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Day 8 — National Blog-posting Month. The rules say no rules but I’m breaking the rule of no theme. It’ll probably take me all month to weave my way through the labyrinth that is the life of Lewis Carroll.

Let me just say right now that within months of Dodgson’s death in 1898, the family sanctioned his nephew, Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, to write his official biography. The family had already destroyed many of Lewis Carroll’s letters and photographs in, I’m assuming, a fit of Victorian angst.   

According to Karoline Leach, “The image it presented of the man and his life has changed very little in the ensuing hundred years.” Which she says is (almost) a complete myth.  The preface of Collingwood’s version begins under the skeletons.

Reginald Southey and Skeletons, 1857, Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), National Media Museum

Reginald Southey and Skeletons, 1857, Lewis Carroll
(Charles Lutwidge Dodgson), National Media Museum

The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll (Rev. C. L. Dodgson)

by Stuart Dodgson Collingwood


It is with no undue confidence that I have accepted the invitation of the brothers and sisters of Lewis Carroll to write this Memoir. I am well aware that the path of the biographer is beset with pitfalls, and that, for him, suppressio veri  is almost necessarily suggestio falsi — the least omission may distort the whole picture.

To write the life of Lewis Carroll as it should be written would tax the powers of a man of far greater experience and insight than I have any pretension to possess, and even he would probably fail to represent adequately such a complex personality. At least I have done my best to justify their choice, and if in any way I have wronged my uncle’s memory, unintentionally, I trust that my readers will pardon me.


NOTE: This image shows Reginald Southey, Carroll’s great friend and photographic teacher, with human and monkey skeletons and skulls. It appears to be a reference to the debates regarding Darwinism, and theories of evolution, which were raging at Oxford at the time. It may perhaps suggest Southey’s intellectual position on the theory. — National Media Museum, West Yorkshire, U.K.