Re: [lewiscarroll] Bulldog his Breath
I have a hard time disbelieving what I read in the source data. Though it is
common to say only nice things in an obituary, it is also common to avoid
lying by not addressing the issue. I tend to believe the obit as it supports
other data I see. When Carroll writes that his father was not a "Ritualist,"
why would he state it as so if it were not true? Simply not bring up the
word. I don't think he is less than honest.
Ah but you miss the point -- it WAS true technically, or at least it probably was. But while Dodgson Snr wasn't a Ritualist he *was* of Tractarian sympathies which amounts to a very similar thing in the end. That is to say, Dodgson Snr's views were every bit as out of sympathy with the kind of liberal thinking Charles was expressing as any Ritualist would be.
You say I have to prove Dodgson Snr was conservative and didactic -- I agree, but I also think I HAVE proved it to most evidential standards.
Not only do we have the evidence of his writing, we also have the evidence of his many quarrels with other clergymen. One of these unfortunate gents described Dodgson Snr. as uttering 'solemn sentences of excommunication' on anyone who held different views.
Then there is the evidence of Collingwood, his own grandson, who went out of his way to whitewash his family and to make them seem superhumanly sweet - but still the best he could find to say about Dodgson Snr was that he was -- "a man of deep piety and of a somewhat reserved and grave disposition, which however was tempered by the most generous charity so that he was universally loved by the poor."
Look at what ISN'T said there. Nothing about how good or gentle or loving he was. Nothing about how much his children loved him. The only 'kindness' Collingwood can invoke is impersonal kindness to 'the poor'. Compare that to the portrait Collingwood painted of Mrs Dodgson (LC's mother): "it has been said by her children that they never in all their lives remember to have heard an impatient or harsh word from her lips".
In the circumstances, I think this tells us all we need to know. If there had been anything even slightly loveable about the old man, we can be sure that Collingwood would have said so. The absence is eloquent. That description of "a man of deep piety and of a somewhat reserved and grave disposition" is the *best* that could be said of him by a writer who was highly motivated to make him look as good as possible and who didn't mind bending facts to achieve his ends.
But if we still doubt the authenticity of this portrait, then there is Florence Becker Lennon, who interviewed two other of Dodgson Snr's grandchildren in about 1930. They described him to her as "a man of strong personality with definite ambitions for developing his children's characters".
Altogether all the sources unite to present a very uniform portrait of Dodgson Snr as a powerful, charismatic, controlling, authoritarian and didactic man. Now how would this man with his High Church views, his controlling personality and his "definite ambitions" for his children's development have felt when his eldest son turned his back on the church, started visiting theatres and got himself embroiled in whatever it was that nearly destroyed his life with guilt?
Collingwood was born only after the man's death. So he only had papers to go
by---so no wonder he came up with the same conclusions you have. Okay, I
admit it, he also had personal accounts. Are there any hints in his
description whether he was going to personal accounts or his writings? If
personal, you have the better of me.
Your idea that Collingwood 'only had papers' to go on is just not tenable. Collingwood's mother was Dodgson Snr's daughter. In addition he had six aunts and three uncles surrounding him, all of whom had lived with Dodgson Snr for 20 or 30 years before he died. And yes, his book is full of family 'memories' . (Do you have Collingwood? check it out if you do). Altogether he had at least ten people to turn to for personal information about his grandfather.
So you choose to accept Collingwood here, and not there? Hmmm??? That's an
unfair argument and I know it so don't bother defending yourself.
Well you're just being a tease now. I accept Collingwood when what he's saying doesn't run counter to other evidence, and I don't accept him when it does. That's called being open-minded and not prejudging the issue! The challenge for historians is teasing out as much reliable data as possible from the sources, and you don't do that by making wholesale judgements.You have to take each case on its merits.
< For the first time in his life he really seems to be
focusing on child society in preference to adult, almost obsessively
searching for little companions, as if he is trying to prove something to
himself. The reasons for this can be guessed at -- He is just emerging from
his period of guilt, and as his poetry proclaims he is seeing himself as
seeking regeneration and 'salvation' through childhood innocence. >
Well, you seem to be a novelist here, everything needing some meaning. I'm more
scientific in my approach: chemicals in the brain---by which I don't
necessarily mean any sexual content.
