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ALICE IN WONDERLAND: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION
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Table of Contents
Lewis Carroll — An Extensive Biography
Alice’s Adventures Under Ground
Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
Through the Looking Glass
The Hunting of the Snark
The Nursery “Alice”
by Belle Moses
Chapter 1 — There Was Once a Little Boy
Chapter 2 — School Days at Richmond and Rugby
Chapter 3 — Home Life During the Holidays
Chapter 4 — Oxford Scholarship and Honors
Chapter 5 — A Many-Sided Genius
Chapter 6 — Up and Down the River With the Real Alice
Chapter 7 — Alice in Wonderland and What She Did There
Chapter 8 — Lewis Carroll at Home and Abroad
Chapter 9 — More of “Alice Through the Looking-Glass”
Chapter 10 — “Hunting of the Snark” and Other Poems
Chapter 11 — Games, Riddles, and Problems
Chapter 12 — A Fairy Ring of Girls
Chapter 13 — “Alice” On the Stage and Off
Chapter 14 — A Trip With Sylvie and Bruno
Chapter 15 — Lewis Carroll: Man and Child
There was once a little boy whose name was not Lewis Carroll. He was christened Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, in the parish church of Daresbury, England, where he was born, on January 27, 1832. A little out-of-the-way village was Daresbury, a name derived from a word meaning oak, and Daresbury was certainly famous for its beautiful oaks.
The christening of Baby Charles must have been a very happy occasion. To begin with, the tiny boy was the first child of what proved to be a “numerous family” and the officiating clergyman was the proud papa. The name of Charles had been bestowed upon the eldest son for generations of Dodgsons, who had carried it honorably through the line, handing it down untarnished to this latest Charles, in the parish church at Daresbury.
The Dodgsons could doubtless trace their descent much further back than a great-great-grandfather, being a race of gentlemen and scholars, but the Rev. Christopher Dodgson, who lived quite a century before Baby Charles saw the light, is the earliest ancestor we hear of, and he held a living in Yorkshire. In those days, a clergyman was dependent upon some noble patron for his living, a living meaning the parish of which he had charge and the salary he received for his work, and so when the Rev. Christopher’s eldest son Charles also took holy orders, he had for his patron the Duke of Northumberland, who gave him the living of Elsden in Northumberland, a cold, bleak, barren country. The Rev. Charles took what fell to his lot with much philosophy and a saving sense of humor.
He suffered terribly from the cold despite the fact that he snuggled down between two feather beds in the big parlor, which was no doubt the best room in a most uncomfortable house. It was all he could do to keep from freezing, for the doors were rarely closed against the winds that howled around them. The good clergyman was firmly convinced that the end of the world would come by frost instead of fire. Even when safely in bed, he never felt quite comfortable unless his head was wrapped in three nightcaps, while he twisted a pair of stockings, like a cravat, around his suffering throat. He generally wore two shirts at a time, as washing was cheap, and rarely took off his coat and his boots.
This uncomplaining, jovial clergyman finally received his reward. King George III bestowed upon him the See of Elphin, which means that he was made bishop, and had no more hardships to bear. This gentleman, who was the great-grandfather of our Charles, had four children; Elizabeth Anne, the only daughter, married a certain Charles Lutwidge of Holmrook in Cumberland. There were two sons who died quite young, and Charles, the eldest, entered the army and rose to the rank of captain in the 4th Dragoon Guards. He lost his life in the performance of a perilous duty, leaving behind him two sons; Charles, the elder, turned back into the ways of his ancestors and became a clergyman, and Hassard, who studied law, had a brilliant career.
This last Charles, in 1830, married his cousin, Frances Jane Lutwidge, and in 1832 we find him baptizing another little Charles, in the parish church at Daresbury, his eldest son, and consequently his pride and hope.
The living at Daresbury was the beginning of a long life of service to the Church. The father of our Charles rose to be one of the foremost clergymen of his time, a man of wide learning, of deep piety, and of great charity, beloved by rich and poor. Though of somewhat sober nature, in moments of recreation he could throw off his cares like a boy, delighting his friends by his wit and humor, and the rare gift of telling anecdotes, a gift his son inherited in full measure, long before he took the name of “Lewis Carroll,” some twenty years after he was received into the fold of the parish church at Daresbury.
Little Charles headed the list of eleven young Dodgsons, and the mother of this infant brigade was a woman in a thousand. We all know what mothers are; then we can imagine this one, so kind and gentle that never a harsh word was known to pass her lips, and may be able to trace her quiet, helpful influence on the character of our Boy, just as we see her delicate features reproduced in many of his later pictures.
A boy must be a poor specimen, indeed, if such a father and mother could not bring out the best in him. Saddled as he was, with the responsibility of being the oldest of eleven, and consequently an example held up to younger brothers and sisters, Charles was grave and serious beyond his years. Only an eldest child can appreciate what a responsibility this really is. You mustn’t do “so and so” for fear one of the younger ones might do likewise! If his parents had not been very remarkable people, this same Charles might have developed into a virtuous little prig. “Good Brother Charles who never does wrong” might have grown into a terrible bugbear to the other small Dodgsons, had he not been brimful of fun and humor himself. As it was he soon became their leader in all their games and plays, and the quiet parsonage on the glebe farm, full a mile and a half from even the small traffic of the village, rang at least with the echoes of laughter and chatter from these youngsters with strong healthy lungs.
We cannot be quite sure whether they were good children or bad children, for time somehow throws a halo around childhood, but let us hope they were “jes’ middlin’.” We cannot bear to think of all those prim little saints, with ramrods down their backs, sitting sedately of a Sunday in the family pew — perhaps it took two family pews to hold them — with folded hands and pious expressions. We can’t believe these Dodgsons were so silly; they were reverent little souls doubtless, and probably were not bad in church, but oh! let us hope they got into mischief sometimes. There was plenty of room for it in the big farm parsonage.
