The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Story of Lewis Carroll, by Isa Bowman This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with almost no restrictions whatsoever. You may copy it, give it away or re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net Title: The Story of Lewis Carroll Told for Young People by the Real Alice in Wonderland Author: Isa Bowman Release Date: April 29, 2011 [EBook #35990] Language: English Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1 *** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK THE STORY OF LEWIS CARROLL *** Produced by The Online Distributed Proofreading Team at http://www.pgdp.net (This file was produced from images generously made available by The Internet Archive.)
Miss Isa Bowman as Alice in “Alice in Wonderland”
THE STORY OF
TOLD FOR YOUNG PEOPLE BY
THE REAL ALICE IN WONDERLAND
MISS ISA BOWMAN
|WITH A DIARY AND NUMEROUS|
FACSIMILE LETTERS WRITTEN TO
MISS ISA BOWMAN AND
OTHERS. ALSO MANY SKETCHES
AND PHOTOS BY LEWIS CARROLL
AND OTHER ILLUSTRATIONS.
E. P. DUTTON & COMPANY
31 West Twenty-third Street
E. P. DUTTON & CO.
The Knickerbocker Press, New York
|Miss Isa Bowman (in Photogravure)||Frontispiece|
|Lewis Carroll’s Room in Oxford||9|
|C. L. Dodgson||13|
|St. George and the Dragon||59|
|Lewis Carroll’s House at Eastbourne||65|
|Miss Isa Bowman and Miss Bessie Hatton as the Little Princes in the Tower||73|
|Isa Bowman as Duke of York||77|
|Miss Isa Bowman as “Alice in Wonderland” (in Photogravure)||80|
|The Little Princes||83|
|Facsimile of a Charade||108-109-110|
It seems to me a very difficult task to sit down at a desk and write “reminiscences” of a friend who has gone from us all.
It is not easy to make an effort and to remember all the little personalia of some one one has loved very much, and by whom one has been loved. And yet it is in a measure one’s duty to tell the world something of the inner life of a famous man; and Lewis Carroll was so wonderful a personality, and so good a man, that if my pen dragged ever so slowly, I feel that I can at least tell something of his life which is worthy the telling.
Writing with the sense of his loss still heavy upon me, I must of necessity colour my account with sadness. I am not in the[Pg 2] ordinary sense a biographer. I cannot set down a critical estimate, a cold, dispassionate summing-up of a man I loved; but I can write of a few things that happened when I was a little girl, and when he used to say to me that I was “his little girl.”
The gracious presence of Lewis Carroll is with us no longer. Never again will his hand hold mine, and I shall never hear his voice more in this world. Forever while I live that kindly influence will be gone from my life, and the “Friend of little Children” has left us.
And yet in the full sorrow of it all I find some note of comfort. He was so good and sweet, so tender and kind, so certain that there was another and more beautiful life waiting for us, that I know, even as if I heard him telling it to me, that some time I shall meet him once more.
In all the noise and excitement of London, amid all the distractions of a stage life, I know this, and his presence is often very[Pg 3] near to me, and the kindly voice is often at my ear as it was in the old days.
To have even known such a man as he was is an inestimable boon. To have been with him for so long as a child, to have known so intimately the man who above all others has understood childhood, is indeed a memory on which to look back with thanksgiving and with tears.
Now that I am no longer “his little girl,” now that he is dead and my life is so different from the quiet life he led, I can yet feel the old charm, I can still be glad that he has kissed me and that we were friends. Little girl and grave professor! it is a strange combination. Grave professor and little girl! how curious it sounds! yet strange and curious as it may seem, it was so, and the little girl, now a little girl no longer, offers this last loving tribute to the friend and teacher she loved so well. Forever that voice is still; be it mine to revive some ancient memories of it.
[Pg 4]First, however, as I have essayed to be some sort of a biographer, I feel that before I let my pen run easily over the tale of my intimate knowledge of Lewis Carroll I must put down very shortly some facts about his life.
The Rev. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson died when he was sixty-six years old, and when his famous book, “Alice in Wonderland,” had been published for thirty-three years. He was born at Daresbury, in Cheshire, and his father was the Rev. Charles Dodgson. The first years of his life were spent at Daresbury, but afterwards the family went to live at a place called Croft, in Yorkshire. He went first to a private school in Yorkshire and then to Rugby, where he spent years that he always remembered as very happy ones. In 1850 he went to Christ Church, Oxford, and from that time till the year of his death he was inseparably connected with “The House,” as Christ Church college is generally called, from its Latin[Pg 5] name “Ædes Christi,” which means, literally translated, the House of Christ.
There he won great distinction as a scholar of mathematics, and wrote many abstruse and learned books, very different from “Alice in Wonderland.” There is a tale that when the Queen had read “Alice in Wonderland” she was so pleased that she asked for more books by the same author. Lewis Carroll was written to, and back, with the name of Charles Dodgson on the title-page, came a number of the very dryest books about Algebra and Euclid that you can imagine.
Still, even in mathematics his whimsical fancy was sometimes suffered to peep out, and little girls who learnt the rudiments of calculation at his knee found the path they had imagined so thorny set about with roses by reason of the delightful fun with which he would turn a task into a joy. But when the fun was over the little girl would find that she had learnt the lesson (all unknowingly)[Pg 6] just the same. Happy little girls who had such a master. The old rhyme—
“Multiplication is vexation,
Division is as bad,
The rule of three doth puzzle me,
And Practice drives me mad,”
would never need to have been written had all arithmetic lessons been like the arithmetic lessons given by Charles Dodgson to his little friends.
As a lecturer to his grown-up pupils he was also surprisingly lucid, and under his deft treatment the knottiest of problems were quickly smoothed out and made easy for his hearers to comprehend. “I always hated mathematics at school,” an ex-pupil of his told me a little while ago, “but when I went up to Oxford I learnt from Mr. Dodgson to look upon my mathematics as the most delightful of all my studies. His lectures were never dry.”
For twenty-six years he lectured at Oxford, finally giving up his post in 1881.[Pg 7] From that time to the time of his death he remained in his college, taking no actual part in the tuition, but still enjoying the Fellowship that he had won in 1861.
This is an official account, a brief sketch of an intensely interesting life. It tells little save that Lewis Carroll was a clever mathematician and a sympathetic teacher; it shall be my work to present him as he was from a more human point of view.
Lewis Carroll was a man of medium height. When I knew him his hair was a silver-grey, rather longer than it was the fashion to wear, and his eyes were a deep blue. He was clean shaven, and, as he walked, always seemed a little unsteady in his gait. At Oxford he was a well-known figure. He was a little eccentric in his clothes. In the coldest weather he would never wear an overcoat, and he had a curious habit of always wearing, in all seasons of the year, a pair of grey and black cotton gloves.
But for the whiteness of his hair it was[Pg 8] difficult to tell his age from his face, for there were no wrinkles on it. He had a curiously womanish face, and, in direct contradiction to his real character, there seemed to be little strength in it. One reads a great deal about the lines that a man’s life paints in his face, and there are many people who believe that character is indicated by the curves of flesh and bone. I do not, and never shall, believe it is true, and Lewis Carroll is only one of many instances to support my theory. He was as firm and self-contained as a man may be, but there was little to show it in his face.
Yet you could easily discern it in the way in which he met and talked with his friends. When he shook hands with you—he had firm white hands, rather large—his grip was strong and steadfast. Every one knows the kind of man of whom it is said “his hands were all soft and flabby when he said, ‘How-do-you-do.’” Well, Lewis Carroll was not a bit like that. Every one says when he[Pg 9] shook your hand the pressure of his was full of strength, and you felt here indeed was a man to admire and to love. The expression in his eyes was also very kind and charming.
[Pg 10]He used to look at me, when we met, in the very tenderest, gentlest way. Of course on an ordinary occasion I knew that his interested glance did not mean anything of any extra importance. Nothing could have happened since I had seen him last, yet, at the same time, his look was always so deeply sympathetic and benevolent that one could hardly help feeling it meant a great deal more than the expression of the ordinary man.
He was afflicted with what I believe is known as “Housemaid’s knee,” and this made his movements singularly jerky and abrupt. Then again he found it impossible to avoid stammering in his speech. He would, when engaged in an animated conversation with a friend, talk quickly and well for a few minutes, and then suddenly and[Pg 11] without any very apparent cause would begin to stutter so much, that it was often difficult to understand him. He was very conscious of this impediment, and he tried hard to cure himself. For several years he read a scene from some play of Shakespeare’s every day aloud, but despite this he was never quite able to cure himself of the habit. Many people would have found this a great hindrance to the affairs of ordinary life, and would have felt it deeply. Lewis Carroll was different. His mind and life were so simple and open that there was no room in them for self-consciousness, and I have often heard him jest at his own misfortune, with a comic wonder at it.
The personal characteristic that you would notice most on meeting Lewis Carroll was his extreme shyness. With children, of course, he was not nearly so reserved, but in the society of people of maturer age he was almost old-maidishly prim in his manner. When he knew a child well this reserve[Pg 12] would vanish completely, but it needed only a slightly disconcerting incident to bring the cloak of shyness about him once more, and close the lips that just before had been talking so delightfully.
I shall never forget one afternoon when we had been walking in Christ Church meadows. On one side of the great open space the little river Cherwell runs through groves of trees towards the Isis, where the college boat-races are rowed. We were going quietly along by the side of the “Cher,” when he began to explain to me that the tiny stream was a tributary, “a baby river” he put it, of the big Thames. He talked for some minutes, explaining how rivers came down from hills and flowed eventually to the sea, when he suddenly met a brother Don at a turning in the avenue.
He was holding my hand and giving me my lesson in geography with great earnestness when the other man came round the corner.
[Pg 14]He greeted him in answer to his salutation, but the incident disturbed his train of thought, and for the rest of the walk he became very difficult to understand, and talked in a nervous and preoccupied manner. One strange way in which his nervousness affected him was peculiarly characteristic. When, owing to the stupendous success of “Alice in Wonderland” and “Alice Through the Looking-Glass,” he became a celebrity many people were anxious to see him, and in some way or other to find out what manner of man he was. This seemed to him horrible, and he invented a mild deception for use when some autograph-hunter or curious person sent him a request for his signature on a photograph, or asked him some silly question as to the writing of one of his books, how long it took to write, and how many copies had been sold. Through some third person he always represented that Lewis Carroll the author and Mr. Dodgson the professor were two distinct persons, and[Pg 15] that the author could not be heard of at Oxford at all. On one occasion an American actually wrote to say that he had heard that Lewis Carroll had laid out a garden to represent some of the scenes in “Alice in Wonderland,” and that he (the American) was coming right away to take photographs of it. Poor Lewis Carroll, he was in terror of Americans for a week!
