No matter your age, you have most certainly heard of the fantastical book titled “Alice in Wonderland”. The book is chalk full of wacky characters, twisted plotlines, imaginative life lessons and fun house effects that have fascinated audiences for ages! However, it seems to have a more sinister underlayer regarding children, including Alice Liddell- the real-life Alice who served as an inspiration for Carroll’s iconic story, that has escaped many admirers of his work.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, apart from being the author of the world renowned “Alice in Wonderland”, was actually a punctilious mathematician and a keen photographer.
He was known as someone who kept to himself and preferred the company of children rather than his peers. Having developed a relationship with Christ Church in Oxford, Carroll spent most of his life there as a scholar and a teacher. It was in the deanery next door where Carroll first encountered the Liddell sisters- Alice, Lorina and Edith, who were often spotted playing in the garden. His “friendship” with them began by him trying to get them to sit for pictures. Carroll’s diary entry from 26th of April 1856 reads: “The three Liddell girls were in the garden most of the time and we became excellent friends. We tried to group them in the foreground of the picture but they were not patient sitters. I mark this day with a white stone.” Carroll spent a lot of time with the sisters; he would tell them stories and teach them magic tricks. Although, he cared a great deal about all of them, in his mind Alice was singled out as the special one; she stood out due to her strong personality clearly evident through her pushy and imperious attitude. She was also the one who was a predominant subject of his photographs. One particular photograph of Alice comes to mind in which she is captured leaning on what appears to be a garden wall, wearing a ragged white dress that exposes her left nipple and has a devilish look in her eyes… and that is precisely where the trouble began, begging the question: “Was this photograph simply an innocent product of the time it was taken or was it hiding something much more bizarre in the background?”
One known fact which does not work well in Carroll’s favor is that he has accumulated hundreds of child friends over his lifetime; he would meet them on railway journeys and at the seaside where he would entertain them with puzzles and games. Child friends supposedly remained at the center of his life (they occupied ¾ of it according to Carroll). Another clue pointing towards his alleged paedophilic tendencies is a letter written by Lorina to her sister Alice when they were in their 80s, which reads: “I said his manner became too affectionate to you as you grew older and mother spoke to him about it and that offended him so he ceased coming to visit us again as one had to give some reason for all intercourse ceasing.” From this letter one can plainly distinguish that his behavior was not in alignment with what was considered proper according to, at the very least, their mother; and mothers are to be trusted because their intuition hardly ever lies. Furthermore, it is apparent to us that Carroll also recognized the fault in his ways because Mrs. Liddell’s grievances offended him, whereas if he had done nothing wrong, her words would not have had such a strong impact and he would have been able to defend his actions and keep his composure. Additionally, it is important to note that Carroll was 24 years old when he met Alice who was only 4; the age of consent at that time was 12 years old. One final sign that rounds up all the evidence working against Carroll is the fact that he once asked Alice for a lock of her hair which can be seen as a love token.
Naturally, one ought to explore the other side as well. He deserves the benefit of the doubt. It is only fair. Let us say that his intentions were pure and he had no ill forethought, what could we say about his relationship with children then? Well, it can certainly be argued that he felt most comfortable the company of children due to being a fellow with particular ways of expressing himself. Children understood him the only way they knew how and never judged him like adults would. All of us know those types of people that are just fantastic with children (much better than their peers). Are all of them pedophiles? Of course not. Everyone has their own preferences and they are not to be demonized for them, as long as those preferences do not cause suffering to the other person/people or themselves. The previous impression also goes hand in hand with our society’s tendency to oversexualize most human interactions when there is absolutely no legitimate reason to do so.
Ultimately, since there is no solid proof of what happened between Lewis Carroll, Liddell girls and other children, we are left alone in our speculations. Perhaps it is best to let the past be the past, but still take the lessons from it into the future, because if the worst has indeed happened, we must not under any circumstance let history repeat itself. Children are precious jewels that deserve to be protected at all costs.
Source: The Real Life Alice | Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland | Absolute History