An island farm ‘mid seas of corn,
Swayed by the wand’ring breath of morn.
The happy spot where I was born
wrote Lewis Carroll many years after, when “Alice in Wonderland” had made him famous.
Glebe farms were very common in England; they consisted of large tracts of land surrounding the parsonage, which the pastor was at liberty to cultivate for his own use, or to eke out his often scanty income, and as the parsonage at Daresbury was comparatively small, and the glebe or farm lands fairly large, we can be sure these boys and girls loved to be out of doors, and little Charlie at a very early age began to number some queer companions among his intimate friends. His small hands burrowing in the soft, damp earth, brought up squirming, wriggling things — earthworms, snails, and the like. He made pets of them, studying their habits in his “small boy” way, and having long, serious talks with them, lying on the ground beside them as they crawled around him. An ant-hill was to him a tiny town, and many a long hour the child must have spent busying himself in their small affairs, settling imaginary disputes, helping the workers, supplying provisions in the way of crumbs, and thus early beginning to understand the ways of the woodland things about which he loved to write in after years. He had, for boon companions, certain toads, with whom he held animated conversations, and it is said that he really taught earthworms the art of warfare by supplying them with small pieces of pipe with which to fight.
He did not, like Hiawatha in the legend, “Learn of ev’ry bird its language,” but he invented a language of his own, in which no doubt he discoursed wisely to the toads and snails who had time to listen; he learned to speak this language quite fluently, so that in later years when eager children clustered about him, and with wide eyes and peals of laughter listened to his nonsense verses, full of the queerest words they ever heard, they could still understand from the very tones of his voice exactly what he meant. Indeed, when little Charles Lutwidge Dodgson grew up to be Lewis Carroll, he worked this funny language of his by equally funny rules, so that, as he said, “a perfectly balanced mind could understand it.”
Of course, there were other companions for the Dodgson children — cats and dogs, and horses and cows, and in the village of Warrington, seven miles away, there were children to be found of their own size and age, but Daresbury itself was very lonely. A canal ran through the far end of the parish, and here bargemen used to ply to and fro, carrying produce and fodder to the near-by towns. Mr. Dodgson took a keen interest in these men who seemed to have no settled place of worship.
In a quiet, persuasive way he suggested to Sir Francis Egerton, a large landholder of the country, that it would be nice to turn one of the barges into a chapel, describing how it could be done for a hundred pounds, well knowing, clever man, that he was talking to a most interested listener; for a few weeks later he received a letter from Sir Francis telling him that the chapel was ready. In this odd little church, the first of its kind, Mr. Dodgson preached every Sunday evening.
But at Daresbury itself life was very monotonous; even the passing of a cart was a great event, and going away was a great adventure. There was one never-to-be-forgotten occasion when the family went off on a holiday jaunt to Beaumaris. Railroads were then very rare things, so they made the journey in three days by coach, allowing also three days for the return trip.
It was great fun traveling in one of those old-time coaches with all the luggage strapped behind, and all the bright young faces atop, and four fast-trotting horses dashing over the ground, and a nice long holiday with fine summer weather to look forward to. But in winter, in those days, traveling was a serious matter; only a favored few could squeeze into the body of the coach; the others still sat atop, muffled to the chin, yet numb with the cold, as the horses went faster and faster, and the wind whistled by, and one’s breath froze on the way. Let us hope the little Dodgsons went in the summer time.
Daresbury must have been a beautiful place, with its pleasant walks, its fine meadows, its deep secluded woods, and best of all, those wonderful oak trees which the boy loved to climb, and under whose shade he would lie by the hour, filling his head with all those quaint fancies which he has since given to the world. He was a clever little fellow, eager to learn, and from the first his father superintended his education, being himself a scholar of very high order. He had the English idea of sending his eldest son along the path he himself had trod; first to a public school, then to Oxford, and finally into the Church, if the boy had any leaning that way.
Education in those days began early, and not by way of the kindergarten; the small boy had scarcely lost his baby lisp before he was put to the study of Latin and Greek, and Charles, besides, developed a passion for mathematics. It is told that when a very small boy he showed his father a book of logarithms, asking him to explain it, but Mr. Dodgson mildly though firmly refused.
“You are too young to understand such a difficult subject,” he replied; “a few years later you will enjoy the study — wait a while.”
“But,” persisted the boy, his mind firmly bent on obtaining information, “please explain.” Whether the father complied with his request is not recorded, but we rather believe that explanations were set aside for the time. Certain it is, they were demanded again and again, for the boy soon developed a wonderful head for figures and signs, a knowledge which grew with the years, as we shall see later.
When he was still quite, a little boy, his mother and father went to Hull to visit Mrs. Dodgson’s father who had been ill. The children, some five or six in number — the entire eleven had not yet arrived — were left in the care of an accommodating aunt, but Charles, being the eldest, received a letter from his mother in which he took much pride, his one idea being to keep it out of the clutches of his little sisters, whose hands were always ready for mischief. He wrote upon the back of the note, forbidding them to touch his property, explaining cunningly that it was covered with slimy pitch, a most uncomfortable warning, but it was “the ounce of prevention,” for the letter has been handed down to us, and a sweet, cheery letter it was, so full of mother-love and care, and tender pride in the little brood at home. No wonder he prized it!
This is probably the first letter he ever received, and it takes very little imagination to picture the important air with which he carried it about, and the care with which he hoarded it through all the years.
There is a dear little picture of our Boy taken when he was eight years old. Photography was not yet in use, so this black print of him is the copy of a silhouette which was the way people had their “pictures taken” in those days. It was always a profile picture, and little Charles’s finely shaped head, with its slightly bulging forehead and delicate features, stands sharply outlined. We have also a silhouette of Mrs. Dodgson, and the resemblance between the two is very marked.