Of being photographed he had a horror, and despite the fact that he was continually and importunately requested to sit before the camera, only very few photographs of him are in existence. Yet he had been himself a great amateur photographer, and had taken many pictures that were remarkable in their exact portraiture of the subject.
It was this exactness that he used to pride himself on in his camera work. He always said that modern professional photographers spoilt all their pictures by touching them up absurdly to flatter the sitter. When it was necessary for me to have some pictures[Pg 16] taken he sent me to Mr. H. H. Cameron, whom he declared to be the only artist who dared to produce a photograph that was exactly like its subject. This is one of the photographs of me that Mr. Cameron took, and Lewis Carroll always declared that it was a perfect specimen of portrait work.
Many of the photographs of children in this book are Lewis Carroll’s work. Miss Beatrice Hatch, to whose kindness I am indebted for these photographs and for much interesting information, writes in the Strand Magazine (April 1898):
“My earliest recollections of Mr. Dodgson are connected with photography. He was very fond of this art at one time, though he had entirely given it up for many years latterly. He kept various costumes and ‘properties’ with which to dress us up, and, of course, that added to the fun. What child would not thoroughly enjoy personating a Japanese or a beggar child, or a gipsy or an Indian? Sometimes there were excursions to the roof of the college, which was easily accessible from the windows of the studio. Or you might stand by your friend’s side in the tiny dark room and watch him while he poured the contents of several little strong-smelling bottles on to the [Pg 17]glass picture of yourself that looked so funny with its black face.”
Yet, despite his love for the photographer’s art, he hated the idea of having his[Pg 18] own picture taken for the benefit of a curious world. The shyness that made him nervous in the presence of strangers made the idea that any one who cared to stare into a shop window could examine and criticise his portrait extremely repulsive to him.
I remember that this shyness of his was the only occasion of anything approaching a quarrel between us.
I had an idle trick of drawing caricatures when I was a child, and one day when he was writing some letters I began to make a picture of him on the back of an envelope. I quite forget what the drawing was like—probably it was an abominable libel—but suddenly he turned round and saw what I was doing. He got up from his seat and turned very red, frightening me very much. Then he took my poor little drawing, and tearing it into small pieces threw it into the fire without a word. Afterwards he came suddenly to me, and saying nothing, caught me up in his arms and kissed me passionately.[Pg 19] I was only some ten or eleven years of age at the time, but now the incident comes back to me very clearly, and I can see it as if it happened but yesterday—the sudden snatching of my picture, the hurried striding across the room, and then the tender light in his face as he caught me up to him and kissed me.
I used to see a good deal of him at Oxford, and I was constantly in Christ Church. He would invite me to stay with him and find me rooms just outside the college gates, where I was put into charge of an elderly dame, whose name, if I do not forget, was Mrs. Buxall. I would spend long happy days with my uncle, and at nine o’clock I was taken over to the little house in St. Aldates and delivered into the hands of the landlady, who put me to bed.
In the morning I was awakened by the deep reverberations of “Great Tom” calling Oxford to wake and begin the new day. Those times were very pleasant, and the[Pg 20] remembrance of them lingers with me still. Lewis Carroll at the time of which I am speaking had two tiny turret rooms, one on each side of his staircase in Christ Church. He always used to tell me that when I grew up and became married he would give me the two little rooms, so that if I ever disagreed with my husband we could each of us retire to a turret till we had made up our quarrel!
And those rooms of his! I do not think there was ever such a fairy-land for children. I am sure they must have contained one of the finest collections of musical-boxes to be found anywhere in the world. There were big black ebony boxes with glass tops through which you could see all the works. There was a big box with a handle, which it was quite hard exercise for a little girl to turn, and there must have been twenty or thirty little ones which could only play one tune. Sometimes one of the musical-boxes would not play properly, and then I always[Pg 21] got tremendously excited. Uncle used to go to a drawer in the table and produce a box of little screw-drivers and punches, and while I sat on his knee he would unscrew the lid and take out the wheels to see what was the matter. He must have been a clever mechanist, for the result was always the same-after a longer or shorter period the music began again. Sometimes when the musical-boxes had played all their tunes he used to put them in the box backwards, and was as pleased as I at the comic effect of the music “standing on its head,” as he phrased it.
There was another and very wonderful toy which he sometimes produced for me, and this was known as “The Bat.” The ceilings of the rooms in which he lived at the time were very high indeed, and admirably suited for the purposes of “The Bat.” It was an ingeniously constructed toy of gauze and wire, which actually flew about the room like a bat. It was worked by a[Pg 22] piece of twisted elastic, and it could fly for about half a minute.
I was always a little afraid of this toy because it was too lifelike, but there was a fearful joy in it. When the music-boxes began to pall he would get up from his chair and look at me with a knowing smile. I always knew what was coming even before he began to speak, and I used to dance up and down in tremendous anticipation.
“Isa, my darling,” he would say, “once upon a time there was some one called Bob the Bat! and he lived in the top left-hand drawer of the writing-table. What could he do when uncle wound him up?”
And then I would squeak out breathlessly, “He could really Fly!”
Bob the Bat had many adventures. There was no way of controlling the direction of its flight, and one morning, a hot summer’s morning when the window was wide open, Bob flew out into the garden and alighted in a bowl of salad which a scout was taking[Pg 23] to some one’s rooms. The poor fellow was so startled by the sudden flapping apparition that he dropped the bowl, and it was broken into a thousand pieces.
There! I have written “a thousand pieces,” and a thoughtless exaggeration of that sort was a thing that Lewis Carroll hated. “A thousand pieces?” he would have said; “you know, Isa, that if the bowl had been broken into a thousand pieces they would each have been so tiny that you could have hardly seen them.” And if the broken pieces had been get-at-able, he would have made me count them as a means of impressing on my mind the folly of needless exaggeration.
I remember how annoyed he was once when, after a morning’s sea bathing at Eastbourne, I exclaimed, “Oh, this salt water, it always makes my hair as stiff as a poker.”
He impressed it on me quite irritably that no little girl’s hair could ever possibly get as stiff as a poker. “If you had said, ‘as stiff as wires,’ it would have been more like it, but[Pg 24] even that would have been an exaggeration.” And then, seeing that I was a little frightened, he drew for me a picture of “The little girl called Isa whose hair turned into pokers because she was always exaggerating things.”
That, and all the other pictures that he drew for me are, I’m sorry to say, the sole property of the little fishes in the Irish Channel, where a clumsy porter dropped them as we hurried into the boat at Holyhead.
“I nearly died of laughing,” was another expression that he particularly disliked; in fact any form of exaggeration generally called from him a reproof, though he was sometimes content to make fun. For instance, my sisters and I had sent him “millions of kisses” in a letter. Below you will find the letter that he wrote in return, written in violet ink that he always used (dreadfully ugly, I used to think it).
“CH. Ch. Oxford,
“Ap. 14, 1890.
“My own Darling,
It’s all very well for you and Nellie and Emsie to write in millions of hugs and kisses, but please consider the time it would occupy your poor old very busy Uncle! Try hugging and kissing Emsie for a minute by the watch, and I don’t think you’ll manage it more than 20 times a minute. ‘Millions’ must mean 2 millions at least.
20)2,000,000 hugs and kisses
6)138 days (at twelve hours a day)
“I couldn’t go on hugging and kissing more than 12 hours a day: and I wouldn’t like to spend Sundays that way. So you see it would take 23 weeks of hard work. Really, my dear child, I cannot spare the time.
“Why haven’t I written since my last letter? Why, how could I, you silly silly child? How could I have written since the last time I did write? Now, you just try it with kissing. Go and kiss Nellie, from me, several times, and take care to manage it so as to have kissed her since the last time you did kiss her. Now go back to your place, and I’ll question you.
“‘Have you kissed her several times?’
“‘Yes, darling Uncle.’
“‘What o’clock was it when you gave her the last kiss?’
[Pg 30]“‘5 minutes past 10, Uncle.’
“‘Very well, now, have you kissed her since?’
“‘Well—I—ahem! ahem! ahem! (excuse me, Uncle, I’ve got a bad cough). I—think—that—I—that is, you, know, I——’
“‘Yes, I see! “Isa” begins with “I,” and it seems to me as if she was going to end with “I,” this time!’
“Anyhow, my not writing hasn’t been because I was ill, but because I was a horrid lazy old thing, who kept putting it off from day to day, till at last I said to myself, ‘WHO ROAR! There’s no time to write now, because they sail on the 1st of April.’ In fact, I shouldn’t have been a bit surprised if this letter had been from Fulham, instead of Louisville. Well, I suppose you will be there by about the middle of May. But mind you don’t write to me from there! Please, please, no more horrid letters from you! I do hate them so! And as for kissing them when I get them, why, I’d just as soon kiss—kiss—kiss you, you tiresome thing! So there now!
“Thank you very much for those 2 photographs—I liked them—hum—pretty well. I can’t honestly say I thought them the very best I had ever seen.
“Please give my kindest regards to your mother, and ½ of a kiss to Nellie, and 1⁄200 a kiss to Emsie, and 1⁄2,000,000 a kiss to yourself. So, with fondest love, I am, my darling, your loving Uncle,
“C. L. Dodgson.”
[Pg 31]And now, in the postscript, comes one of the rare instances in which Lewis Carroll showed his deep religious feeling. It runs—
“P.S.—I’ve thought about that little prayer you asked me to write for Nellie and Emsie. But I would like, first, to have the words of the one I wrote for you, and the words of what they now say, if they say any. And then I will pray to our Heavenly Father to help me to write a prayer that will be really fit for them to use.”
Again, I had ended one of my letters with “all join me in lufs and kisses.” It was a letter written when I was away from home and alone, and I had put the usual ending thoughtlessly and in haste, for there was no one that I knew in all that town who could have joined me in my messages to him. He answered me as follows:—
“7 Lushington Road, Eastbourne,
“Aug. 30, 90.
“Oh, you naughty, naughty, bad wicked little girl! You forgot to put a stamp on your letter, and your poor old uncle had to pay TWOPENCE! His last Twopence! Think of that. I shall punish you severely for this when once I get you here. So tremble! Do you hear? Be good enough to tremble!
