17 February 2018

Charles Dodgson and Alice (Lidell) in Wonderland

Charles Dodgson (Lewis Carroll 1832-98) was born in a NW English vil­l­age, third child of Rev Charles Dodgson. As the fam­ily grew to in­clude 11 children, Charles told stor­ies to his siblings, made up games and wrote magazines with them.

After enrolling at Oxford in 1850, Dodgson became a fel­low at Christ Church College. According to the rules, fellows had to be ordained, but Dodgson ignored the ordin­ation rule and lived at the college unmarried. He was a maths lecturer and a devout deacon of the Anglican Church.

Like many Victorian bachelors, he became an “uncle” to his friends’ children, taking them out. In 1855, Dodgson’s Dean Henry Liddell arrived at Christ Church with his wife, Lorina and their first four children. As the 3 sisters grew older, Dodgson took the girls under his wing, with their parents’ blessing. In summer 1862, he took the Liddell girls on the river in Oxford and told them stories. Alice Liddell (1852-1934), then 10, was delighted that the main character shared her name and asked Dodgson to write his stories.

Dodgson wrote to Gertrude Thomson, an artist who was sketching girl­ish nymphs: "I am fond of children ex­cept boys." And "I confess I do not admire naked boys in pictures”. He took exq­uis­ite, melancholy photog­raphs of lit­tle girls. But it was Alice Liddell in particular who became his passion.

So why did the Liddells trust Dodgson with their precious daughters. I suggest a few significant reasons:

1. Harry Liddell was Dodgson’s dean and had a trusting professional relationship with him;
2. The Liddells had 9 children and were delighted when an adult offered to help keep them educated and amused;
3. Dodgson was a respectable Anglican deacon; and
4. The children loved Uncle Charles’ stories and activities.
Dodgson’s love for girls was elusive, and filled with yearn­ing. He wrote to a 10-year-old girl, thank­­ing her for her lock of hair. “I have kissed it sev­eral times - for want of having you to kiss, you know, even hair is better than nothing." There was a romantic intensity to the friendships, a hunger, of nev­er quite getting enough, want­ing more of Alice.
If the man did not ever literally shag a child, was he still culpable? Yes!! He carefully groomed the youngsters and he changed those girls’ lives forever.

The Queen of Hearts by John Tenniel
The queen was a foul-tempered monarch 
whose favourite line was “Off with their heads!"

He loved little girls, but, like Peter Pan, he couldn’t marry them. So Katie Roiphe asked if there were other famous C19th men who disliked overt adult phys­icality and who found them­selves drawn to children/teens instead.Yes! John Ruskin also fell under the spell of young girls he met, yet he couldn’t consummate his marriage to an adult woman. Anne Isba said Charles Dickens met his wife Cath­erine when she was 14; she had 10 children before being dumped for her young sister Mary (who died at 17) and the young teenage actress Nelly Ternan.

Victorian culture clearly had a very sen­timent­al view of young girls that could co-exist with disgust about adult sex!! There is no doubt that Dodgson was tor­m­ented by what HE called "the inclinat­ions of my sinful heart"; that his own thoughts were “unholy”. But Dodgson felt his er­ot­ic fascin­ation was under control; he was channelling his desires into a wild and lovely lit­er­ary univ­erse instead.

Although the camera was still new technology, in 1856 Dodgson had been an early and skilled portraitist. He found plenty of friends who wanted him to take family port­raits eg Engl­and’s poet laureate, Alfred Lord Tennyson. In total Dodgson took c3,000 photo­graphs, just over half were of child­ren, mostly dressed. Some of his portraits might offend us, but by Victorian stand­ards they were innocent. They were prais­ed as art studies, a la Julia Margaret Cameron. Yet modern critics have condemned the photos that showed his fascination with the immature female body.

One example will suffice. On the 150th anniversary of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, the BBC made a documentary called The Secret World of Lewis Carroll, 2015. It expl­ored the nature of Carroll's relationship with children, and revealed a newly-discovered photograph of Alice’s elder sist­er, entirely nude. Although the picture was not 100% proven to have been Carroll’s, the uncomfortable pubescent model strong­ly suggested he was a somewhat rep­res­sed paedophile.