When the boy was eleven, a great change came into his life. Sir Robert Peel, the famous statesman, presented to his father the Crown living of Croft, a Yorkshire village about three miles from Darlington. A Crown living is always an exceptionally good one, as it is usually given by royal favor, and accompanied by a comfortable salary. Mr. Dodgson was sorry to leave his old parishioners and the little parsonage where he had seen so much quiet happiness, but he was glad at the same time, to get away from the dullness and monotony of Daresbury. With a growing family of children it was absolutely necessary to come more into contact with people, and Croft was a typical, delightful English town, famous even to-day for its baths and medicinal waters. Before Mr. Dodgson’s time it was an important posting-station for the coaches running between London and Edinburgh, and boasted of a fine hotel near the rectory, used later by gentlemen in the hunting season.
Mr. Dodgson’s parish consisted not only of Croft proper, but included the neighboring hamlets of Halnaby, Dalton and Stapleton, so he was a pretty busy man going from one to the other, and the little Dodgsons were busy, too, making new friends and settling down into their new and commodious quarters.
The village of Croft is on the river Tees, in fact it stands on the dividing line between Yorkshire and Durham. A bridge divides the two counties, and midway on it is a stone which marks the boundary line. It was an old custom for certain landholders to stand on this bridge at the coming of each new Bishop of Durham, and to present him with an old sword, with an appropriate address of welcome. This sword the Bishop returned immediately.
The Tees often overflowed its banks — indeed, floods were not infrequent in these smiling English landscape countries, kept so fertile and green by the tiny streams which intersect them. Two or three heavy rainfalls will swell the waters, sending them rushing over the country with enormous force. Jean Ingelow in her poem “High Tide on the Coast of Lincolnshire” paints a vivid picture of the havoc such a flood may make in a peaceful land:
Where the river, winding down,
Onward floweth to the town.
But the quaint old church at Croft has doubtless weathered more than one overflow from the restless river Tees.
The rectory, a large brick house, with a sloping tile roof and tall chimneys, stood well back in a very beautiful garden, filled with all sorts of rare plants, intersected by winding gravel paths. As in all English homes, the kitchen garden was a most attractive spot; its high walls were covered with luxuriant fruit trees, and everybody knows that English “wall fruit” is the most delicious kind. The trees are planted very close to the wall, and the spreading boughs, when they are heavy with the ripening fruit, are not bent with the weight of it, but are thoroughly propped and supported by these walls of solid brick, so the undisturbed fruit comes to a perfect maturity without any of the accidents which occur in the ordinary orchard. The garden itself was bright with kitchen greens, filled with everything needed for household use.
With so much space the little Dodgsons had room to grow and “multiply” to the full eleven, and fine times they had with plays and games, usually invented by their clever brother. One of the principal diversions was a toy railroad with “stations” built at various sections of the garden, usually very pretty and rustic looking, planned and built by Charles himself. He also made a rude train out of a wheelbarrow, a barrel, and a small truck, and was able to convey his passengers comfortably from station to station, exacting fare at each trip.
He was something of a conjurer, too, and in wig and gown, could amaze his audience for hours with his inexhaustible supply of tricks. He also made some quaint-looking marionettes, and a theater for them to act in, even writing the plays, which were masterpieces in their way. Once he traced a maze upon the snow-covered lawn of the rectory.
Mazes were often found in the real old-time gardens of England; they consisted of intersecting paths bordered by clipped shrubbery and generally arranged in geometrical designs, very puzzling to the unwary person who got lost in them, unable to discover a way out, until by some happy accident the right path was found. “Threading the Maze” was a fashionable pastime in the days of the Tudors; the maze at Hampton Court being one of the most remarkable of that period.
Charles’s early knowledge of mathematics made his work on the snow-covered lawn all the more remarkable, for the love of that particular branch of learning certainly grew with his growth.
Meanwhile, it was a very serious, earnest little boy, who looked down the long line of Dodgsons, saying with a choke in his voice: “I must leave you and this lovely rectory, and this fair, smiling countryside, and go to school.”
He was shy, and the thought struck terror; but everybody who is anybody in England goes to some fine public school before becoming an Oxford or a Cambridge student, and for that reason Charles Lutwidge Dodgson buried his regrets beneath a smiling face, bade farewell to his household, and at the mature age of twelve, armed with enough Greek and Latin to have made a dictionary, with a knowledge of mathematics that a college “don” might well have envied, set forth to this alluring world of books and learning.
With the removal to Croft, Mr. Dodgson was brought more and more into prominence; he was appointed examing chaplain to the Bishop of Ripon, and finally he was made Archdeacon of Richmond and one of the Canons of Ripon Cathedral.
The Grammar School at Richmond was well known in that section of England. It was under the rule of a certain Mr. Tate, whose father, Dr. Tate, had made the school famous some years before, and it was there that our Boy had his first taste of school life.
Holidays in those days were not arranged as they are now, for one of the first letters of Charles, sent home from Richmond, was dated August 5th; so it is probable that the term began in midsummer. This special letter was written to his two eldest sisters and gives an excellent picture of those first days, when as a “new boy” he suffered at the hands of his schoolmates. As advanced as he was in Latin and Greek and mathematics, this letter, for a twelve-year-old boy, does not show any remarkable progress in English. The spelling was precise and correct, but the punctuation was peculiar, to say the least.
Still his description of the school life, when one overcame the presence of commas and the absence of periods, presented a vivid picture to the mind. He tells of the funny tricks the boys played upon him because he was a “new boy.” One was called “King of the Cobblers.” He was told to sit on the ground while the boys gathered around him and to say “Go to work”; immediately they all fell upon him, and kicked and knocked him about pretty roughly. Another trick was “The Red Lion,” and was played in the churchyard; they made a mark on a tombstone and one of the boys ran toward it with his finger pointed and eyes shut, trying to see how near he could get to the mark. When his turn came, and he walked toward the tombstone, some boy who stood ready beside it, had his mouth open to bite the outstretched finger on its way to the mark. He closes his letter by stating three uncomfortable things connected with his arrival — the loss of his toothbrush and his failure to clean his teeth for several days in consequence; his inability to find his blotting-paper, and his lack of a shoe-horn.
