Lewis Carroll: ‘I almost wish I had never written any books at all’

<i>This post has been corrected, as indicated below.</i>

If Charles Dodgson could have seen into the future, we might never have had “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.”

Dodgson, of course, was the mathematician who penned the books “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and “Through the Looking Glass,” using the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. During his lifetime, his identity as the “Alice in Wonderland” author had become known -- although he would have preferred it hadn’t.

“All that sort of publicity leads to strangers hearing of my real name in connection with the books, and to my being pointed out to, and stared at, by strangers, and treated as a ‘lion,’ ” Dodgson wrote in a previously unpublished letter. “And I hate all that so intensely that sometimes I almost wish I had never written any books at all.”

The letter, to Mrs. Symonds, is being auctioned by Bonham’s next month in England. Dodgson wrote it Nov. 9, 1891.


In it, Dodgson explains that he would prefer not to be famous. There are others, he writes, “who like being looked at as a notoriety.” He is not like them, he writes, noting “we are not all made on the same pattern: & our likes & dislikes are very different.”

Much of Dodgson’s correspondence has been collected. He regularly sent out a form reply to those requesting autographs. “Mr Dodgson ... neither claims nor acknowledges any connection with any pseudonym, or with any book that is not published under his own name,” ran the note, which he called the Stranger Circular. “Having therefore no claim to retain, or even to read the enclosed [letter], he returns it for the convenience of the writer who has thus misaddressed it.”

The letter will be auctioned March 19. It is expected to be sold for $5,000 to $6,600.

[For the Record, 1:30 p.m. PST Feb. 19: An earlier version of this post misreported the date of the letter as Dec. 9, 1891. It was written in November of that year.]


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