[Pg 32]“I’ve only time for one question to-day. Who in the world are the ‘all’ that join you in ‘Lufs and kisses.’ Weren’t you fancying you were at home, and sending messages (as people constantly do) from Nellie and Emsie without their having given any? It isn’t a good plan that sending messages people haven’t given. I don’t mean it’s in the least untruthful, because everybody knows how commonly they are sent without having been given; but it lessens the pleasure of receiving the messages. My sisters write to me ‘with best love from all.’ I know it isn’t true; so I don’t value it much. The other day, the husband of one of my ‘child-friends’ (who always writes ‘your loving’) wrote to me and ended with ‘Ethel joins me in kindest regards.’ In my answer I said (of course in fun)—‘I am not going to send Ethel kindest regards, so I won’t send her any message at all.’ Then she wrote to say she didn’t even know he was writing! ‘Of course I would have sent best love,’ and she added that she had given her husband a piece of her mind! Poor husband!
“Your always loving uncle,
“C. L. D.”
These letters are written in Lewis Carroll’s ordinary handwriting, not a particularly legible one. When, however, he was writing for the press no characters could have been more clearly and distinctly formed than his. Throughout his life he always made it[Pg 33] his care to give as little trouble as possible to other people. “Why should the printers have to work overtime because my letters are ill-formed and my words run into each other?” he once said, when a friend remonstrated with him because he took such pains with the writing of his “copy.” As a specimen of his careful penmanship the diary that he wrote for me, which is reproduced in this book in facsimile, is an admirable example.
They were happy days, those days in Oxford, spent with the most fascinating companion that a child could have. In our walks about the old town, in our visits to cathedral or chapel or hall, in our visits to his friends he was an ideal companion, but I think I was almost happiest when we came back to his rooms and had tea alone; when the fire-glow (it was always winter when I stayed in Oxford) threw fantastic shadows about the quaint room, and the thoughts of the prosiest of people must have wandered[Pg 34] a little into fancy-land. The shifting firelight seemed to almost ætherealise that kindly face, and as the wonderful stories fell from his lips, and his eyes lighted on me with the sweetest smile that ever a man wore, I was conscious of a love and reverence for Charles Dodgson that became nearly an adoration.
It was almost pain when the lights were turned up and we came back to everyday life and tea.
He was very particular about his tea, which he always made himself, and in order that it should draw properly he would walk about the room swinging the tea-pot from side to side for exactly ten minutes. The idea of the grave professor promenading his book-lined study and carefully waving a tea-pot to and fro may seem ridiculous, but all the minutiæ of life received an extreme attention at his hands, and after the first surprise one came quickly to realise the convenience that his carefulness ensured.
Before starting on a railway journey, for instance (and how delightful were railway journeys in the company of Lewis Carroll), [Pg 36]he used to map out exactly every minute of the time that we were to take on the way. The details of the journey completed, he 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. It was wonderful how much trouble he saved himself en route by thus making ready beforehand. Lewis Carroll was never driven half frantic on a station platform because he had to change a sovereign to buy a penny paper while the train was on the verge of starting. With him journeys were always comfortable.
Of the joys that waited on a little girl who stayed with Lewis Carroll at his Oxford home I can give no better idea than that furnished by the diary that follows, which he wrote for me, bit by bit, during the evenings of one of my stays at Oxford.
Text of Diary
[Pg 53]This diary, and what I have written before, show how I, as a little girl, knew Lewis Carroll at Oxford.
For his little girl friends, of course, he reserved the most intimate side of his nature, but on occasion he would throw off his reserve and talk earnestly and well to some young man in whose life he took an interest.
Mr. Arthur Girdlestone is able to bear witness to this, and he has given me an account of an evening that he once spent with Lewis Carroll, which I reproduce here from notes made during our conversation.
Mr. Girdlestone, then an undergraduate at New College, had on one occasion to call on Lewis Carroll at his rooms in Tom Quad. At the time of which I am speaking Lewis Carroll had retired very much from the society which he had affected a few years before. Indeed for the last years of his life he was almost a recluse, and beyond dining in Hall saw hardly any one. Miss Beatrice Hatch,[Pg 54] one of his “girl friends,” writes apropos of his hermit-like seclusion:—
“If you were very anxious to get him to come to your house on any particular day, the only chance was not to invite him, but only to inform him that you would be at home. Otherwise he would say, ‘As you have invited me I cannot come, for I have made a rule to decline all invitations; but I will come the next day.’ In former years he would sometimes consent to go to a ‘party’ if he was quite sure he was not to be ‘shown off’ or introduced to any one as the author of ‘Alice.’ I must again quote from a note of his in answer to an invitation to tea: ‘What an awful proposition! To drink tea from four to six would tax the constitution even of a hardened tea drinker! For me, who hardly ever touch it, it would probably be fatal.’”
All through the University, except in an extremely limited circle, Lewis Carroll was regarded as a person who lived very much[Pg 55] by himself. “When,” Mr. Girdlestone said to me, “I went to see him on quite a slight acquaintance, I confess it was with some slight feeling of trepidation. However I had to on some business, and accordingly I knocked at his door about 8.30 one winter’s evening, and was invited to come in.
“He was sitting working at a writing-table, and all round him were piles of MSS. arranged with mathematical neatness, and many of them tied up with tape. The lamp threw his face into sharp relief as he greeted me. My business was soon over, and I was about to go away, when he asked me if I would have a glass of wine and sit with him for a little.
“The night outside was very cold, and the fire was bright and inviting, and I sat down. He began to talk to me of ordinary subjects, of the things a man might do at Oxford, of the place itself, and the affection in which he held it. He talked quietly, and in a rather tired voice. During our[Pg 56] conversation my eye fell upon a photograph of a little girl—evidently from the freshness of its appearance but newly taken—which was resting upon the ledge of a reading-stand at my elbow. It was the picture of a tiny child, very pretty, and I picked it up to look at it.
“‘That is the baby of a girl friend of mine,’ he said, and then, with an absolute change of voice, ‘there is something very strange about very young children, something I cannot understand.’ I asked him in what way, and he explained at some length. He was far less at his ease than when talking trivialities, and he occasionally stammered and sometimes hesitated for a word. I cannot remember all he said, but some of his remarks still remain with me. He said that in the company of very little children his brain enjoyed a rest which was startlingly recuperative. If he had been working too hard or had tired his brain in any way, to play with children was like an[Pg 57] actual material tonic to his whole system. I understood him to say that the effect was almost physical!
“He said that he found it much easier to understand children, to get his mind into correspondence with their minds when he was fatigued with other work. Personally, I did not understand little children, and they seemed quite outside my experience, and rather incautiously I asked him if children never bored him. He had been standing up for most of the time, and when I asked him that, he sat down suddenly. ‘They are three-fourths of my life,’ he said. ‘I cannot understand how any one could be bored by little children. I think when you are older you will come to see this—I hope you’ll come to see it.’
“After that he changed the subject once more, and became again the mathematician—a little formal, and rather weary.”
Mr. Girdlestone probably had a unique experience, for it was but rarely that Mr.[Pg 58] Dodgson so far unburdened himself to a comparative stranger, and what was even worse, to a “grown-up stranger.”
Now I have given you two different phases of Lewis Carroll at Oxford—Lewis Carroll as the little girl’s companion, and Lewis Carroll sitting by the fireside telling something of his inner self to a young man. I am going on to talk about my life with him at Eastbourne, where I used, year by year, to stay with him at his house in Lushington Road.
He was very fond of Eastbourne, and it was from that place that I received the most charming letters that he wrote me. Here is one, and I could hardly say how many times I have taken this delightful letter from its drawer to read through and through again.
“7 Lushington Road, Eastbourne,
“September 17, 1893.
“Oh, you naughty, naughty little culprit! If only I could fly to Fulham with a handy little stick (ten feet long and four inches thick is my favourite size) how I would rap your wicked little knuckles. However, there isn’t much harm done, so I will sentence [Pg 59]you to a very mild punishment—only one year’s imprisonment. If you’ll just tell the Fulham policeman about it, he’ll manage all the rest for you, and he’ll fit you with a nice pair of handcuffs, and lock you up in a nice cosy dark cell, and feed you on nice dry bread, and delicious cold water.
[Pg 60]“But how badly you do spell your words! I was so puzzled about the ‘sacks full of love and baskets full of kisses!’ But at last I made out why, of course, you meant ‘a sack full of gloves, and a basket full of kittens!’ Then I understood what you were sending me. And just then Mrs. Dyer came to tell me a large sack and a basket had come. There was such a miawing in the house, as if all the cats in Eastbourne had come to see me! ‘Oh, just open them please, Mrs. Dyer, and count the things in them!’
“So in a few minutes Mrs. Dyer came and said, ‘500 pairs of gloves in the sack and 250 kittens in the basket.’
“‘Dear me! That makes 1000 gloves! four times as many gloves as kittens! It’s very kind of Maggie, but why did she send so many gloves? for I haven’t got 1000 hands, you know, Mrs. Dyer.’
“And Mrs. Dyer said, ‘No, indeed, you’re 998 hands short of that!’
“However the next day I made out what to do, and I took the basket with me and walked off to the parish school—the girl’s school, you know—and I said to the mistress, ‘How many little girls are there at school to-day?’
“‘Exactly 250, sir.’
[Pg 61]“‘And have they all been very good all day?’
“‘As good as gold, sir.’
“So I waited outside the door with my basket, and as each little girl came out, I just popped a soft little kitten into her hands! Oh, what joy there was! The little girls went all dancing home, nursing their kittens, and the whole air was full of purring! Then, the next morning, I went to the school, before it opened, to ask the little girls how the kittens had behaved in the night. And they all arrived sobbing and crying, and their faces and hands were all covered with scratches, and they had the kittens wrapped up in their pinafores to keep them from scratching any more. And they sobbed out, ‘The kittens have been scratching us all night, all the night.’
“So then I said to myself, ‘What a nice little girl Maggie is. Now I see why she sent all those gloves, and why there are four times as many gloves as kittens!’ and I said loud to the little girls, ‘Never mind, my dear children, do your lessons very nicely, and don’t cry any more, and when school is over, you’ll find me at the door, and you shall see what you shall see!’
“So, in the evening, when the little girls came running out, with the kittens still wrapped up in their pinafores, there was I, at the door, with a big sack! And, as each little girl came out, I just popped into her hand two pairs of gloves! And each little girl unrolled her pinafore and took out an angry little kitten, spitting and snarling, with its claws sticking out like a hedgehog. But it hadn’t time to scratch, [Pg 62]for, in one moment, it found all its four claws popped into nice soft warm gloves! And then the kittens got quite sweet-tempered and gentle, and began purring again!
“So the little girls went dancing home again, and the next morning they came dancing back to school. The scratches were all healed, and they told me ‘The kittens have been good!’ And, when any kitten wants to catch a mouse, it just takes off one of its gloves; and if it wants to catch two mice, it takes off two gloves; and if it wants to catch three mice, it takes off three gloves; and if it wants to catch four mice, it takes off all its gloves. But the moment they’ve caught the mice, they pop their gloves on again, because they know we can’t love them without their gloves. For, you see ‘gloves’ have got ‘love’ inside them—there’s none outside!