The games the Richmond boys played — football, wrestling, leapfrog and fighting — he slurred over contemptuously, they held no attraction for him.
A schoolboy or girl of the present day can have no idea of the discomforts of school life in Charles Dodgson’s time, and the boy whose gentle manners were the result of sweet home influence and association with girls, found the rough ways of the English schoolboy a constant trial. Strong and active as he was, he was always up in arms for those weaker and smaller than himself. Bullying enraged him, and distasteful as it was, he soon learned the art of using his fists for the protection of himself and others. These were the school-days of Nicholas Nickleby, David Copperfield, and Little Paul Dombey. Of course, all schoolmasters were not like Squeers or Creakle, nor all schoolmasters’ wives like Mrs. Squeers, nor indeed all schools like Dotheboys’ Hall or Salem Hall, or Dr. Blimber’s cramming establishment, but many of the inconveniences were certainly prominent in the best schools.
Flogging was considered the surest road to knowledge; kind, honest, liberal-minded teachers kept a birch-rod and a ferrule within gripping distance, and the average schoolboy thus treated like a little beast, could be pardoned for behaving like one. In spring or summer the big, bare, comfortless schoolhouses were all very well, but when the days grew chill, the small boy shivered on his hard bench in his draughty corner, and in winter time the scarcity of fires was trying to ordinary flesh and blood. The poor unfortunate who rose at six, and had to fetch and carry his own water from an outdoor pump, or if he had taken the precaution to draw it the night before, had found it frozen in his pitcher, was not to be blamed if washing was merely a figure of speech.
Mr. and Mrs. Tate were most considerate to their boys, and Richmond was a model school of its class. Charles loved his “kind old schoolmaster” as he called him, and he was not alone in this feeling, for Mr. Tate’s influence over the boys was maintained through the affection and respect they had for him. Of course he let them “fight it out” among themselves according to the boy-nature; but the earnest little fellow with the grave face and the eager, questioning eyes, attracted him greatly, and he began to study him in his keen, kind way, finding much to admire and praise in the letters which he wrote to his father, and predicting for him a bright career. Admitting that he had found young Dodgson superior to other boys, he wisely suggested that he should never know this fact, but should learn to love excellence for its own sake, and not for the sake of excelling.
Charles made quite a name for himself during those first school days. Mathematics still fascinated him and Latin grew to be second nature; he stood finely in both, and while at Richmond he developed another taste, the love of composition, often contributing to the school magazine. The special story recorded was called “The Unknown One,” but doubtless many a rhyme and jingle which could be traced to him found its way into this same little magazine, not forgetting odd sketches which he began to do at a very early age. They were all rough, for the most part grotesque, but full of simple fun and humor, for the quiet studious schoolboy loved a joke.
Charles stayed at the Richmond school for three years; then he took the next step in an English boy’s life, he entered Rugby, one of the great public schools.
In America, a public school is a school for the people, where free instruction is given to all alike; but the English public school is another thing. It is a school for gentlemen’s sons, where tuition fees are far from small, and “extras” mount up on the yearly bills.
Rugby had become a very celebrated school when the great Dr. Arnold was Head-Master. Up to that time it was neither so well known nor so popular as Eton, but Dr. Arnold had governed it so vigorously that his hand was felt long after his untimely death, which occurred just four years before Charles was ready to enter the school. The Head-Master at that time was, strangely enough, named Tait, spelt a little differently from the Richmond schoolmaster. Dr. Tait, who afterwards became Archbishop of Canterbury, was a most capable man, who governed the school for two of the three years that our Boy was a pupil. The last year, Dr. Goulburn was Head-Master.
Charles found Rugby a great change from the quiet of Richmond. He went up in February of 1846, the beginning of the second term, when football was in full swing. The teams practiced on the broad open campus known as “Big-side,” and a “new boy” could only look on and applaud the great creatures who led the game. Rugby was swarming with boys — three hundred at least — from small fourteen-year-olders of the lowest “form,” or class, to those of eighteen or twenty of the fifth and sixth, the highest forms. They treated little Dodgson in their big, burly, schoolboy fashion, hazed him to their hearts’ content when he first entered, shrugging their shoulders good-naturedly over his love of study, in preference to the great games of cricket and football.
To have a fair glimpse of our Boy’s life at this period, some little idea of Rugby and its surroundings might serve as a guide. Those who visit the school to-day, with its pile of modern, convenient, and ugly architecture, have no conception of what it was over sixty years ago, and even in 1846 it bore no resemblance to the original school founded by one Lawrence Sheriffe, “citizen and grocer of London” during the reign of Henry VIII. To begin with, it is situated in Shakespeare’s own country, Warwickshire on the Avon River, and that in itself was enough to rouse the interest of any musing, bookish boy like Charles Dodgson.
From “Tom Brown’s School Days,” that ever popular book by Thomas Hughes, we may perhaps understand the feelings of the “new boy” just passing through the big, imposing school gates, with the oriel window above, and entering historic Rugby.
What first struck his view was the great school field or “close” as they called it, with its famous elms, and next, “the long line of gray buildings, beginning with the chapel and ending with the schoolhouse, the residence of the Head-Master where the great flag was lazily waving from the highest round tower.”
As we follow Tom Brown through his first day, we can imagine our Boy’s sensations when he found himself in this howling wilderness of boys. The eye of a boy is as keen as that of a girl regarding dress, and before Tom Brown was allowed to enter Rugby gates he was taken into the town and provided with a cat-skin cap, at seven and sixpence.
“‘You see,’ said his friend as they strolled up toward the school gates, in explanation of his conduct, ‘a great deal depends on how a fellow cuts up at first. If he’s got nothing odd about him and answers straightforward, and holds his head up, he gets on.’”