In 1865 a completed version of Alice’s Adventures in Wonder­land was published as a book, published with John Tenniel's unmistakable art work. Dodgson published a sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, in 1871, and a long poem in 1876.

He retired from teaching mathematics in 1881, and died in 1898 aged 66. At that stage, loving little girls was still acceptable. The London Daily Graph­ic’s 1898 obituary fondly noted his affection for girls. Also in 1898, Dodgson’s nephew published a biog­r­aphy that devoted two warm chapters to Dodgson’s child friends and their kiss­ing.

Now my final questions. There is a gulf between how modern readers perceive an author and how they perceive his work. Is a good work of art, created by a bad person, tainted forever? Would you still read his stories to your children, thinking of them as classics of pure, innocent literature?

Charles Dodgson photo, self portrait, 1857

Charles Dodgson photo, Alice Lidell dressed as a beggar-maid, 1858

13 February 2018

Prince Edward's World War 1 experiences and his pro-Fascist views

To understand why Ed­ward the Prince of Wales (1894-1972) turned towards Fascism before WW2 and turned away his parents’ moral values, I will be citing the writing of Dr Heather Jones. Her journal article “Edward in the trenches” lays the blame firmly on his terrible war experiences.

So let us first canvas WW1. When Britain found itself under threat during WW1, Edward (20) had become the Prince of Wales three years earlier. Edward could easily have stayed at home in safety and inspected military train­ing camps but he was desperate to serve on the Western Front. The Secretary of State for War naturally forbade the first in-line-to-the-throne to die in the trenches so Edward took a commission in the Grenad­ier Guards and accepted a junior officer role in France, far behind the front lines.

As soon as he could, Ed­w­ard wanted a com­promise. Although not directly involved in fight­ing, he was assigned to staff work on logistics. Thus Edward could go on frequent morale-boosting visits to the trenches, visit advanced positions, see the dead bodies lying unburied in the fields and smell the shell fire. The visits made him very popular with the men.

In contrast, his younger brother Prince Albert (1895-1952) would not ever become king under normal circumstances, so there was a less rigid approach to him serving in war. Everyone believed that Britain controlled the seas and the nation’s naval supremacy could not be challenged by Germany, so Albert, who was still in his teens, served in the Royal Navy as a midshipman.

However Germany embarked on a campaign of battleship building and by 1916 was ready to take on the British fleet which was block­ad­ing the North Sea. In May the Battle of Jutland was waged, becoming WW1’s biggest sea engagement. It was a catast­rophe for both sides, including for the young prince in a gun turret, watching the ships being destroyed by torpedoes around him.

Thus both princes, who had lived in the lap of luxury back in their palaces, faced horror at war. Perhaps Edward seemed a little jeal­ous of his younger brother who participated in direct action. But there was no questioning the bravery of both princes.

Edward the Prince of Wales in army uniform, and his brother in navy uniform, 1915. 
Photo credit: Express

During WW1, Edward had his first, hidden sexual experiences in Amiens, and then in Paris. But post war, liv­ing a vigorous social life was essential for any ex-serviceman, to regain his sanity. People were tolerant. In London Edward courted Lady Sybil Cadogan, his sister’s best friend, and wanted marriage in 1917. His next affair was with Lady Rose­mary Leveson-Gower, a soc­iety beauty who the prince wanted to marry in 1918. However she married William Ward, 3rd Earl Dudley, in March 1919. Then Ed­ward chose married women: Mar­ian Coke, his much adored lover Freda Dudley Ward divorced wife of an MP who was vice chamb­erlain of the Royal House-hold and the Amer­ic­­an heiress Aud­rey James. Best of all was Lady Thelma Furn­ess, daught­er of an American diplomat who eloped at 16, divorced and then married the shipping magnate Vis­count Furness. Thel­ma joined the Prince in Kenya in 1928 where the two fell in love. 