“So all the little girls said, ‘Please thank Maggie, and we send her 250 loves, and 1000 kisses in return for her 250 kittens and her 1000 loves!!’ And I told them in the wrong order! and they said they hadn’t.
“Your loving old Uncle,
“C. L. D.
“Love and kisses to Nellie and Emsie.”
This letter takes up eight pages of close writing, and I should very much doubt if any child ever had a more charming one from anybody. The whimsical fancy in it,[Pg 63] the absolute comprehension of a child’s intellect, the quickness with which the writer employs the slightest incident or thing that would be likely to please a little girl, is simply wonderful. I shall never forget how the letter charmed and delighted my sister Maggie and myself. We called it “The glove and kitten letter,” and as I look at the tremulous handwriting which is lying by my side, it all comes back to me very vividly—like the sound of forgotten fingers on the latch to some lonely fireside watcher, when the wind is wailing round the house with a wilder inner note than it has in the daytime.
At Eastbourne I was happier even with Lewis Carroll than I was at Oxford. We seemed more free, and there was the air of holiday over it all. Every day of my stay at the house in Lushington Road was a perfect dream of delight.
There was one regular and fixed routine which hardly ever varied, and which I came to know by heart; and I will write an[Pg 64] account of it here, and ask any little girl who reads it, if she ever had such a splendid time in her life.
To begin with, we used to get up very early indeed. Our bedroom doors faced each other at the top of the staircase. When I came out of mine I always knew if I might go into his room or not by his signal. If, when I came into the passage, I found that a newspaper had been put under the door, then I knew I might go in at once; but if there was no newspaper, then I had to wait till it appeared. I used to sit down on the top stair as quiet as a mouse, watching for the paper to come under the door, when I would rush in almost before uncle had time to get out of the way. This was always the first pleasure and excitement of the day. Then we used to downstairs to breakfast, after which we always read a chapter out of the Bible. So that I should remember it, I always had to tell it to him afterwards as a story of my own.
[Pg 66]“Now then, Isa dearest,” he would say, “tell me a story, and mind you begin with ‘once upon a time.’ A story which does not begin with ‘once upon a time’ can’t possibly be a good story. It’s most important.”
When I had told my story it was time to go out.
I was learning swimming at the Devonshire Park baths, and we always had a bargain together. He would never allow me to go to the swimming-bath—which I revelled in—until I had promised him faithfully that I would go afterwards to the dentist’s.
He had great ideas upon the importance of a regular and almost daily visit to the dentist. He himself went to a dentist as he would have gone to a hairdresser’s, and he insisted that all the little girls he knew should go too. The precaution sounds strange, and one might be inclined to think that Lewis Carroll carried it to an unnecessary length; but I can only bear personal[Pg 67] witness to the fact that I have firm strong teeth, and have never had a toothache in my life. I believe I owe this entirely to those daily visits to the Eastbourne dentist.
Soon after this it was time for lunch, and we both went back hand-in-hand to the rooms in Lushington Road. Lewis Carroll never had a proper lunch, a fact which always used to puzzle me tremendously.
I could not understand how a big grown-up man could live on a glass of sherry and a biscuit at dinner time. It seemed such a pity when there was lots of mutton and rice-pudding that he should not have any. I always used to ask him, “Aren’t you hungry, uncle, even to-day?”
After lunch I used to have a lesson in backgammon, a game of which he was passionately fond, and of which he could never have enough. Then came what to me was the great trial of the day. I am afraid I was a very lazy little girl in those days, and I know I hated walking far. The trial was,[Pg 68] that we should walk to the top of Beachy Head every afternoon. I used to like it very much when I got there, but the walk was irksome. Lewis Carroll believed very much in a great amount of exercise, and said one should always go to bed physically wearied with the exercise of the day. Accordingly there was no way out of it, and every afternoon I had to walk to the top of Beachy Head. He was very good and kind. He would invent all sorts of new games to beguile the tedium of the way. One very curious and strange trait in his character was shown on these walks. I used to be very fond of flowers and of animals also. A pretty dog or a hedge of honeysuckle were always pleasant events upon a walk to me. And yet he himself cared for neither flowers nor animals. Tender and kind as he was, simple and unassuming in all his tastes, yet he did not like flowers! I confess that even now I find it hard to understand. He knew children so thoroughly and well—perhaps[Pg 69] better than any one else—that it is all the stranger that he did not care for things that generally attract them so much. However, be that as it may, the fact remained. When I was in raptures over a poppy or a dogrose, he would try hard to be as interested as I was, but even to my childish eyes it was an obvious effort, and he would always rather invent some new game for us to play at. Once, and once only, I remember him to have taken an interest in a flower, and that was because of the folk-lore that was attached to it, and not because of the beauty of the flower itself.
We used to walk into the country that stretched, in beautiful natural avenues of trees, inland from Eastbourne. One day while we sat under a great tree, and the hum of the myriad insect life rivalled the murmur of the far-away waves, he took a foxglove from the heap that lay in my lap and told me the story of how they came by their name; how, in the old days, when, all over[Pg 70] England, there were great forests, like the forest of Arden that Shakespeare loved, the pixies, the “little folks,” used to wander at night in the glades, like Titania, and Oberon, and Puck, and because they took great pride in their dainty hands they made themselves gloves out of the flowers. So the particular flower that the “little folks” used came to be called “folks’ gloves.” Then, because the country people were rough and clumsy in their talk, the name was shortened into “Fox-gloves,” the name that every one uses now.
When I got very tired we used to sit down upon the grass, and he used to show me the most wonderful things made out of his handkerchief. Every one when a child has, I suppose, seen the trick in which a handkerchief is rolled up to look like a mouse, and then made to jump about by a movement of the hand. He did this better than any one I ever saw, and the trick was a never-failing joy. By a sort of consent[Pg 71] between us the handkerchief trick was kept especially for the walk to Beachy Head, when, about half-way, I was a little tired and wanted to rest. When we actually got to the Head there was tea waiting in the coastguard’s cottage. He always said I ate far too much, and he would never allow me more than one rock cake and a cup of tea. This was an invariable rule, and much as I wished for it, I was never allowed to have more than one rock cake.
It was in the coastguard’s house or on the grass outside that I heard most of his stories. Sometimes he would make excursions into the realms of pure romance, where there were scaly dragons and strange beasts that sat up and talked. In all these stories there was always an adventure in a forest, and the great scene of each tale always took place in a wood. The consummation of a story was always heralded by the phrase, “The children now came to a deep dark wood.” When I heard that[Pg 72] sentence, which was always spoken very slowly and with a solemn dropping of the voice, I always knew that the really exciting part was coming. I used to nestle a little nearer to him, and he used to hold me a little closer as he told of the final adventure.
He did not always tell me fairy tales, though I think I liked the fairy tale much the best. Sometimes he gave me accounts of adventures which had happened to him. There was one particularly thrilling story of how he was lost on Beachy Head in a sea fog, and had to find his way home by means of boulders. This was the more interesting because we were on the actual scene of the disaster, and to be there stimulated the imagination.
The summer afternoons on the great headland were very sweet and peaceful. I have never met a man so sensible to the influences of Nature as Lewis Carroll. When the sunset was very beautiful he was often affected by the sight. The widespread [Pg 73]wrinkled sea below, in the mellow melancholy light of the afternoon, seemed to fit in with his temperament. I have still a mental picture that I can recall of him on the cliff. Just as the sun was setting, and a cool breeze whispered round us, he would take off his hat and let the wind play with his hair, and he would look out to sea. Once I saw tears in his eyes, and when we turned to go he gripped my hand much tighter than usual.
[Pg 74]We generally got back to dinner about seven or earlier. He would never let me change my frock for the meal, even if we were going to a concert or theatre afterwards. He had a curious theory that a child should not change her clothes twice in one day. He himself made no alteration in his dress at dinner time, nor would he permit me to do so. Yet he was not by any means an untidy or slovenly man. He had many little fads in dress, but his great horror and abomination was high-heeled shoes[Pg 75] with pointed toes. No words were strong enough, he thought, to describe such monstrous things.
Lewis Carroll was a deeply religious man, and on Sundays at Eastbourne we always went twice to church. Yet he held that no child should be forced into church-going against its will. Such a state of mind in a child, he said, needed most careful treatment, and the very worst thing to do was to make attendance at the services compulsory. Another habit of his, which must, I feel sure, sound rather dreadful to many, was that, should the sermon prove beyond my comprehension, he would give me a little book to read; it was better far, he maintained, to read, than to stare idly about the church. When the rest of the congregation rose at the entrance of the choir he kept his seat. He argued that rising to one’s feet at such a time tended to make the choir-boys conceited. I think he was quite right.
He kept no special books for Sunday[Pg 76] reading, for he was most emphatically of opinion that anything tending to make Sunday a day dreaded by a child should be studiously avoided. He did not like me to sew on Sunday unless it was absolutely necessary.
One would have hardly expected that a man of so reserved a nature as Lewis Carroll would have taken much interest in the stage. Yet he was devoted to the theatre, and one of the commonest of the treats that he gave his little girl friends was to organise a party for the play. As a critic of acting he was naïve and outspoken, and never hesitated to find fault if he thought it justifiable. The following letter that he wrote to me criticising my acting in “Richard III.” when I was playing with Richard Mansfield, is one of the most interesting that I ever received from him. Although it was written for a child to understand and profit by, and moreover written in the simplest possible way, it yet even now strikes me as a trenchant and valuable piece of criticism.
“Ch. Ch. Oxford,
“Ap. 4, ’89.
“My Lord Duke,—The photographs, which Your Grace did me the honour of sending arrived safely; and I can assure your Royal Highness that I am very glad to have them, and like them very much, particularly the large head of your late Royal Uncle’s little little son. I do not wonder that your excellent Uncle Richard should say ‘off with his head!’ as a hint to the photographer to print it off. Would your Highness like me to go on calling you the Duke of York, or shall I say ‘my own own darling Isa?’ Which do you like best?
“Now I’m going to find fault with my pet about her acting. What’s the good of an old Uncle like me except to find fault?
“You do the meeting with the Prince of Wales very nicely and lovingly; and, in teasing your Uncle for his dagger and his sword, you are very sweet and playful and—‘but that’s not finding fault!’ Isa says to herself. Isn’t it? Well, I’ll try again. Didn’t I hear you say ‘In weightier things you’ll say a beggar nay,’ leaning on the word ‘beggar’? If so, it was a mistake. My rule for knowing which word to lean on is the word that tells you something new, something that is different from what you expected.