Having passed the gates, Tom was taken first to the matron’s room, to deliver up his trunk key, then on a tour of inspection through the schoolhouse hall which opened into the quadrangle. This was “a great room, thirty feet long and eighteen high or thereabouts, with two great tables running the whole length, and two large fireplaces at the side with blazing fires in them.”
This hall led into long dark passages with a fire at the end of each, and this was the hallway upon which the studies opened.
Now, to Charles Dodgson as well as to Tom Brown, a study conjured up untold luxury; it was in truth a “Rugby boy’s citadel” usually six feet long and four feet broad. It was rather a gloomy light which came in through the bars and grating of the one window, but these precautions had to be taken with the studies on the ground floor, to keep the small boys from slipping out after “lock-up” time.
Under the window was usually a wooden table covered with green baize, a three-legged stool, a cupboard, and nails for hat and coat. The rest of the furnishings included “a plain flat-bottom candlestick with iron extinguisher and snuffers, a wooden candle-box, a staff-handle brush, leaden inkpot, basin and bottle for washing the hands, and a saucer or gallipot for soap.” There was always a cotton curtain or a blind before the window. For such a mansion the Rugby schoolboy paid from ten to fifteen shillings a year, and the tenant bought his own furniture. Tom Brown had a “hard-seated sofa covered with red stuff,” big enough to hold two in a “tight squeeze,” and he had, besides, a good, stout, wooden chair. Those boys who had looking-glasses in their rooms were able to comb their own locks, those who were not so fortunate went to what was known as the “combing-house” and had it done for them.
Unfortunately there are recorded very few details of these school-days at Rugby. We can only conjecture, from our knowledge of the boy and his studious ways, that Charles Dodgson’s study was his castle, his home, and freehold while he was in the school. He drew around him a circle of friends, for the somewhat sober lad had the gift of talking, and could be jolly and entertaining when he liked.
The chapel at Rugby was an unpretentious Gothic building, very imposing and solemn to little Dodgson, who had been brought up in a most reverential way, but the Rugbeans viewed it in another light. Tom Brown’s chosen chum explained it to him in this wise:
“That’s the chapel you see, and there just behind it is the place for fights; it’s most out of the way for masters, who all live on the other side and don’t come by here after first lesson or callings-over. That’s when the fights come off.”
All this must have shocked the simple, law-abiding son of a clergyman. It took from four to six years to tame the average Rugby boy, but little Charles needed no discipline; he was not a “goody-goody” boy, he simply had a natural aversion to rough games and sports. He liked to keep a whole skin, and his mind clear for his studies; he was fond of tramping through the woods, or fishing along the banks of the pretty, winding Avon, or rowing up and down the river, or lying on some grassy slope, still weaving the many odd fancies which grew into clearer shape as the years passed. The boys at Rugby did not know he was a genius, he did not know it himself, happy little lad, just a bit quiet and old-fashioned, for the noisy, blustering life about him. In fact, strange as it may seem, Charles Dodgson was never really a little boy until he was quite grown up.
He easily fell in with the routine of the school, but discipline, even as late as 1846, was hard to maintain. The Head-Master had his hands full; there were six under-masters — one for each form — and special tutors for the boys who required them, and from the fifth and sixth forms, certain monitors were selected called “praeposters,” who were supposed to preserve order among the lower forms. In reality they bullied the smaller boys, for the system of fagging was much abused in those days, and the poor little fags had to be bootblacks, water-carriers, and general servants to very hard task-masters, while the “praeposter” had little thought of doing any service for the service he exacted; in fact the unfortunate fag had to submit in silence to any indignity inflicted by an older boy, for if by chance a report of such doings came to the ears of the Head-Master or his associates, the talebearer was “sent to Coventry,” in other words, he was shunned and left to himself by all his companions.
Injustice like this made little Dodgson’s blood boil; he submitted of course with the other small boys, but he always had a peculiar distaste for the life at Rugby. He owned several years later that none of the studying at Rugby was done from real love of it, and he specially bewailed the time he lost in writing out impositions, and he further confessed that under no consideration would he live over those three years again.
These “impositions” were the hundreds of lines of Latin or Greek which the boys had to copy out with their own hands, for the most trifling offenses — a weary and hopeless waste of time, with little good accomplished.
In spite of many drawbacks, he got on finely with his work, seldom returning home for the various holidays without one or more prizes, and we cannot believe that he was quite outside of all the fun and frolic of a Rugby schoolboy’s life. For instance, we may be sure that he went bravely through that terrible ordeal for the newcomer, called “singing in Hall.” “Each new boy,” we are told, “was mounted in turn upon a table, a candle in each hand, and told to sing a song. If he made a false note, a violent hiss followed, and during the performance pellets and crusts of bread were thrown at boy or candles, often knocking them out of his hands and covering him with tallow. The singing over, he descended and pledged the house in a bumper of salt and water, stirred by a tallow candle. He was then free of the house and retired to his room, feeling very uncomfortable.”
“On the night after ‘new boys’ night’ there was chorus singing, in which solos and quartets of all sorts were sung, especially old Rugby’s favorites such as:
It’s my delight, on a shiny night
In the season of the year
and the proceedings always wound up with ‘God save the Queen.’”
Guy Fawkes’ Day was another well-known festival at Rugby. There were bonfires in the town, but they were never kindled until eight o’clock, which was “lock-up” time for Rugby school. The boys resented this as it was great fun and they were out of it, so each year there was a lively scrimmage between the Rugbeans and the town, the former bent on kindling the bonfires before “lock-up” time, the latter doing all they could to hold back the ever-pressing enemy. Victory shifted with the years, from one side to the other, but the boys had their fun all the same, which was over half the battle.