He enjoyed a hectic social life, travelling the world (Canada, USA, the Caribbean, India, Australia, New Zealand etc) formally rep­res­ent­ing his father the king, and making many private visits to Germany throughout the 1920s and 1930s.
King George V and Tsar Nicolas II, 1913
first cousins and close friends, sharing a family wedding in Berlin
Photo credit: Rare Historical Photos 2018

Dr Jones showed that the war had a fundamental impact on Ed­ward’s political views. It left him with an abhorrence for Commun­ism and anger that the Bolsheviks had killed his Russian cousins, Tsar Nicholas II and his family. [So why did Edward not blame his father King George V, for banning the Russian royals’ entry into Britain when the Tsar was desperate for a safe haven in 1917?]

Edward fervently believed future European war had to be avoided, supporting the British Legion in interwar efforts at reconciliation with German ex-servicemen, even after Hitler came to power.

For King George V, individual personality had to be completely subord­inated to the dignity of the office of king. But Prince Ed­ward believed a king had to be a strong leader who embraced a cult of personality. He admired Fascist leadership because he believed appeasement with Fascism offered European peace. In particular Fascism seemed a modern answer to the Communist threat, for example by improving the lives of Germany’s poor.

King Edward VIII on an unofficial tour to Germany
giving a Hitler salute in 1937
Photo credit: Daily Mail

A weak personality himself, Edward was most vulnerable to the myths Fascism propagated – anti-Semitism, a need for new rad­ical politics of the right and a strongman leader. Perhaps this was appealing because the war had left Edward deeply insecure about his own mas­culinity. By abandoning crown and nation in a passion for the last of many women he had loved, Edward could finally publicly prove his manliness.

I will add one more critical factor that Dr Jones did not mention. Edward VIII’s mother Queen Mary was almost entirely German and his father King George V was partly German. Edward remembered how older relatives would change to speaking German, as soon as any English-speaking staff left them in privacy. Edward himself was fluent in his "mother tongue". So asking the prince to devalue his German heritage would have been cruel, and ineffective.

10 February 2018

Canada's most special provinces - the Maritimes

I had been to family reunions in Canada, from Toronto to Vancouver, and especially in Winnipeg. Only in 1994 did we made the first trip to the easternmost Maritimes.

Susan Skelly (The Australian, 11th Nov 2017) wrote: in the Canadian Maritimes prov­in­ces notice their scents - pine resin, wood smoke, seawater, for­est, tobacco, fish and peat. In unforgiving eastern­­ Canada, the Maritimes provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick have the Gulf of St Lawrence, Bay of Fundy and Atlantic Ocean to contend with.

This has been a strat­egic hub that has historically under­pinned wars, immigration and trade. Nova Scotia’s coast has one of the highest concent­rations of shipwrecks in North America, c25,000. But the forests­ of the Maritimes are more accommodating. They are an elegant, tight-knit community of conifers, maples and poplars, scarlet in autumn.

Nova Scotia’s geography creates many fishing villages, so the signature food in the Canadian Maritimes is seafood - crab, lobster, cod, Atlantic salmon, clams, mussels and oysters. See Peggy’s Cove, with its rounded glacial rocks and iconic lighthouse. Nova Scotia has a small popul­at­ion but a coast with cosy harbours, boats and gorgeous colours.

Admire the natural wonders. Hopewell Rocks formations sprout from the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick where the lowest high tides are 10m. Endless seawater flows in and out of the Bay of Fundy daily and the resultant fast tides transform the shorelines, rivers, tidal flats and exposed sea bottom. Visitors can even walk the very muddy ocean floor when the tide is out. The Fundy Trail is a huge parkland that was the vision of the late philanthropist Mitchell Franklin.

A very scenic drive is Cape Bret­on’s Cabot Trail, a 300 km highway that takes in beaut­iful highlands. Hike, cycle, golf or watch for whales. A man-made wonder­ is the Confed­er­ation Bridge, which links Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick – it is 13km long and sits 40m over the Northum­b­erland Strait.

Visitors can see plenty of animals (bear, deer, moose, lynx, red squirrel) and birds (rock doves, seagulls and wild geese). Key crops are the Russet Burbank potato, corn and soy beans. Blueberries are popular. Winemakers in the region have been producing a brand called Tidal Bay, where the grape varieties are 100% grown in Nova Scotia. There’s also a local whisky, homage to the region’s Scottish heritage.