“Take the sentence ‘first I bought a bag of apples, then I bought a bag of pears,’ you wouldn’t say ‘then I bought a bag of pears.’ The ‘bag’ is nothing new, because it was a bag in the first part of the sentence. But the pears are new, and different from the[Pg 79] apples. So you would say, ‘then I bought a bag of pears.’
“Do you understand that, my pet?”
“Now what you say to Richard amounts to this, ‘With light gifts you’ll say to a beggar “yes”: with heavy gifts you’ll say to a beggar “nay.”’ The words ‘you’ll say to a beggar’ are the same both times; so you mustn’t lean on any of those words. But ‘light’ is different from ‘heavy,’ and ‘yes’ is different from ‘nay.’ So the way to say the sentence would be ‘with light gifts you’ll say to a beggar “yes”: with heavy gifts you’ll say to a beggar “nay”.’ And the way to say the lines in the play is—
‘O, then I see you will part but with light gifts;
In weightier things you’ll say a beggar nay.’
“One more sentence.
“When Richard says, ‘What, would you have my weapon, little Lord?’ and you reply ‘I would, that I might thank you as you call me,’ didn’t I hear you pronounce ‘thank’ as if it were spelt with an ‘e’? I know it’s very common (I often do it myself) to say ‘thenk you!’ as an exclamation by itself. I suppose it’s an odd way of pronouncing the word. But I’m sure it’s wrong to pronounce it so when it comes into a sentence. It will sound much nicer if you’ll pronounce it so as to rhyme with ‘bank.’
“One more thing. (‘What an impertinent old uncle! Always finding fault!’) You’re not as natural, when acting the Duke, as you were when you acted Alice. You seemed to me not to forgot yourself[Pg 80] enough. It was not so much a real prince talking to his elder brother and his uncle; it was Isa Bowman talking to people she didn’t much care about, for an audience to listen to—I don’t mean it was that all through, but sometimes you were artificial. Now don’t be jealous of Miss Hatton, when I say she was sweetly natural. She looked and spoke like a real Prince of Wales. And she didn’t seem to know that there was any audience. If you are ever to be a good actress (as I hope you will), you must learn to forget ‘Isa’ altogether, and be the character you are playing. Try to think ‘This is really the Prince of Wales. I’m his little brother, and I’m very glad to meet him, and I love him very much,’ and ‘this is really my uncle: he’s very kind, and lets me say saucy things to him,’ and do forget that there’s anybody else listening!
“My sweet pet, I hope you won’t be offended with me for saying what I fancy might make your acting better!
“Your loving old Uncle,
X for Nellie.
X for Maggie.
X for Emsie.
X for Isa.”
He was a fairly constant patron of all the London theatres, save the Gaiety and the Adelphi, which he did not like, and numbered a good many theatrical folk among his[Pg 81] acquaintances. Miss Ellen Terry was one of his greatest friends. Once I remember we made an expedition from Eastbourne to Margate to visit Miss Sarah Thorne’s theatre, and especially for the purpose of seeing Miss Violet Vanbrugh’s Ophelia. He was a great admirer of both Miss Violet and Miss Irene Vanbrugh as actresses. Of Miss Thorne’s school of acting, too, he had the highest opinion, and it was his often expressed wish that all intending players could have so excellent a course of tuition. Among the male members of the theatrical profession he had no especial favourites, excepting Mr. Toole and Mr. Richard Mansfield.
He never went to a music-hall, but considered that, properly managed, they might be beneficial to the public. It was only when the refrain of some particularly vulgar music-hall song broke upon his ears in the streets that he permitted himself to speak harshly about variety theatres.
[Pg 82]Comic opera, when it was wholesome, he liked, and was a frequent visitor to the Savoy theatre. The good old style of Pantomime, too, was a great delight to him, and he would often speak affectionately of the pantomimes at Brighton during the régime of Mr. and Mrs. Nye Chart. But of the up-to-date pantomime he had a horror, and nothing would induce him to visit one. “When pantomimes are written for children once more,” he said, “I will go. Not till then.”
Once when a friend told him that she was about to take her little girls to the pantomime, he did not rest till he had dissuaded her.
To conclude what I have said about Lewis Carroll’s affection for the dramatic art, I will give a kind of examination paper, written for a child who had been learning a recitation called “The Demon of the Pit.” Though his stuttering prevented him from being himself anything of a reciter, he loved [Pg 83]correct elocution, and would take any pains to make a child perfect in a piece.
[Pg 84]First of all there is an explanatory paragraph.
“As you don’t ask any questions about ‘The Demon of the Pit,’ I suppose you understand it all. So please answer these questions just as you would do if a younger child (say Mollie) asked them.”
Mollie. Please, Ethel, will you explain this poem to me. There are some very hard words in it.
Ethel. What are they, dear?
Mollie. Well, in the first line, “If you chance to make a sally.” What does “sally” mean?
Ethel. Dear Mollie, I believe sally means to take a chance work.
Mollie. Then, near the end of the first verse—“Whereupon she’ll call her cronies”—what[Pg 85] does “whereupon” mean? And what are cronies?
Ethel. I think whereupon means at the same time, and cronies means her favourite playfellows.
Mollie. “And invest in proud polonies.” What’s to “invest?”
Ethel. To invest means to spend money in anything you fancy.
Mollie. And what’s “A woman of the day?”
Ethel. A woman of the day means a wonder of the time with the general public.
Mollie. “Pyrotechnic blaze of wit.” What’s pyrotechnic?
Ethel. Mollie, I think you will find that pyrotechnic means quick, with flashes of lightning.
Mollie. Then the 8 lines that begin “The astounding infant wonder”—please explain “rôle” and “mise” and “tout ensemble” and “grit.”
Ethel. Well, Mollie, “rôle” means so[Pg 86] many different things, but in “The Demon of the Pit” I should think it meant the leading part of the piece, and “mise” means something extra good introduced, and “tout” means to seek for applause, but “ensemble” means the whole of the parts taken together, and grit means something good.
Mollie. “And the Goblins prostrate tumble.” What’s “prostrate”?
Ethel. I believe prostrate means to be cast down and unhappy.
Mollie. “And his accents shake a bit.” What are “accents”?
Ethel. To accent is to lay stress upon a word.
Mollie. “Waits resignedly behind.” What’s “resignedly”?
Ethel. Resignedly means giving up, yielding.
Mollie. “They have tripe as light to dream on.” What does “as” mean here? and what does “to dream on” mean?
[Pg 87]Ethel. Mollie, dear, your last question is very funny. In the first place, I have always been told that hot suppers are not good for any one, and I should think that tripe would not be light to dream on but VERY heavy.
Mollie. Thank you, Ethel.
I have now nearly finished my little memoir of Lewis Carroll; that is to say, I have written down all that I can remember of my personal knowledge of him. But I think it is from the letters and the diaries published in this book that my readers must chiefly gain an insight into the character of the greatest friend to children who ever lived. Not only did he study children’s ways for his own pleasure, but he studied them in order that he might please them. For instance, here is a letter that he wrote to my little sister Nelly eight years ago, which begins on the last page and is written entirely backwards—a kind of variant on his[Pg 88] famous “Looking-Glass” writing. You have to begin at the last word and read backwards before you can understand it. The only ordinary thing about it is the date. It begins—I mean begins if one was to read it in the ordinary way—with the characteristic monogram, C. L. D.
“Nov. 1, 1891.
“C. L. D., Uncle loving your! Instead grandson his to it give to had you that so, years 80 or 70 for it forgot you that was it pity a what and: him of fond so were you wonder don’t I and, gentleman old nice very a was he. For it made you that him been have must it see you so: grandfather my was, then alive was that, ‘Dodgson Uncle’ only the. Born was I before long was that, see you, then But. ‘Dodgson Uncle for pretty thing some make I’ll now,’ it began you when, yourself to said you that, me telling her without, knew I course of and: ago years many great a it made had you said she. Me told Isa what from was it? For meant was it who out made I how know you do! Lasted has it well how and. Grandfather my for made had you Antimacassar pretty that me give to you of nice so was it, Nelly dear my.”
Miss Hatch has also sent me an original letter that Lewis Carroll wrote to her in 1873, about a large wax doll that he had given her. It is interesting to notice that this letter, written long before any of the others that he wrote to me, is identically the same in form and expression. It is a striking proof how fresh and unimpaired the writer’s sympathies must have been. Year after year he retained the same sweet, kindly temperament, and, if anything, his love for children seemed to increase as he grew older.
[Pg 92]“My dear Birdie,—I met her just outside Tom Gate, walking very stiffly, and I think she was trying to find her way to my rooms. So I said, ‘Why have you come here without Birdie?’ So she said, ‘Birdie’s gone! and Emily’s gone! and Mabel isn’t kind to me!’ And two little waxy tears came running down her cheeks.
“Why, how stupid of me! I’ve never told you who it was all the time! It was your new doll. I was very glad to see her, and I took her to my room, and gave her some vesta matches to eat, and a cup of nice melted wax to drink, for the poor little thing was very hungry and thirsty after her long walk. So I said, ‘Come and sit down by the fire, and let’s have a comfortable chat?’ ‘Oh no! no!’ she said, ‘I’d much rather not. You know I do melt so very easily!’ And she made me take her quite to the other side of the room, where it was very cold: and then she sat on my knee, and fanned herself with a pen-wiper, because she said she was afraid the end of her nose was beginning to melt.
“‘You’ve no idea how careful we have to be,’ we dolls, she said. ‘Why, there was a sister of mine—would you believe it?—she went up to the fire to warm her hands, and one of her hands dropped right off! There now!’ ‘Of course it dropped right off,’ I said, ‘because it was the right hand.’ ‘And how do you know it was the right hand, Mister Carroll?’ the doll said. So I said, ‘I think it must have been the right hand because the other hand was left.’
“The doll said, ‘I shan’t laugh. It’s a very bad[Pg 93] joke. Why, even a common wooden doll could make a better joke than that. And besides, they’ve made my mouth so stiff and hard, that I can’t laugh if I try ever so much?’ ‘Don’t be cross about it,’ I said, ‘but tell me this: I’m going to give Birdie and the other children one photograph each, which ever they choose; which do you think Birdie will choose?’ ‘I don’t know,’ said the doll; ‘you’d better ask her!’ So I took her home in a hansom cab. Which would you like, do you think? Arthur as Cupid? or Arthur and Wilfred together? or you and Ethel as beggar children? or Ethel standing on a box? or, one of yourself?—Your affectionate friend,
Among the bundle of letters and MS. before me, I find written on a half sheet of note-paper the following Ollendorfian dialogue. It is interesting because, slight and trivial as it is, it in some strange way bears the imprint of Lewis Carroll’s style. The thing is written in the familiar violet ink, and neatly dated in the corner 29/9/90:—
“Let’s go and look at the house I want to buy. Now do be quick! You move so slow! What a time you take with your boots!”