Charles must have gone through Rugby with rapid strides, accomplishing in three years’ time what Tom Brown did in eight, and when he left he had the proud distinction of being among the very few who had never gone up a certain winding staircase leading, by a small door, into the Master’s private presence, where the rod awaited the culprit, and a good heavy rod it was.
During these years Dickens was doing his best work, and while at Rugby, Charles read “David Copperfield,” which came out in numbers in the Penny Magazine. He was specially interested in Mrs. Gummidge, that mournful, tearful lady, who was constantly bemoaning that she was “a lone lorn creetur,” and that everything went “contrairy” with her. Dickens’s humor touched a chord of sympathy in him, and if we go over in our minds, the weeping animals we know in “Alice in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking-Glass,” we will find many excellent portraits of Mrs. Gummidge.
He also read Macaulay’s “History of England,” and from it was particularly struck by a passage describing the seven bishops who had signed the invitation to the Pretender. Bishop Compton, one of the seven, when accused by King James, and asked whether he or any of his ecclesiastical brethren had anything to do with it, replied: “I am fully persuaded, your Majesty, that there is not one of my brethren who is not innocent in the matter as myself.” This tickled the boy’s sense of humor. Those touches always appealed to him; as he grew older they took even a firmer hold upon him and he was quick to pluck a laugh from the heart of things.
His life at Rugby was somewhat of a strain; with a brain beginning to teem with a thousand fairy fancies that the boys around him could not appreciate, he was forced to thrust them out of sight. He flung himself into his studies, coming out at examinations on top in mathematics, Latin, and divinity, and saving that other part of him for his sisters, when he went home for the holidays.
Meantime he continued to write verses and stories and to draw clever caricatures. There is one of these drawings peculiarly Rugbean in character; it is supposed to be a scene in which four of his sisters are roughly handling a fifth, because she would write to her brother when they wished to go to Halnaby and the Castle. This noble effort he signed “Rembrandt.”
The picture is really very funny. The five girls have very much the appearance of the marionettes he was fond of making, especially the unfortunate correspondent who has been pulled into a horizontal position by the stern sister. The whole story is told by the expression of the eyes and mouth of each, for the clever schoolboy had all the secrets of caricature, without quite enough genius in that direction to make him an artist.
The Rugby days ended in glory; our Boy, no longer little Dodgson, but young Dodgson, came home loaded with honors. Mr. Mayor, his mathematical master, wrote to his father in 1848, that he had never had a more promising boy at his age, since he came to Rugby. Mr. Tait also wrote complimenting him most highly not only for his high standing in mathematics and divinity, but for his conduct while at Rugby, which was all that could be desired.
We can now see the dawning of the two great loves of his life, but there was another love, which Rugby brought forth in all its beauty and strength, the love for girls. From that time he became their champion, their friend, and their comrade; whatever of youth and of boyhood was in his nature came out in brilliant flashes in their company. Boys, in his estimation, had to be, of course — a necessary evil, to be wrestled with and subdued. But girls — God bless ‘em! were girls; that was enough for young Dodgson to the end of the chapter.
When Charles came home on his holiday visits, he was undoubtedly the busiest person at Croft Rectory. We must remember there were ten eager little brothers and sisters who wanted the latest news from “the front,” meaning Rugby of course, and Charles found many funny things to tell of the school doings, many exciting matches to recount, many a thrilling adventure, and, alas! many a tale of some popular hero’s downfall and disgrace. He had sketches to show, and verses to read to a most enthusiastic audience, the girls giggling over his funny tales, the boys roaring with excitement as in fancy they pictured the scene at “Big-side” during some great football scrimmage, for Charles’s descriptions were so vivid, indeed he was such a good talker always, that a few quaint sentences would throw the whole picture on the canvas.
Vacation time was devoted to literary schemes of all kinds. From little boyhood until he was way up in his “teens,” he was the editor of one magazine or another of home manufacture, chiefly, indeed, of his own composition, or drawn from local items of interest to the young people of Croft Rectory. While he was still at Richmond School, Useful and Instructive Poetry was born and died in six months’ time, and many others shared the same fate; but the young editor was undaunted.
This was the age of small periodicals and he had caught the craze; it was also the age when great genius was burning brightly in England. Tennyson was in his prime; Dickens was writing his stories, and Macaulay his history of England. There were many other geniuses who influenced his later years, Carlyle, Browning and others, but the first three caught his boyish fancy and were his guides during those early days of editorship. Punch, the great English magazine of wit and humor, attracted him immensely, and many a time his rough drawings caught the spirit of some of the famous cartoons. He never imagined, as he laughed over the broad humor of John Tenniel, that the great cartoonist would one day stand beside him and share the honors of “Alice in Wonderland.”
One of his last private efforts in the editorial line was The Rectory Umbrella, a magazine undertaken when he was about seventeen or eighteen years old, on the bridge, one might say, between boyhood and his approaching Oxford days. His mind had developed quickly, though his views of life did not go far beyond the rectory grounds. He evidently took his title out of the umbrella-stand in the rectory hall, the same stand doubtless which furnished him with “The Walking Stick of Destiny,” a story of the lurid, exciting sort, which made his readers’ hair rise. The magazine also contained a series of sketches supposed to have been copied from paintings by Rembrandt, Sir Joshua Reynolds and others whose works hang in the Vernon Gallery. One specially funny caricature of Sir Joshua Reynolds’s “Age of Innocence” represents a baby hippopotamus smiling serenely under a tree not half big enough to shade him.
Another sketch ridicules homeopathy and is extremely funny. Homeopathy is a branch of medical science which believes in very small doses of medicine, and this picture represents housekeeping on a homeopathic plan; a family of six bony specimens are eating infinitesimal grains of food, which they can only see through the spectacles they all wear, and their table talk hovers round millionths and nonillionths of grains.
But the cleverest poem in The Rectory Umbrella is the parody on “Horatius,” Macaulay’s famous poem, which is supposed to be a true tale of his brothers’ adventures with an obdurate donkey. It is the second of the series called “Lays of Sorrow,” in imitation of Macaulay’s “Lays of Ancient Rome,” and the tragedy lies in the sad fact that the donkey succeeds in getting the better of the boys.
