Robert Douglas-Fairhurst: The Story of Alice Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland



This took a long time to read mostly because I didn t make it a priority but also because it s not the easiest book to read My one serious complaint is that the chapters are given only numbers not headings I really would have loved some guideposts for the chapters which all ended p being themed or coming to a central point I had to blindly trust the author to show eventually the importance of the numerous details presented to me Though this book s main title is The Story of Alice this is a book about Lewis Carroll His famous Alice books and Alice Hargreaves herself do come p ite a bit within this but it s a book primarily about Carroll It follows him from his birth to his death and slightly beyond and is VERY thorough I cannot say this was an enjoyable read as most of the time it had a bit too much detail for my tastes but it was a well written researched and put together book I don t read nearly as much non fiction as I should and hardly any biographies Usually when I do read biographies I start off with enthusiasm only to flail and fall flat about 70 100 pages in aka get bored Not so with this all to readable new biography of Lewis Carroll which I chanced The Sister Swap upon when I heard it serialised on the BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week strand It s actually the story of the real Alice or Alices behind the Wonderland book and through her the life of the man who wrote photographed and adored Like many children Alice s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass were books I loved as I was growingp and I have since read Alice s adventures to my own children As I got older I gradually became aware of their author Lewis Carroll pseudonym of Oxford academic Charles Dodgson This book tells the story of Dodgson s life and interweaves it with that of Alice Liddell who inspired that story so many years agoI was fascinated to read of Charles Dodgson s life and of the hinge moment as the author puts it in almost the middle of his lifespan when he wrote Alice The story of that sunny afternoon when he went punting with Alice and her sisters and began telling them of th. Following his acclaimed life of Dickens Robert Douglas Fairhurst illuminates the tangled history of two lives and two books Drawing on numerous npublished sources he examines in detail the peculiar friendship between the Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson Lewis Carroll and Alice Liddell the child for whom he invented the Alice stories and analyzes how this relationship stirred Carroll s imagination and influenced the creation of Wonderland It also explains why Alice in Wonderland 1865 and its seuel Through the Loo.

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E little girl who tumbled down a rabbit hole gradually became re told and enshrined in myth Interestingly not only by the author but in later years by Alice herself It was interesting to read how Alice later Mrs Hargreaves was taken by her younger son Caryl on a trip to the United States where she was ncomplaining and you feel slightly mystified at being feted by complete strangers Even her harmless estions about what the Statue of Liberty was made newspaper headlines and she certainly profited from the sale of items given to her by the author including the original manuscript of Alice in Wonderland Indeed a signed and beautifully bound of every Alice incarnation was dutifully sent to her and even if the relations between Charles Dodgson and the Liddell s changed over the years he obviously felt the need to acknowledge her She certainly dealt with being Alice better than the man she once met at an opening who had been the Peter that Peter Pan was based pon and who suffered endless bullying at Eton and ended The Hearts Voice up committing suicide It cannot be easy to have your life blurred by a fictional characterAt the heart of this biography though is the obviously contentious issue of Charles Dodgson s procession of child friends The author puts his behaviour in context of the time and is generally sympathetic to his now extremelyncomfortable desire to photograph young girls often nclothed and take them on jaunts to the theatre or out to tea Interestingly even while at Oxford his behaviour was looked pon askance by others with The Spaniards Stolen Bride (Mills Boon Modern) (Mills Boon Modern) (Brides of Innocence, Book 2) undergraduates often poking fun at him and a pattern of him retreating if his behaviour wasestioned What is obvious is that Dodgson was a very complicated character while after his death his family were keen to protect his image and control how he was written about I really did enjoy this book It is not a To Kiss a Sheik uick or easy read Indeed it has taken me a few weeks to finish and Isually do read The Playboys Virgin (Australian Playboys uickly However I found myself responding to theieter Victorian pace of life and needing to concentrate and think about what I was reading Dodgson was a man. King Glass 1871 took on an nstoppable cultural momentum in the Victorian era and why a century and a half later they continue to enthrall and delight readers of all agesThe Story of Alice reveals Carroll as both an innovator and a stodgy traditionalist entrenched in habits and routines He had a keen double interest in keeping things moving and keeping them just as they are In Looking Glass Land Alice must run faster and faster just to stay in one place Tracing the development of the Alice books from their inception.

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Who loved wordplay who delighted in the companionship of children however estionable his motives and who suffered self doubt and a desire to always make fresh starts I enjoyed reading of his constant wish to improve the world he lived in with often considering people like mathematical formula than the npredictable beings they actually are such as his letters suggesting ways people could exit crowded theatres or ways in which you could make notes in the dark He constantly amended his writing involved himself in any Alice adaptations such as theatre productions with an endless stream of improvements and suggestions and you feel would have been proud that Alice still has such an important place in so many readers hearts From BBC Radio 4 Book of the WeekWhere did Alice stop and Alice beginWonderland is part of our cultural heritage a shortcut for all that is beautiful and confusing a metaphor sed by artists writers and politicians for 150 yearsBut beneath the fairy tale lies the complex history of the author and his subject The story of Charles Dodgson the iet academic and his second self Lewis Carroll storyteller innovator and avid collector of child friends And also of his dream child Alice Liddell and the fictional alter ego that would never let her grow pThis is their secret history one of love and loss of innocence and ambiguity and of one man s need to make Wonderland his refuge in a rapidly changing worldDrawing on previously The Drifter unpublished material Robert Douglas Fairhurst traces the creation and influence of the Alice books against a shifting cultural landscape the birth of photography changing definitions of childhood and sexuality and the tensions inherent in the transition between the Victorian and modern worldsRead by Simon Russell BealeProduced by Joanna GreenA Pier production for BBC Radio 4 Fascinating biography of a book a genre I am intensely interested in right now as I am writing one myself on Little Women This is a great example thoroughly absorbing and full of fascinating detail Mine is going to beite a bit different but it did inspire In 1862 to Liddell s death in 1934 Douglas Fairhurst also provides a keyhole through which to observe a larger shifting cultural landscape the birth of photography changing definitions of childhood murky estions about sex and sexuality and the relationship between Carroll s books and other works of Victorian literatureIn the stormy transition from the Victorian to the modern era Douglas Fairhurst shows Wonderland became a sheltered world apart where the line between the actual and the possible was continually blurre.

Robert Douglas Fairhurst is a Fellow and Tutor at Magdalen College Oxford where he has been since 2002Prior to that date his background was Pembroke College Cambridge BA 1990 MA 1994 PhD 1998; Procter Visiting Fellow Princeton University 1991 1992; Junior Research Fellow Fitzwilliam College Cambridge 1995 1996; Fellow and Tutor Emmanuel College Cambridge 1996 2002 He writes o