This is part of a site about the "Alice in Lyndhurst" play. A play about the life of Alice Hargreaves/Liddell

Dodgson - his supposed darker sides

The play "Life of Alice," first producec for local audiences as "Alice in Lyndhurst," treats Dodgson simply as a man who enjoyed telling stories to children, none of his darker sides are mentioned. I did this because I believe that this may well be case. This is a short defence of this position..

This article puts forward the arguments for him being neither addict nor pedophile.

Drug addict?

On this one there is no evidence except the internal evidence in the Alice books (and perhaps elsewhere). There are two strands to the Alice evidence. First the general craziness of Dodgson's imagination. This is not really evidence at all. People do have hallucinations without taking hallucinogenic drugs. If you choose to believe he couldn't have written the books without hallucinogens, it is your choice. But there is no evidence that he did. The second strain is his knowledge of the size changes which, apparently are a common delusion for those who take the Fly Agaric mushrooms, and possibly other drugs as well. This I believe was common knowledge at the time and had been publicised shortly before the Alice books were written. (I'm afraid this article has few references but there was a well known book at the time that talked of this, this probably is where the idea of size changes came from.) Certainly there is no external evidence that Dodgson took hallucinogens, although he certainly would have taken laudanum at some time. This was the most common pain reliever at the time and is derivative of opium. You can find this more fully discussed on Lenny's Alice in Wonderland site. and on many other sites if you search for Carroll and mushrooms.


The evidence here is not so simple. Certainly if someone in England did now what Dodgson did then he would be arrested. Taking photographs of naked children is now a damning offence but it was common practice then and many Victorian photographers photographed them without any feeling of shame.

Dodgson also went round with toys in his pockets so that he would have something to talk about if he met young children on the train or elsewhere. People are now arrested for such things on the grounds that they are “grooming” children for later sexual acts. In Victorian days being charming to children was considered a charming thing to do.

Again the defence is that there is no evidence that Dodgson ever did anything harmful to children.

All we can say for sure is that things were different then, and they will be different again in 150 years.

Is the problem in the books?

Part of the problem as I see it is that the Alice books are very strange, strange and frightening. It seems to us now that anyone who could write such things must be someone who is not nice to know. But the evidence is there. Dodgson was nice to know, good company, wonderful with children. If he had a darker side, we know nothing of it.

We will never know the truth about Dodgson. It is impossible to know what he thought, or felt or what he did in the private areas of his life. He was a strange man. He was a minor genius. It seems unlikely to me that he was either a drug addict or a pedophile. To glibly say that he was, is depriving yourself, and probably others, the pleasure of reading his books. When you mention Lewis Carroll, the first remark of the majority is to say "he was a pedophile wasn't he?" I suppose one reason why people do this, is that it makes them feel rather superior and haughtily amused that one of the great classics of English literature should have been written by a pedophile. Also they can feel better about not having read read the books.

Frankly, there are no facts in this argument. You either believe Carroll was a pedophile because anyone who behaves like that must be. Or you don't. You believe that times change attitudes and Carroll was most likely what he and his contemporaries thought and said he was. If you wish to explore all this further, the best place to start is the Wikipedia article.

Nick Mellersh 2010

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