“Horatius” was a great favorite with budding orators of that day. The Rugby boys declaimed it on every occasion, and reading it over in these modern times of peace, one is stirred by the martial note in it. No wonder boys like Charles Dodgson loved Macaulay, and it is pretty safe to say that he must have had it by heart, to have treated it in such spirited style and with such pure fun. Indeed, fun bubbled up through everything he wrote; wholesome, honest fun, which was a safety valve for an over-serious lad.
This period was his halting time, and the humorous skits he dashed off were done in moments of recreation. He was mapping out his future in a methodical way peculiarly his own. Oxford was to be his goal, divinity and mathematics his principal studies, and he was working hard for his examinations. The desire of the eldest son to follow in his father’s footsteps was strengthened by his own natural inclination, for into the boy nature crept a rare golden streak of piety. The reverence for holy things was a beautiful trait in his character from the beginning to the end of his life; it never pushed itself aggressively to the front, but it sweetened the whole of his intercourse with people, and was perhaps the secret of the wonderful power he had with children.
The intervening months between Rugby and Oxford were also the boundary-line between boyhood and young manhood, that most important period when the character shifts into a steadier pose, when the young eyes try vainly to pierce the mists of the future, and the young heart-throbs are sometimes very painful. Between those Rugby school-days and the more serious Oxford ones, something happened — we know not what — which cast a shadow on our Boy’s life. He was young enough to live it down, yet old enough to feel keenly whatever sorrow crossed his path, and as he never married, we naturally suspect that some unhappy love affair, or death perhaps, had cut him off from all the joys so necessary to a young and deep-feeling man. Whatever it was — and he kept his own secret — it did not mar the sweetness of his nature, it did not kill his youth, nor deaden the keen wit which was to make the world laugh one day. It drew some pathetic lines upon his face, a wistful touch about mouth and eyes, as we can see in all his portraits.
A slight reserve hung as a veil between him and people of his own age, but it opened his heart all the wider to the children, whose true knight he became when, as “Lewis Carroll” he went forth to conquer with a laugh. We say “children,” but we mean “girls.” The little boy might just as well have been a caged animal at the Zoo, for all the notice he inspired. Of course, there were some younger brothers of his own to be considered, but he had such a generous provision of sisters that he didn’t mind, and then, besides, one’s own people are different somehow; we know well enough we wouldn’t change our brothers and sisters for the finest little paragons that walk. So with Lewis Carroll; he strongly objected to everybody else’s little brothers but his own, and it is even true that in later years there were some small nephews and boy cousins, to whom he was extremely kind. But as yet there is no Lewis Carroll, only a grave and earnest Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, reading hard to enter Christ Church, Oxford, that grand old edifice steeped in history, where his own father had “blazed a trail.”
Mathematics absorbed many hours of each day, and Latin and Greek were quite as important. English as a “course” was not thought of as it is to-day; the classics were before everything else, although ancient and modern history came into use.
For lighter reading, Dickens was a never-failing source of supply. All during this holiday period “David Copperfield” was coming out in monthly instalments, and though the hero was “only a boy,” there was something in the pathetic figure of lonely little David, irresistibly appealing to the young fellow who hated oppression and injustice of any kind, and was always on the side of the weak. While the dainty picture of Little Em’ly might have been his favorite, he was keenly alive to the absurdities of Mrs. Gummidge, the doglike devotion of Peggotty, and the horrors of the “cheap school,” which turned out little shivering cowards instead of wholesome hearty English boys.
Later on, he visited the spot on which Dickens had founded Dotheboys Hall in “Nicholas Nickleby.” “Barnard’s Castle” was a most desolate region in Yorkshire. He tells of a trip by coach, over a land of dreary hills, into Bowes, a Godforsaken village where the original of Dotheboys Hall was still standing, though in a very dilapidated state, actually falling to pieces. As we well know, after the writing of “Nicholas Nickleby,” government authorities began to look into the condition of the “cheap schools” and to remedy some of the evils. Even the more expensive schools, where the tired little brains were crammed to the brim until the springs were worn out and the minds were gone, were exposed by the great novelist when he wrote “Dombey and Son” and told of Dr. Blimber’s school, where poor little Paul studied until his head grew too heavy for his fragile body. The victims of these three schools — David, Smike, and Little Paid — twined themselves about the heartstrings of the thoughtful young student, and many a humorous bit besides, in the works of Lewis Carroll, bears a decided flavor of those dips into Dickens.
Macaulay furnished a more solid background in the reading line. His history, such a complete chronicle of England from the fall of the Stuarts to the reign of Victoria, appealed strongly to the patriotism of the English boy, and the fact that Macaulay was not only a writer of English history, but at the same time a maker of history, served to strengthen this feeling.
If we compare the life of Lord Macaulay with the life of Lewis Carroll, we will see that there was something strangely alike about them. Both were unmarried, living alone, but with strong family ties which softened their lives and kept them from becoming crusty old bachelors. It is very probable, indeed, that the younger man modeled his life somewhat along the lines of the older, whom he greatly admired. Both were parts of great institutions; Macaulay stood out from the background of Parliament, as Lewis Carroll did from Oxford or more particularly Christ Church, and both names shone more brilliantly outside the routine of daily life.
But the influence that crept closer to the heart of this boy was that of Tennyson. The great poet with the wonderful dark face, the piercing eyes, the shaggy mane, sending forth clarion messages to the world in waves of song, was the inspiration of many a quaint phrase and poetic turn of thought which came from the pen of Lewis Carroll. For Tennyson became to him a thing of flesh and blood, a friend, and many a pleasant hour was spent in the poet’s home in later years, when the fame of “Alice” had stirred his ambition to do other things. Many a verse of real poetry could trace its origin to association with the great man, who was .quick to discover that there were depths in the soul of his young friend where genius dwelt.
