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Letters to Alice Crompton from Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), author
Letters to Alice Crompton from Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), author
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The six letters from Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) were apparently the result of a letter written to him in 1876 by Alice Crompton, a little girl from Old Trafford, Manchester, of about ten years old, in which she must have said flattering things about Alice in Wonderland.Carroll replied, first with the printed 'An Easter greeting to every child who loves Alice', which he dates 6 Apr 1876:'DEAR CHILDPlease to fancy, if you can, that you are reading a real letter, from a real friend whom you have seen, and whose voice you can seem to yourself to hear wishing you, as I do now with all my heart, a happy Easter.Do you know that delicious dreamy feeling when one first wakes on a summer morning, with the twitter of birds in the air, and the fresh breeze coming in at the open window - when, lying lazily with eyes half-shut, one sees as in a dream green boughs waving, or water rippling in a golden light? It is a pleasure very near to sadness, bringing tears to one's eyes like a beautiful picture or poem. And is not that a Mother's gentle hand that undraws your curtains, and a Mother's sweet voice that summons you to rise? To rise and forget, in the bright sunlight, the ugly dreams that frightened you so when all was dark - to rise and enjoy another happy day, first kneeling to thank that unseen Friend, who sends you the beautiful sun?Are these strange words from a writer of such tales as 'Alice'? And is this a strange letter to find in a book of nonsense? It may be so. Some perhaps may blame me for thus mixing together things grave and gay; others may smile and think it odd that any one should speak of solemn things at all, except in church and on Sunday: but I think - nay, I am sure - that some children will read this gently and lovingly, and in the spirit of which I have written it.For I do not believe God means us thus to divide life into two halves - to wear a grave face on Sunday, and to think it out-of-place to even so much as mention Him on a week-day. Do you think He cares to see only kneeling figures, and to hear only tones of prayer - and that He does not also love to see the lambs leaping in the sunlight, and to hear the merry voices of the children, as they roll among the hay? Surely their innocent laughter is as sweet in His ears as the grandest anthem that ever rolled up from the 'dim religious light' of some solemn cathedral?And if I have written anything to add to those stories of innocent and healthy amusement that are laid up in books for the children I love so well, it is surely something I may hope to look back upon without shame and sorrow (as how much of life must then be recalled!) when my turn comes to walk through the valley of shadows.This Easter sun will rise on you, dear child, feeling your 'life in every limb', and eager to rush out into the fresh morning air - and many an Easter-day will come and go, before it finds you feeble and gray-headed, creeping wearily out to bask once more in the sunlight - but it is good, even now, to think sometimes of that great morning when the 'Sun of Righteousness shall arise with healing in his wings'.Surely your gladness need not be less for the thought that you will one day see a brighter dawn than this - when lovelier sights will meet your eyes than any waving trees or rippling waters - when angel-hands shall undraw your curtains, and sweeter tones than ever loving Mother breathed shall wake you to a new and glorious day - and when all the sadness, and the sin, that darkened life on this little earth, shall be forgotten like the dreams of a night that is past! Your affectionate friend, LEWIS CARROLL Easter, 1876'Then on 7 Apr 1876 Carroll send Alice Crompton a manuscript acrostic on her name:'Alice dear, will you join me in hunting the Snark?Let us go to the chase hand-in-hand:If we only can find one before it gets dark,Could anything happen more grand?Ever ready to share in the Beaver's despair,Count your poor little fingers and thumbs;Recollecting with tears all the smudges and smearsOn the page where you work at your sums!May I help you to seek it with thimbles and care?Pursuing with forks and hope?To threaten its life with a railway-share?Or to charm it with smiles - but a maiden so fairNeed not trouble herself about soap!'He then wrote to her on 21 Jan 1877:'My dear Alice, It has come into my head that I should like to know what my little unseen friend is like. Shall you think me very greedy if I ask for a photograph? In return I will send you one of the only man who has seen a Snark. Your aff[ab]le friend, C. L. Dodgson [alias 'Lewis Carroll']'Next follows another letter from Carroll on 24 Jan 1877, including a photograph he had taken of a little girl and thanking Alice Crompton for her own photograph:'My dear Alice, Many thanks - I like the photograph to look serious, best: and if it is a little more serious than you generally look, why, it is easily accounted for - no doubt you were reading the Walrus and Carpenter when you were taken: and that, you know, was a very serious thing-for the Oysters - I find I must get some more of my cards printed - meanwhile I send you one of my own doing - of one of my little friends, a very sweet child - I may not get the cartes for 2 or 3 weeks perhaps: so be patient. Your aff[ectiona]te friend Lewis Carroll'This letter was evidently not acknowledged, for on 5 Feb 1877 Carroll again wrote, enclosing a photograph of himself:'Whether you deserve to have a photograph of me-after never saying a word about the lovely little Dane I sent you Jan. 24th is a very difficult question to answer-so difficult, that I think I had better send the carte first, and settle the question when I have more time to think about it : and of course, if I decide it against you you will have to send the carte back again-at least, you might appeal to the Court of Chancery, but that would cost a great deal, and very likely they would order it to be cut in two (just through the middle of the nose) and say you might keep whichever half you liked best. Tell me your birthday when you write - I suppose you were born in the year 1867, but I don't know the day. Your affectionate friend CL Dodgson'Another letter followed on 5 Mar 1880:'My dear Alice, On the 8th Feb., I got a letter from you, asking me to tell you the name of the child, from whom that photograph (in Danish dress) was done - you will think that so simple a question might have been answered by return of post, and that I need not have kept you waiting so long; but the fact is, it is always best to be very deliberate in answering questions - If you answer in a hurry, you will find that you generally answer wrong. Her name is Alexandra Kitchin'. Her father is a clergyman living in Oxford: her mother used to live in Denmark, and her family know the Royal family there, and so, when this child was christened, the Princess of Wales was one of her godmothers; and she is called after her.The little girl, whose photograph I enclose, is another Oxford child: her name is Evelyn Hatch. She is in an old theatre-dress, that had been worn in a Pantomime, by one of the cootes, who are also friends of mine, and whose name you may have heard, as Lizzie Coote acted in the pantomime at the Prince's Theatre, Manchester, 2 or 3 years ago - Thank you for the nice verses which I got Feb. 14. If you write a great deal better than that, you may some day write real poetry. Yours affectionately, Lewis Carroll'Negatives available
Letters to Alice Crompton from Lewis Carroll (1832-1898), author
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Alice Crompton was a niece of Lydia Becker, the suffragist. After obtaining her B.A. with first class honours in Classics at Owens College (becoming the first woman to do so), Alice took up wardenship of the University Settlement in Ancoats and later continued her aunt's work in the constitutional movement for Women's Suffrage.
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