[Pg 94]“Don’t make such a row about it: it’s not two o’clock yet. How do you like this house?”
“I don’t like it. It’s too far down the hill. Let’s go higher. I heard a nice account of one at the top, built on an improved plan.”
“What does the rent amount to?”
“Oh, the rent’s all right: it’s only nine pounds a year.”
Over all matters connected with letter writing, Lewis Carroll was accustomed to take great pains. All letters that he received that were of any interest or importance whatever he kept, putting them away in old biscuit tins, numbers of which he kept for the purpose.
In 1888 he published a little book which he called “Eight or Nine Wise Words about Letter Writing,” and as this little book of mine is so full of letters, I think I can do no better than make a few extracts:—
[Pg 96]“Write Legibly.—The average temper of the human race would be perceptibly sweeter if every one obeyed this rule! A great deal of the bad writing in the world comes simply from writing too quickly. Of course you reply, ‘I do it to save time.’ A very good object, no doubt; but what right have you to do it at your friend’s expense? Isn’t his time as valuable as yours? Years ago I used to receive letters from a friend—and very interesting letters too—written in one of the most atrocious hands ever invented. It generally took me about a week to read one of his letters! I used to carry it about in my pocket, and take it out at leisure times, to puzzle over the riddles which composed it—holding it in different positions, and at different distances, till at last the meaning of some hopeless scrawl would flash upon me, when I at once wrote down the English under it; and, when several had thus been guessed, the context would help one with the others, till at last the whole series of hieroglyphics was deciphered. If all one’s friends wrote like that, life would be entirely spent in reading their letters.”
In writing the last wise word, the author no doubt had some of his girl correspondents in his mind’s eye, for he says—
“My Ninth Rule.—When you get to the end of a note sheet, and find you have more to say, take another piece of paper—a whole sheet or a scrap, as the case may demand; but, whatever you do, don’t[Pg 97] cross! Remember the old proverb, ‘Cross writing makes cross reading.’ ‘The old proverb,’ you say inquiringly; ‘how old?’ Well, not so very ancient, I must confess. In fact I’m afraid I invented it while writing this paragraph. Still you know ‘old’ is a comparative term. I think you would be quite justified in addressing a chicken just out of the shell as ‘Old Boy!’ when compared with another chicken that was only half out!”
I have another diary to give to my readers, a diary that Lewis Carroll wrote for my sister Maggie when, a tiny child, she came to Oxford to play the child part, Mignon, in “Booties’ Baby.” He was delighted with the pretty play, for the interest that the soldiers took in the little lost girl, and how a mere interest ripened into love, till the little Mignon was queen of the barracks, went straight to his heart. I give the diary in full:—
“MAGGIE’S VISIT TO OXFORD
June 9 to 13, 1899
When Maggie once to Oxford came
On tour as ‘Booties’ Baby,’
She said ‘I’ll see this place of fame,
[Pg 98]However dull the day be!’
So with her friend she visited
The sights that it was rich in:
And first of all she poked her head
Inside the Christ Church Kitchen.
The cooks around that little child
Stood waiting in a ring:
And, every time that Maggie smiled,
Those cooks began to sing—
Shouting the Battle-cry of Freedom!
‘Roast, boil, and bake,
For Maggie’s sake!
Bring cutlets fine,
For her to dine:
Meringues so sweet,
For her to eat—
For Maggie may be
Then hand-in-hand, in pleasant talk,
They wandered, and admired
The Hall, Cathedral, and Broad Walk,
Till Maggie’s feet were tired:
One friend they called upon—her name
Was Mrs. Hassall—then
Into a College Room they came,
Some savage Monster’s Den!
‘And, when that Monster dined, I guess
[Pg 99]He tore her limb from limb?’
Well, no: in fact, I must confess
That Maggie dined with him!
To Worcester Garden next they strolled—
Admired its quiet lake:
Then to St. John’s, a College old,
Their devious way they take.
In idle mood they sauntered round
Its lawns so green and flat:
And in that Garden Maggie found
A lovely Pussey-Cat!
A quarter of an hour they spent
In wandering to and fro:
And everywhere that Maggie went,
That Cat was sure to go—
Shouting the Battle-cry of Freedom!
Come, make your bow!
Take off your hats,
Ye Pussy Cats!
And purr, and purr,
To welcome her—
For Maggie may be
So back to Christ Church—not too late
For them to go and see
A Christ Church Undergraduate,
[Pg 100]Who gave them cakes and tea.
Next day she entered, with her guide,
The Garden called ‘Botanic’:
And there a fierce Wild-Boar she spied,
Enough to cause a panic!
But Maggie didn’t mind, not she!
She would have faced alone,
That fierce Wild-Boar, because, you see,
The thing was made of stone!
On Magdalen walls they saw a face
That filled her with delight,
A giant-face, that made grimace
And grinned with all its might!
A little friend, industrious,
Pulled upwards, all the while,
The corner of its mouth, and thus
He helped that face to smile!
‘How nice,’ thought Maggie, ‘it would be
If I could have a friend
To do that very thing for me,
And make my mouth turn up with glee,
By pulling at one end!’
In Magdalen Park the deer are wild
With joy that Maggie brings
Some bread a friend had given the child,
To feed the pretty things.
They flock round Maggie without fear:
[Pg 101]They breakfast and they lunch,
They dine, they sup, those happy deer—
Still, as they munch and munch,
Shouting the Battle-cry of Freedom!
‘Yes, Deer are we,
And dear is she!
We love this child
So sweet and mild:
We all rejoice
At Maggie’s voice:
We all are fed
With Maggie’s bread—
For Maggie may be
To Pembroke College next they go,
Where little Maggie meets
The Master’s wife and daughter: so
Once more into the streets.
They met a Bishop on their way—
A Bishop large as life—
With loving smile that seemed to say
‘Will Maggie be my wife?’
Maggie thought not, because, you see,
She was so very young,
And he was old as old could be—
So Maggie held her tongue.
‘My Lord, she’s Bootles’ Baby: we
[Pg 102]Are going up and down,’
Her friend explained, ‘that she may see
The sights of Oxford-town.’
‘Now say what kind of place it is!’
The Bishop gaily cried.
‘The best place in the Provinces!’
That little maid replied.
Next to New College, where they saw
Two players hurl about
A hoop, but by what rule or law
They could not quite make out.
‘Ringo’ the Game is called, although
‘Les Graces’ was once its name,
When it was—as its name will show—
A much more graceful Game.
The Misses Symonds next they sought,
Who begged the child to take
A book they long ago had bought—
A gift for friendship’s sake!
Away, next morning, Maggie went
From Oxford-town: but yet
The happy hours she there had spent
She could not soon forget.
The train is gone: it rumbles on:
The engine-whistle screams:
But Maggie’s deep in rosy sleep—
And softly, in her dreams,
Whispers the Battle-cry of Freedom!
She seems to sigh,
‘You dear old City,
With Gardens pretty,
And lawns, and flowers,
And Tom’s great Bell—
For Maggie may be
The tale has been often told of how “Alice in Wonderland” came to be written, but it is a tale so well worth the telling again, that, very shortly, I will give it to you here.
Years ago in the great quadrangle of Christ Church, opposite to Mr. Dodgson, lived the little daughters of Dean Liddell, the great Greek scholar and Dean of Christ Church. The little girls were great friends of Mr. Dodgson’s, and they used often to come to him and to plead with him for a fairy tale. There was never such a teller of tales, they thought! One can imagine the whole delightful scene with little trouble.[Pg 105] That big cool room on some summer’s afternoon, when the air was heavy with flower scents, and the sounds that came floating in through the open window were all mellowed by the distance. One can see him, that good and kindly gentleman, his mobile face all aglow with interest and love, telling the immortal story.
Round him on his knee sat the little sisters, their eyes wide open and their lips parted in breathless anticipation. When Alice (how the little Alice Liddell who was listening must have loved the tale!) rubbed the mushroom and became so big that she quite filled the little fairy house, one can almost hear the rapturous exclamations of the little ones as they heard of it.
The story, often continued on many summer afternoons, sometimes in the cool Christ Church rooms, sometimes in a slow gliding boat in a still river between banks of rushes and strange bronze and yellow waterflowers, or sometimes in a great hay-field, with the[Pg 106] insects whispering in the grass all round, grew in its conception and idea.
Other folk, older folk, came to hear of it from the little ones, and Mr. Dodgson was begged to write it down. Accordingly the first MS. was prepared with great care and illustrated by the author. Then, in 1865, memorable year for English children, “Alice” appeared in its present form, with Sir John Tenniel’s drawings.
In 1872 “Alice Through the Looking-Glass,” appeared, and was received as warmly as its predecessor. That fact, I think, proves most conclusively that Lewis Carroll’s success was a success of absolute merit, and due to no mere mood or fashion of the public taste. I can conceive nothing more difficult for a man who has had a great success with one book than to write a sequel which should worthily succeed it. In the present case that is exactly what Lewis Carroll did. “Through the Looking-Glass” is every whit as popular and charming as[Pg 107] the older book. Indeed one depends very much upon the other, and in every child’s book-shelves one sees the two masterpieces side by side.
Text of A Charade
[Pg 111]While on the subject of the two “Alices,” I will put in a letter that he wrote mentioning his books. He was so modest about them, that it was extremely difficult to get him to say, or write, anything at all about them. I believe it was a far greater pleasure for him to know that he had pleased some child with “Alice” or “The Hunting of the Snark,” than it was to be hailed by the press and public as the first living writer for children.
“My own darling Isa,—The full value of a copy of the French ‘Alice’ is £45: but, as you want the ‘cheapest’ kind, and as you are a great friend of mine, and as I am of a very noble, generous disposition, I have made up my mind to a great sacrifice, and have taken £3, 10s. 0d. off the price. So that you do not owe me more than £41, 10s. 0d., and this you can pay me, in gold or bank-notes as soon as you ever like. Oh dear! I wonder why I write such nonsense! Can you explain to me, my pet, how it happens that when I take up my pen to write a letter to you it won’t write sense? Do you think the rule is that when the pen finds it has to write to a nonsensical good-for-nothing child, it sets to work to write a nonsensical good-for-nothing letter? Well, now I’ll[Pg 112] tell you the real truth. As Miss Kitty Wilson is a dear friend of yours, of course she’s a sort of a friend of mine. So I thought (in my vanity) ‘perhaps she would like to have a copy’ from the author, ‘with her name written in it.’ So I’ve sent her one—but I hope she’ll understand that I do it because she’s your friend, for, you see, I had never heard of her before: so I wouldn’t have any other reason.