Meantime Charles Dodgson read his poems over and over, in the seclusion of Croft Rectory, during that quiet pause in his life before he went up to Oxford.
There was a village school of some importance in Croft, and members of the Dodgson family were interested in its welfare, often lending a hand with the teaching, and during those months, no doubt, Charles took his turn. For society, his own family seemed to be sufficient. If he had any boy friends, there are no records of their intercourse; indeed, the only friend mentioned is T. Vere Bayne, who in childish days was his playfellow and who later became, like himself, a Student of Christ Church. This association cemented a lasting friendship. One or two Rugbeans claimed some intimacy, but his true friendships were formed when Lewis Carroll grew up and really became young.
Walking was always a favorite pastime; the woods were full of the things he loved, the wild things whose life stirred in the rustling of the leaves or the crackle of a twig, as some tiny animal whisked by. The squirrels were friendly, the hares lifted up their long ears, stared at him and scurried out of sight. Turtles and snails came out of the river to sun themselves on the banks; the air was full of the hum of insects and the chirp of birds.
As he lay under the friendly shelter of some great tree, he thought of this tree as a refuge for the teeming life about it; the beauty of its foliage, its spreading branches, were as nothing to its convenience as a home for the birds and chipmunks and the burrowing things that lived beneath its roots or in the hollows of its trunk.
These creatures became real companions in time. He studied their ways and habits, he looked them up in the Natural History, and noting their peculiarities, tucked them away in that quaint cupboard of his which he called his memory.
How many things were to come out of that cupboard in later days! He himself did not know what was hidden there. It reminded one of a chest which only a special key could open, and he did not even know there was a key, until on a certain “golden afternoon” he found it floating on the surface of the river. He grasped it, thrust it into the rusty lock, and lo! — but dear me, we are going too far ahead, for that is quite another chapter, and we have left Charles Dodgson lying under a tree, watching the lizards and snails and ants at their work or play, weaving his quaint fancies, dreaming perhaps, or chatting with some little sister or other who chanced to be with him. There was always a sister to chat with, which in part accounted for his liking for girls.
So, through a long vista of years, we have the picture of our Boy, between eighteen and nineteen, when he was about to put boyhood by forever and enter the stately ranks of the Oxford undergraduates. As he stands before us now, young, ardent, hopeful, and inexperienced, we can see no glimmer of the fairy wand which turned him into a wizard.
We see only a boy, somewhat old for his years, very manly in his ways, with a well-formed head, on which the clustering dark hair grew thick; a sensitive mouth and deep blue eyes, full of expression. He was clever, imitative, and consequently a good actor in the little plays he wrote and dramatized; he was very shy, but at his best in the home circle. He enjoyed nothing so much as an argument, always holding his ground with great obstinacy; a fine student, frank and affectionate, brimful of wit and humor, fond of reading, with a quiet determination to excel in whatever he undertook. With such weapons he was well equipped to “storm the citadel” at Oxford.
On May 23, 1850, he went up to matriculate — that is, to register his name and go through some examinations and the formality of becoming a student. Christ Church was to be his college, as it had been his father’s before him. Archdeacon Dodgson was much gratified by the many letters he received congratulating him on the fact that he had a son worthy to succeed him, for he was well remembered in the college, where he had left a brilliant record behind him.
It certainly sounds a little queer to have the name of a church attached to one of the colleges of a university, but our colleges in America are comparatively so new that we cannot grasp the vastness and the antiquity of the great English universities. Under the shelter of Oxford, and covering an area of at least five miles, twenty colleges or more were grouped, each one a community in itself, and all under the rule of the Chancellor of Oxford. Christ Church received as students those most interested in the divinity courses, though in-other respects the undergraduates could take up whatever studies they pleased, and Charles Dodgson put most of his energy into mathematics and the necessary study of the classics.
Seven months intervened between his matriculation and his real entrance into Oxford; these seven months we have just reviewed, full of study and pleasant family associations, with youthful experiments in literature, full of promise for the future — and something deeper still — which must have touched him just here, “where the brook and river meet.”
Into all our lives at some time or other comes a solemn silence; it may spring from many causes, from a joy which cannot be spoken, or from a sorrow too deep for utterance, but it comes, and we cover it gently and hide it away, as something too sacred for the common light of every day.
This was the silence which came to Lewis Carroll on the threshold of his career; but lusty youth was with him as he stood before the portal of a brilliant future, and there was courage and high hope in his heart as he knocked for entrance.
On January 24, 1851, just three days before his nineteenth birthday, Charles Dodgson took up his residence at Christ Church, and from that time to the day of his death his name was always associated with the fine old building which was his Alma Mater. The men of Christ Church called it the “House,” and were very proud of their college, as well they might be, for Oxford could not boast of a more imposing structure. There is a great difference between a university and a college. A university is great enough to shelter many colleges, and its chancellor is ruler over all. When we reflect that Christ Church College, alone, included as many important buildings as are to be found in some of our modern American universities, we may have some idea of the extent of Oxford University, within whose boundaries twenty such colleges could be counted.
Their names were all familiar to the young fellow, and many a time, in those early days, he could be found in his boat upon the river, floating gently down stream, the whole panorama of Oxford spread out before him.
Now rising o’er the level plain,
‘Mid academic groves enshrined.
The Gothic tower, the Grecian fane,
Ascend in solemn state combined.
The spire of St. Aldates (pronounced St. Olds); Sir Christopher Wren’s domed tower over the entrance to Christ Church; the spires of the Cathedral of St. Mary; the tower of All Saints; the twin towers of All Souls; the dome of Radcliffe Library; the massive tower of Merton, and the beautiful pinnacles of Magdalen, all passed before him, “rising o’er the level plain” as the verse puts it, backed by dense foliage, and sharply outlined against the blue horizon.