on the cheek, in the presence of her mother.
The already middle-aged professor withdrew into himself and almost stopped going out in public. He even gave up everything that he had loved for many years — theater, mathematics and literature. From this blow of fate, which changed his life, he never recovered. The author of "Alice in Wonderland" remained a hermit until the end of his days. This is one of the very stories that the sisters of this wonderful man chose to remove from his biography.