“I’m still exactly ‘on the balance’ (like those scales of mine, when Nellie says ‘it won’t weigh!’) as to whether it would be wise to have my pet Isa down here! how am I to make it weigh, I wonder? Can you advise any way to do it? I’m getting on grandly with ‘Sylvie and Bruno Concluded.’ I’m afraid you’ll expect me to give you a copy of it? Well, I’ll see if I have one to spare. It won’t be out before Easter-tide, I’m afraid.
“I wonder what sort of condition the book is in that I lent you to take to America? (‘Laneton Parsonage,’ I mean). Very shabby, I expect. I find lent books never come back in good condition. However, I’ve got a second copy of this book, so you may keep it as your own. Love and kisses to any one you know who is lovely and kissable.—
“Always your loving Uncle,
“C. L. D.”
In 1876 appeared the long poem called the “Hunting of the Snark; or, An Agony in Eight Fits,” and besides those verses we[Pg 113] have from Lewis Carroll’s pen two books called “Phantasmagoria” and “Rhyme and Reason.”
The last work of his that attained any great celebrity was “Sylvie and Bruno,” a curious romance, half fairy tale, half mathematical treatise. Mr. Dodgson was employed of late years on his “Symbolic Logic,” only one part of which has been published, and he seems to have been influenced by his studies. One can easily trace the trail of the logician in Sylvie and Bruno, and perhaps this resulted in a certain lack of “form.” However, some of the nonsense verses in this book were up to the highest level of the author’s achievement. Even as I write the verse comes to me—
“He thought he saw a kangaroo
Turning a coffee-mill;
He looked again, and found it was
A vegetable pill!
‘Were I to swallow you,’ he said,
‘I should be very ill’!”
[Pg 114]The fascinating jingle stays in the memory when graver verse eludes all effort at recollection. I personally could repeat “The Walrus and the Carpenter” from beginning to end without hesitation, but I should find a difficulty in writing ten lines of “Hamlet” correctly.
At the beginning of “Sylvie and Bruno” is a little poem in three verses which forms an acrostic on my name. I quote it—
“Is all our life, then, but a dream,
Seen faintly in the golden gleam
Athwart Time’s dark resistless stream?
Bowed to the earth with bitter woe,
Or laughing at some raree-show,
We flutter idly to and fro.
Man’s little day in haste we spend,
And, from its merry noontide, send
No glance to meet the silent end.”
You see that if you take the first letter of each line, or if you take the first three letters of the first line of each verse, you get the name Isa Bowman.
Text of Prologue
[Pg 116]Although he never wrote anything in the dramatic line, he once wrote a prologue for some private theatricals, which was to be spoken by Miss Hatch and her brother. This prologue is reproduced in facsimile on the preceding page.
Miss Hatch has also sent me a charade (reproduced on pp. 108-10) which he wrote for her, and illustrated with some of his funny drawings.
I have one more letter, the last, which, as it mentions the book “Sylvie and Bruno,” I will give now.
“May 16, ’90.
“Dearest Isa,—I had this (‘this’ was ‘Sylvie and Bruno’) bound for you when the book first came out, and it’s been waiting here ever since Dec. 17, for I really didn’t dare to send it across the Atlantic—the whales are so inconsiderate. They’d have been sure to want to borrow it to show to the little whales, quite forgetting that the salt water would be sure to spoil it.
“Also, I’ve only been waiting for you to get back to send Emsie the ‘Nursery Alice.’ I give it to the youngest in a family generally; but I’ve given one[Pg 117] to Maggie as well, because she travels about so much, and I thought she would like to have one to take with her. I hope Nellie’s eyes won’t get quite green with jealousy, at two (indeed three!) of her sisters getting presents, and nothing for her! I’ve nothing but my love to send her to-day: but she shall have something some day.—Ever your loving
Socially, Lewis Carroll was of strong conservative tendencies. He viewed with wonder and a little pain the absolute levelling tendencies of the last few years of his life. I have before me an extremely interesting letter which deals with social observances, and from which I am able to make one or two extracts. The bulk of the letter is of a private nature.
“Ladies have ‘to be much’ more particular than gentlemen in observing the distinctions of what is called ‘social position’: and the lower their own position is (in the scale of ‘lady’ ship), the more jealous they seem to be in guarding it.... I’ve met with just the same thing myself from people several degrees above me. Not long ago I was staying in a house along with a young lady (about twenty years old, I should think) with a title of her own, as she was an earl’s daughter. I happened to sit next[Pg 118] her at dinner, and every time I spoke to her, she looked at me more as if she was looking down on me from about a mile up in the air, and as if she were saying to herself ‘How dare you speak to me! Why, you’re not good enough to black my shoes!’ It was so unpleasant, that, next day at luncheon, I got as far off her as I could!
“Of course we are all quite equal in God’s sight, but we do make a lot of distinctions (some of them quite unmeaning) among ourselves!”
The picture that this letter gives of the famous writer and learned mathematician obviously rather in terror of some pert young lady fresh from the schoolroom is not without its comic side. One cannot help imagining that the girl must have been very young indeed, for if he were alive to-day there are few ladies of any state who would not feel honoured by the presence of Charles Dodgson.
However, he was not always so unfortunate in his experience of great people, and the following letter, written when he was staying with Lord Salisbury at Hatfield House, tells delightfully of his little[Pg 119] royal friends, the Duchess of Albany’s children:
“Hatfield House, Hatfield,
“Herts, June 8, ’89.”
“My darling Isa,—I hope this will find you, but I haven’t yet had any letter from Fulham, so I can’t be sure if you have yet got into your new house.
“This is Lord Salisbury’s house (he is the father, you know, of that Lady Maud Wolmer that we had luncheon with): I came yesterday, and I’m going to stay until Monday. It is such a nice house to stay in! They let one do just as one likes—it isn’t ‘Now you must do some geography! now it’s time for your sums!’ the sort of life some little girls have to lead when they are so foolish as to visit friends—but one can just please one’s own dear self.
“There are some sweet little children staying in the house. Dear little ‘Wang’ is here with her mother. By the way, I made a mistake in telling you what to call her. She is ‘the Honourable Mabel Palmer’—‘Palmer’ is the family name: ‘Wolmer’ is the title, just as the family name of Lord Salisbury is ‘Cecil,’ so that his daughter was Lady Maud Cecil, till she married.
“Then there is the Duchess of Albany here, with two such sweet little children. She is the widow of Prince Leopold (the Queen’s youngest son), so her children are a Prince and Princess: the girl is ‘Alice,’ but I don’t know the boy’s Christian name: they call him ‘Albany,’ because he is the Duke of Albany.[Pg 120] Now that I have made friends with a real live little Princess, I don’t intend ever to speak to any more children that haven’t any titles. In fact, I’m so proud, and I hold my chin so high, that I shouldn’t even see you if we met! No, darlings, you mustn’t believe that. If I made friends with a dozen Princesses, I would love you better than all of them together, even if I had them all rolled up into a sort of child-roly-poly.
“Love to Nellie and Emsie.—Your ever loving Uncle,
“C. L. D.”
X X X X X X X
And now I think that I have done all that has been in my power to present Lewis Carroll to you in his most delightful aspect—as a friend to children. I have not pretended in any way to write an exhaustive life-story of the man who was so dear to me, but by the aid of the letters and the diaries that I have been enabled to publish, and by the few reminiscences that I have given you of Lewis Carroll as I knew him, I hope I have done something to bring still nearer to your hearts the memory of the greatest friend that children ever had.
 This refers to my visit to America when, as a child, I played the little Duke of York in “Richard III.”
 At this point the real child’s answers begin, the three or four lines alone were written by Mr. Dodgson himself.—Ed.
Text of Diary
Isa’s Visit to Oxford.
On Wednesday, the Eleventh of July, Isa happened to meet a friend at Paddington Station at half-past-ten. She can’t remember his name, but she says he was an old old old gentleman, and he had invited her, she thinks, to go with him somewhere or other, she can’t remember where.
The first thing they did, after calling at a shop, was to go to the Panorama of the “Falls of Niagara”. Isa thought it very wonderful. You seemed to be on the top of a tower, with miles and miles of country all round you. The things in front were real, and somehow they joined into the picture behind, so that you couldn’t tell where the real things ended and the picture began. Near the foot of the Falls, there was a steam-packet crossing the river, which showed what a tremendous height the Falls must be, it looked so tiny. In the road in front were two men and a dog, standing looking the other way. They may have been wooden figures, or part of the picture, there was no knowing which. The man, who stood next to Isa, said to another man “That dog looked round just now. Now see, I’ll whistle to him, and make him look round again!” And he began whistling: and Isa almost expected, it looked so exactly like a real dog, that it would turn its head to see who was calling it!
After that Isa and her friend (the Aged Aged Man) went to the house of a Mr Dymes. Mrs Dymes gave them some dinner, and two of her children, called Helen and Maud, went with them to Terry’s Theatre, to see the play of “Little Lord Fauntleroy”. Little Véra Beringer was the little Lord Fauntleroy. Isa would have liked to play the part, but the Manager at the Theatre did not allow her, as she did not know the words, which would have made it go off badly. Isa liked the whole play very much: the passionate old Earl, and the gentle Mother of the little boy, and the droll “Mr. Hobbs”, and all of them.
Then they all went off by the Metropolitan Railway, and the two Miss Dymeses got out at their station, and Isa and the A.A.M. went on to Oxford. A kind old lady, called Mrs Symonds, had invited Isa to come and sleep at her house: and she was soon fast asleep, and dreaming that she and little Lord Fauntleroy were going in a steamer down the Falls of Niagara, and whistling to a dog, who was in such a hurry to go up the Falls that he wouldn’t attend to them.
The next morning Isa set off, almost before she was awake, with the A.A.M., to pay a visit to a little College, called “Christ Church”. You go in under a magnificent tower, called “Tom Tower”, nearly four feet high (so that Isa had hardly to stoop at all, to go under it) into the Great Quadrangle (which very vulgar people call “Tom Quad”.) You should always be polite, even when speaking to a Quadrangle: it might seem not to take any notice, but it doesn’t like being called names. On their way to Christ Church they saw a tall monument, like the spire of a church, called the “Martyrs’ Memorial”, put up in memory of three Bishops, Cranmer, Ridley and Latimer, who were burned in the reign of Queen Mary, because they would not be Roman Catholics. Christ Church was built in 1546.