Brightly painted houses,
Lunenburg, Nova Scotia

Maritime Museum of the Atlantic 
Halifax, Nova Scotia
photo credit: NOVA SCOTIA Canada

Sussex murals, 
New Brunswick

Confed­er­ation Bridge, 
Prince Edward Island 
built 1993-97

Fundy tides out (top) and in (bottom)
New Brunswick
photo credit: Amusing Planet

Susan Skelly was interested mainly in natural history. But she did mention some fine mus­eums dotted across the Maritimes which provide rich cultural insights dedicated to the First Nation Mi’kmaq, Gaelic traditions or Anne of Green Gab­les. The village of Grand-Pre in Nova Scotia explores the history of struggling Acad­ians; the Immigrat­ion Museum where the cruise ships dock in Halifax is a reminder of the early settlers: Scottish, English, Irish, French, German and Dutch.

Visit the Maritime Museum of the At­lan­tic in Halifax. This museum has models of passenger liners, freight vessels, armed merchant raiders, petroleum carriers and a Morse code workshop. In Dec 1917, the Halifax Explosion occurred when a French munitions ship carrying­ explosives collided with a Norwegian relief ship in the harbour, burning the city, killing 1600, maiming 9000 and leaving 6000 homeless. And there is a detailed record of the Titan­­ic’s tragic voyage, in April 1912. While sur­vivors were taken to New York, hundreds of the dead were brought to Halifax where the deputy registrar of deaths logged tatt­oos, scars and dental work, bagged personal effects­, and took photos to circulate to identify whichever bodies were located.

The Nova Scotia port of Lunenburg has a new memorial that honours the 650 fish­er­­men who died in this town. See Bluenose II, a 46m replica of the schooner designed to fish for cod off Newfound­land. It was launched in 1921, and became an ambassador for the prov­ince’s seafaring history. The town has many restaurants, colourful herit­age shop­fronts, and houses with the signature Lunenburg dormer, popular in late C19th architect­ure.

Now let me add my personal favourites in the Maritimes. Visit the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. Since it opened in 1908 this gallery has grown significantly, in order to preserve the growing art collection. There are three public galleries which feature work from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. A complete surprise will be a collection of works by photographer Annie Leib­ovitz.

And see Lunenburg’s Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. The newest exhibition invites exploration of the history of the Atlantic Canadian fishery, from the earliest days of the Mi’kmaq to today. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, visitors can experience life in a fishing community and discover life at sea firsthand. Explore the living fish exhibit and wharf-side vessels. Then go into the Ice House Film Theatre.

New Brunswick entered the Canadian Confeder­at­ion along with Nova Scotia, Quebec and Ontario in 1867. The Inter-colonial Railway linked the Nova Scotia Railway, European & North American Railway and Grand Trunk Railway in 1872. In 1879 John Macdonald's Conservatives enacted high tariffs and opposed free trade, disrupting the trading relationship between the Maritimes and New England. The economic situation was worsened by the decline of the wooden ship-building industry. The railways and tariffs did foster the growth of new industries in the province eg iron mills, textile manufacturing and sugar refineries, but they failed eventually. The New Brunswick Railway Museum, run by the Canadian Railroad Historical Ass­ociation, is therefore well worth analysing.

In New Brunswick, see the rich local history represented in impressive murals, painted on walls throughout the beautiful town of Sussex. These world-renowned mural artists did the first 11 murals in summer 2006, with 15 more created during summer 2007.

St John’s,  New­foundland
The cathedral dominates the cityscape
Photo credit: Brit + Co

Newfoundland only joined the Confederation in 1949, when the term Maritimes had long been defined as Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. Nonetheless Newfoundland is now a Maritime province. Happ­ily cheerful colours can be seen in many coastal sites in the Maritimes - think of the brightly painted rowhouses of Jelly Bean Row St John’s New­foundland. Were they painted thus to make home visible to sailors at sea during foggy conditions? Or was Maritime weather so grey that brightly coloured homes were meant to make residents feel less depressed?