Victoria Through the Looking Glass
FLORENCE BECKER LENNON is a minor American poet, a student of anthropology, and a conscientious researcher into the id which produced that classic metamorphic personality, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson-Lewis Carroll. “How did it happen,” Mrs. Lennon questions, “that the Reverend Charles Dodgson, thirty years of age, lecturer on geometry at Christ Church, Oxford, hitherto remarkable chiefly for his precision, on a single July afternoon, while rowing up the Isis with a brother don and three little girls, parthenogenetically gave birth to one of the most famous stories of all times?” And in the 387 pages of this book, she valiantly endeavors to answer her question.
Mrs. Lennon’s book needs no publisher’s blurb to assure us that it is a labor of love. Her bibliography is enormous, and her intellectual approach is not limited by Carrollcultism. In her painstaking effort to elucidate the complex mystery of Dodgson-Carroll, a fascinating subject for both the amateur and the professional psychologist, she presents Alice’s progenitor and his Victorian world through the eyes of his contemporaries, his little-girl friends, his detractors and worshipers, and —best of all — through his own letters, works, and photographs.
Despite her persistence, patience, and love, her book unfortunately remains more a careful compendium of all available Dodgson-Carroll materials than a well-integrated biography. Mrs. Lennon has, perhaps, been overcareful. Anything which clarifies the genesis of a work of genius is interesting and presumably of importance. But must we decide whether Lewis Carroll did or did not “love" little Alice Liddell and just why he preferred the company of little girls to all other beings? Is it not of greater significance that, out of whatever darkness his personal terrors brought him, he created a wonderland which illumines all our years? Simon and Schuster, $3.50.