They had breakfast at Ch. Ch., in the rooms of the A.A.M., and then Isa learned how to print with the “Typewriter”, and printed several beautiful volumes of poetry, all of her own invention. By this time it was 1 o’clock, so Isa paid a visit to the Kitchen, to make sure that the chicken, for her dinner, was being properly roasted The Kitchen is about the oldest part of the College, so was built about 1546. It has a fire-grate large enough to roast forty legs of mutton at once.
Then they saw the Dining Hall, in which the A.A.M. has dined several times, (about 8,000 times, perhaps). After dinner, they went, through the quadrangle of the Bodleian Library, into Broad Street, and, as a band was just going by, of course they followed it. (Isa likes Bands better than anything in the world, except Lands, and walking on Sands, and wringing her Hands). The Band led them into the gardens of Wadham College (built in 1613), where there was a school-treat going on. The treat was, first marching twice round the garden—then having a photograph done of them, all in a row—then a promise of “Punch and Judy”, which wouldn’t be ready for 20 minutes, so Isa, and Co., wouldn’t wait, but went back to Ch. Ch., and saw the “Broad Walk.” In the evening they played at “Reversi”, till Isa had lost the small remainder of her temper. Then she went to bed, and dreamed she was Judy, and was beating Punch with a stick of Barley-sugar.
On Friday morning (after taking her medicine very amiably), went with the A.A.M. (who would go with her, though she told him over and over she would rather be alone) to the gardens of Worcester College (built in 1714) where they didn’t see the swans (who ought to have been on the lake), nor the hippopotamus, who ought not to have been walking about among the flowers, gathering honey like a busy bee.
After breakfast, Isa helped the A.A.M. to pack his luggage, because he thought he would go away, he didn’t know where, some day, he didn’t know when—so she put a lot of things, she didn’t know what, into boxes, she didn’t know which.
After dinner they went to St. John’s College (built in 1555), and admired the large lawn, where more than 150 ladies, dressed in robes of gold and silver, were not walking about.
Then they saw the Chapel of Keble College (built in 1870) and then the New Museum, where Isa quite lost her heart to a charming stuffed Gorilla, that smiled on her from a glass case. The Museum was finished in 1860. The most curious thing they saw there was a “Walking Leaf,” a kind of insect that looks exactly like a withered leaf.
Then they went to New College (built in 1386), & saw, close to the entrance, a “skew” arch (going slantwise through the wall) one of the first ever built in England. After seeing the gardens, they returned to Ch. Ch. (Parts of the old City walls run round the gardens of New College: and you may still see some of the old narrow slits, through which the defenders could shoot arrows at the attacking army, who could hardly succeed in shooting through them from the outside).
They had tea with Mrs Paget, wife of Dr. Paget one of the Canons of Ch. Ch. Then, after a sorrowful evening, Isa went to bed, and dreamed she was buzzing about among the flowers, with the dear Gorilla: but there wasn’t any honey in them—only slices of bread-and-butter, and multiplication-tables.
On Saturday Isa had a Music Lesson, and learned to play on an American Orguinette. It is not a very difficult instrument to play, as you only have to turn a handle round and round: so she did it nicely. You put a long piece of paper in, and it goes through the machine, and the holes in the paper make different notes play. They put one in wrong end first, and had a tune backwards, and soon found themselves in the day before yesterday: so they dared not go on, for fear of making Isa so young she would not be able to talk. The A.A.M. does not like visitors who only howl, and get red in the face, from morning to night.
In the afternoon they went round Ch. Ch. meadow, and saw the Barges belonging to the Colleges, and some pretty views of Magdalen Tower through the trees.
Then they went through the Botanical Gardens, built in the year——no, by the bye, they never were built at all. And then to Magdalen College. At the top of the wall, in one corner, they saw a very large jolly face, carved in stone, with a broad grin, and a little man at the side, helping him to laugh by pulling up the corner of his mouth for him. Isa thought that, the next time she wants to laugh, she will get Nellie and Maggie to help her. With two people to pull up the corners of your mouth for you, it is as easy to laugh as can be!
They went into Magdalen Meadow, which has a pretty walk all round it, arched over with trees: and there they met a lady “from Amurrica,” as she told them, who wanted to know the way to “Addison’s Walk,” and particularly wanted to know if there would be “any danger” in going there. They told her the way, and that most of the lions and tigers and buffaloes, round the meadow, were quite gentle and hardly ever killed people: so she set off, pale and trembling, and they saw her no more: only they heard her screams in the distance: so they guessed what had happened to her
Then they rode in a tram-car to another part of Oxford, and called on a lady called Mrs Jeane, and her little grand-daughter, called “Noël”, because she was born on Christmas-Day. (“Noël” is the French name for “Christmas”.) And there they had so much Tea that at last Isa nearly turned into a “Teaser”.
Then they went home, down a little narrow street, where there was a little dog standing fixed in the middle of the street, as if its feet were glued to the ground: they asked it how long it meant to stand there, and it said (as well as it could) “till the week after next”.
Then Isa went to bed, and dreamed she was going round Magdalen Meadow, with the “Amurrican” lady, and there was a buffalo sitting at the top of every tree, handing her cups of tea as she went underneath: but they all held the cups upside-down, so that the tea poured all over her head and ran down her face.
On Sunday morning they went to St. Mary’s church, in High Street. In coming home, down the street next to the one where they had found a fixed dog, they found a fixed cat—a poor little kitten, that had put out its head through the bars of the cellar-window, and get back again. They rang the bell at the next door, but the maid said the cellar wasn’t in that house, and, before they could get to the right door the cat had unfixed its head——either from its neck or from the bars, and had gone inside. Isa thought the animals in this city have a curious way of fixing themselves up and down the place, as if they were hat-pegs.
Then they went back to Ch. Ch., and looked at a lot of dresses, which the A.A.M kept in a cupboard, to dress up children in, when they come to be photographed. Some of the dresses had been used in Pantomimes at Drury Lane: some were rags, to dress up beggar-children in: some had been very magnificent once, but were getting quite old and shabby. Talking of old dresses, there is one College in Oxford, so old that it is not known for certain when it was built The people, who live there, say it was built more than 1000 years ago: and, when they say this, the people who live in the other Colleges never contradict them, but listen most respectfully——only they wink a little with one eye, as if they didn’t quite believe it.
The same day, Isa saw a curious book of pictures of ghosts. If you look hard at one for a minute, and then look at the ceiling, you see another ghost there: only, when you have a black one in the book, it is a white one on the ceiling: when it is green in the book, it is pink on the ceiling.
In the middle of the day, as usual, Isa had her dinner: but this time it was grander than usual. There was a dish of “Meringues” (this is pronounced “Marangs”), which Isa thought so good that she would have liked to live on them all the rest of her life.
They took a little walk in the afternoon, and in the middle of Broad Street they saw a cross buried in the ground, very near the place where the Martyrs were burned. Then they went into the gardens of Trinity College (built in 1554) to see the “Lime Walk”, a pretty little avenue of lime-trees. The great iron “gates” at the end of the garden are not real gates, but all done in one piece: and they couldn’t open them, even if you knocked all day. Isa thought them a miserable sham.
Then they went into the “Parks” (this word doesn’t mean “parks of grass, with trees and deer,” but “parks” of guns: that is, great rows of cannons, which stood there when King Charles the First was in Oxford, and Oliver Cromwell fighting against him.
They saw “Mansfield College”, a new College just begun to be built, with such tremendously narrow windows that Isa was afraid the young gentlemen who come there will not be able to see to learn their lessons, and will go away from Oxford just as wise as they came.
Then they went to the evening service at New College, and heard some beautiful singing and organ-playing. Then back to Ch. Ch., in pouring rain. Isa tried to count the drops: but, when she had counted four millions, three hundred and seventy-eight thousand, two hundred and forty-seven, she got tired of counting, and left off.
After dinner, Isa got somebody or other (she is not sure who it was) to finish this story for her. Then she went to bed, and dreamed she was fixed in the middle of Oxford, with her feet fast to the ground, and her head between the bars of a cellar-window, in a sort of final tableau. Then she dreamed the curtain came down, and the people all called out “encore!” But she cried out “Oh, not again! It would be too dreadful to have my visit all over again!” But, on second thoughts, she smiled in her sleep, and said “Well, do you know, after all, I think I wouldn’t mind so very much if I did have it all over again!”.
Return to end of Diary.
Text of A Charade.
from C. L. D.
[NB FIVE POUNDS will be given to any one who succeeds in writing an original poetical Charade, introducing the line “My First is followed by a bird,” but making no use of the answer to this Charade. Ap 8 1878
My First is a singular at best
More plural is my Second.
My Third is far the pluralest—
So plural-plural, I protest,
It scarcely can be reckoned!
My First is followed by a bird
My Second by believers
In magic art: my simple Third
Follows, too often, hopes absurd,
And plausible deceivers.
My First to get at wisdom tries—
A failure melancholy!
My Second men revere as wise:
My Third from heights of wisdom fall
To depths of frantic folly!
My First is ageing day by day,
My Second’s age is ended.
My Third enjoys an age, they say,
That never seems to fade away,
Through centuries extended!
My Whole? I need a Poet’s pen
To paint her myriad phases
The monarch, and the slave, of men—
A mountain-summit, and a den
Of dark and deadly mazes!
A flashing light—a fleeting shade—
Beginning, end, and middle
Of all that human art hath made,
Or wit devised “Go, seek her aid,
If you would guess my riddle.”
Return to end of A Charade.
Text of Prologue.
[Enter Beatrice, leading Wilfred She leaves him to centre (front) & after going round on tip-toe to make sure they are not overheard returns & takes his arm.]
B. “Wiffie! I’m sure that something is the matter!
All day there’s been—oh such a fuss and clatter!
Mamma’s been trying on a funny dress—
I never saw the house in such a mess!
(puts her arm round his neck)
Is there a secret, Wiffie?”
W. (Shaking her off) “yes, of course!”
B. “And you won’t tell it? (whispers) Then you’re very cross!
(turns away from, & clasps her hands, looking up ecstatically)
I’m sure of this! It’s something quite uncommon!”
W. (stretching up his arms with a mock-heroic air)
“Oh, Curiosity! Thy name is Woman!
(puts his arm round her coaxingly)
Well, Birdie, then I’ll tell. (mysteriously) What should you say
If they were going to act—a little play?”
B. (jumping and clapping her hands)
“I’d say ‘How nice!’”
W. (pointing to audience)
“But will it please the rest?”
B. “Oh yes! Because, you know, they’ll do their best!
[turns to audience]
“You’ll praise them, won’t you, when you’ve seen the play?
Just say ‘How nice!’ before you go away!”
[they run away hand in hand].
Feb 14. 1873.
Return to end of Prologue.