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‘Sometimes I wish I hadn’t written Alice’
ONE of Oxford’s most famous literary giants hated fame so much, he sometimes wished he hadn’t written any books at all.
The revelation by Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, came in a letter written in 1891 and is set to be auctioned off next month.
Signed as Charles Dodgson, his real name, he spoke of how he was unhappy with being approached by strangers and the general “notoriety” he had gained through his work.
He told Mrs Anne Symonds: “(I dislike) letters of mine being put into autograph-collections.
“All that sort of publicity leads to strangers hearing of my real name in connection with the books and to my being pointed out to and stared at by strangers.
“I hate all that so intensely that sometimes I almost wish I had never written any books at all.”
He continued to say that some people may not understand his complaints, “we are not all made on the same pattern.
“Our likes and dislikes are very different."
- Alice Day in 2011
Dodgson, a talented mathematician, came to study at Oxford’s University’s Christ Church in 1851 and later taught there.
He was to spend the rest of his life in Oxford and was given his “Carroll” writing pseudonym whilst working at a student paper. The letter was written from his rooms at the college, the recipient being the widow of Oxford surgeon Frederick Symonds.
It was written in November 1891 when he was 59 years old — 26 years after Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland was first published.
The academic is said to have been intensely shy, especially in adult company, and often objected to giving out his autograph.
In 1890 he had printed The Stranger Circular which he sent to would-be collectors, in which he bluntly refused to have anything to do with books published under another name.
The letter is up for auction at Bonhams in London on March 19 and is expected to sell for more than £4,000 and is being sold by a private collector.
Head of Bonham’s book department Matthew Haley said: “Dodgson’s obsession with privacy is well known, but this letter provides in the most vivid way a window into his psychological make-up.
“The way he describes people staring and pointing at him, one can almost imagine the public peering through the arch below Christ Church’s Tom Tower, hoping to catch a glimpse of the elusive literary lion.
“The letter reminds us that celebrity culture is not a 21st century, nor even a 20th century, phenomenon.”
IT was at Christ Church that Dodgson first met the children of Henry Liddell (1855-1891) the then Dean (head of the College): Harry, Alice, Lorina and Edith.
He had asked permission to photograph the cathedral from the Deanery garden.
While setting up his equipment he was approached by Alice and her two sisters who wanted to be photographed.
The girls loved Dodgson to tell them stories, turning their everyday surroundings into Wonderland stories.
Christ Church, the place which Alice had known all her life, plays a very important part in many of her adventures.