So I guess you are saying that all life and motivation is about molecular biology? Well you could be right, though at the moment there is actually no scientific proof to back you up. The claim that we are nothing but a cocktail of chemicals floating in the synapses of our brains is at present merely an hypothesis, so it could be argued that your approach is potentially a lot more fictional than mine.
However, let's assume you are right -- what then is the point of your own interest in chronology? Chronology after all is only significant if behaviour has meaning, and yet you reject meaning in favour of random chemical brain-events.
But getting back to pop. I should probably read Cohen's chapter again. But
I remember Wakeling telling me he suggested to Cohen to remove the
chapter---being that he did not agree with it. And I should read Karoline's
chapter again too. But I gotta move on. I'm now studying Victorian Dragon
There was a lot of disagreement with Cohen's analysis of Dodgson's relationship with his father. But this wasn't rational or evidential disagreement. It was emotional disagreement. You see, Cohen was the first author to offer any kind of analysis of Dodgson that brought him into the real adult world. His whole image of CLD as a man who suffered sexual guilt and who might have had painful differences with his father ran counter to the idea of Carroll as the man whose life was somehow events, painless, bland.
If you look at the writings of people like Hudson, Clark - and yes Wakening too - you'll see how they go out of their way to assert the lack of pain, the absence of event, the comfort, happiness and contentment of 'Carroll's existence. Unfortunately this image simply is not consistent with the known facts. Dodgson's life was clearly painful for him sometimes; he DID encounter life, and he changed through the encounter. He made bold decisions that took him away from orthodoxy; he did shadowy things that filled him with guilt and dread.
It's entirely to Cohen's credit that he was the first biographer to realise this and to have the courage to say so in print. And it says something about the Carroll 'old guard' that they criticise Cohen, not for repeating worn out legends about Alice Liddell , etc.. but for daring to question even one part of the orthodox image.
PS: As this new year is coming to a close, may I lead a better life and not
pick on Karoline so much.
You know the really weird thing is - that was EXACTLY what Dodgson wrote on one of his missing diary-pages.
- I'm not doubting what Carroll's father believed, I'm questioning how he
acting with people, and especially his own family. You have to admit that
there is no direct evidence of any friction between Carroll and his father.
So all you have is that there SHOULD be because of this, that and the other
thing. Right? Now there is nothing wrong with this approach and your
arguments are well thought out. But I say that it doesn't necessarily have
to be true that he was a bully to his own family on his views.
Sunday or so I read half an article on a hard-line Islamic man in England.
Some reporter wanted to follow him around London for a day or so. The
reporter was surprised that he described himself as a nice guy on the phone.
When going to his house, he certainly was a nice guy, watching the Lion King
with his daughter, smiling for a camera shoot. The first part of the article
detailed a friendly human being, interacting with others cordially.
The second half (which I browsed through) dealt with the fact that he
knowingly and openly sends people off to the Talaban to be trained to KILL,
KILL, KILL Americans.
But a nice guy, we all agree!
Now I probably have the gist of the story a little wrong but the gist of this
man is quite correct, I believe. There are people like this.
I don't have any solid view on Carroll and his father, but I'm still not
persuaded there is any reason to search for tension. I'm still open on it
though. I don't believe me or you just yet.
< Ah but you miss the point -- it WAS true technically, or at least it
was. But while Dodgson Snr wasn't a Ritualist he *was* of Tractarian
sympathies which amounts to a very similar thing in the end. >
Yes, but you miss the point of Carroll's writing. He is saying that though
his father was Right he wasn't Far Right---to use a political analogy. I
guess you are saying that his point is that though his father wasn't
Far-Far-Far Right, he was Far-Far Right.
But this letter is not just evidence of Carroll's father's view. Carroll is
writing to a person who KNEW the difference between the terms he uses. The
reader knew the difference and therefore the difference IS significant to
Carroll and the reader. You claim it was "true technically" or "probably
was." Well, it WAS true AND significant. This is clear from Carroll's
mentioning the point as he did.
His correspondent was not supposed to giggle at his splitting of hairs, was
she? Doubtful. The meaning and tone of the letter is clear: He wasn't
raised by a bully preacher! (Maybe I just overstepped my bounds, but it
sounded so good to type. I'm just demonstrating that I would type something
I wouldn't necessarily say to your face. I have to prove that point
sometime, you know.)
Isn't Carroll making a point about how he was raised to a knowledgeable
reader? Hey! don't assume I was raised like this!