Was the author who wrote 'Liza in Wonderland' really a pedophile?

Was the author who wrote 'Liza in Wonderland' really a pedophile?

More than 150 years after its publication, Alice in Wonderland is still one of the most widely read and loved children's books in the world. Written in 1865 by the British writer, photographer and mathematician Lewis Carroll, the novel has never ceased to fascinate children and adults, despite the fact that its author's life is controversial.

Was the author who wrote 'Liza in Wonderland' really a pedophile?

A 2015 BBC documentary entitled The Secret World of Lewis Carroll explored the relationship between Lewis Carroll and the girls he photographed. In particular, his relationship with little Liza Liddell, considered by many to be the real inspiration for his book, ended up under scrutiny. In the documentary, Carroll was described as a "repressed pedophile" who photographed naked girls. The discovery of one of these shots reopened the debate: who was really the author of "Liza in Wonderland"?

Lewis Carroll, real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was born in Daresbury, Cheshire, to Irish parents. Most of the Dodgson family belonged to one of two typical upper-middle-class occupations of the time, namely the military and the church. Endowed with great intelligence, Lewis Carroll was a mathematics teacher for 26 years after his studies, although he found teaching a profession without incentives.

He decided to devote himself to writing only after meeting the fairy tale writer George MacDonald, who had read the first draft of "Liza in Wonderland". It was the enthusiasm of MacDonald's daughters that convinced him to try a career as a writer, but under an entirely new name. Lewis Carroll was actually a corruption of his real name: Leïs was the Anglicized version of Ludovicus, from which Lutwidge is derived, while Carroll is the Anglicized version of Charles.

However, long before writing, his true passion was photography. As is known, the subjects of most of his photos were girls. His favorite model was Alexandra Kitchin, aka "Xie", whom Lewis Carroll photographed around fifty times between the ages of 5 and 16. His most famous model, however, is undoubtedly Alice Liddell, otherwise known as Liza.

The daughter of the rector of Christ Church, where Lewis Carroll taught, met the writer in 1856 along with her parents and two sisters Ina and Edith. The Liddell family and the writer enjoyed spending time together, traveling and picnicking. In 1862, during an afternoon together, Carroll invented the subject of a fantastic story to amuse the three girls. Liza asked him to write it and he did.

He suddenly stopped taking pictures in 1880, after 24 years in the business and over 3,000 pictures. Less than a third of these images have survived, while some were deliberately destroyed by the author himself.

The first to address the controversial nature of these photos was Langford Reed, with his 1932 essay "The Life of Lewis Carroll." Without overtly hinting at pedophilia, Reed noted that Carroll's friendship with the girls ended when they reached puberty. So his essay gave way to many controversies that still today surround the figure of the writer.

Morton Cohen, in Lewis Carroll, a Biography (1995), returned to the question much later. "We cannot know to what extent Charles's preference for children in drawings and photographs conceals a sexual desire. He himself argued that this preference had strictly aesthetic reasons. But given his emotional attachment to children and his aesthetic appreciation of their forms, to claim that his interest was purely aesthetic is naive. He probably felt more than he wanted to admit, even to himself. Of course, he always tried to have another adult present when the little girls posed for him."

In the biography "In the Shadow of the Dreamchild", written by Karoline Leach in 1999 and published in Italy by Castelvecchi, another truth emerges. "Carroll was a normal person with very normal sexual tastes, sociable and interested in the theater. "Many lies have been written about him," said Leach, according to which the writer had several relationships with adult women.

Leach was able to find, among the files of the Dodgson family archives, the three missing pages of Lewis Carroll's 1863 diary, dated June 27. Carroll had recorded there the reasons for the separation with the Liddell family. "According to the official version, Carroll had asked to marry with a child. Yes, there is no line in which Liza is mentioned, on the contrary, it talks about the possibility of a departure to avoid other rumors about Ina, who could be their older sister or their mother, Lorina Liddell, Ina for short".

Was the author who wrote 'Liza in Wonderland' really a pedophile?

What is the truth? It's impossible to say for sure, but it's worth listening to the words of Vanessa Tait, great-granddaughter of Liza Liddell and author of a biography about her great-grandmother. "He was a strange but admirable man," recounts Carroll's BBC documentary. "I don't want to label him with pedophilia accusations that everyone seems to be obsessed with today. I find it sad that that's the only thing everyone wants to know about him."