wiki-weird II

We’ve been fatally distracted from this blog by our Other Lives, but someone (thank you JedO) just told us about a little something  on Wiki we had to pass on.

Of course  Lewis Carroll’s  Wikipedia   page is prone to outbursts of Tourette’s at the best of times, with whole sections being replaced with pithy legends such as ‘he was a wanker‘, and  ‘his family were all donuts‘ ,  but here’s a recent addition a little more literate that doesn’t seem to be aiming at Absurdism, but still has me slightly bewildered:

Edward Wakeling, editor of the 10-volume “Lewis Carroll’s Diaries” has always maintained that there is no “myth” and Jenny Woolf, while agreeing that Carroll’s image has been comprehensively misrepresented in the past, believes that this can be attributed to Carroll’s own behaviour and in particular his tendency to self-caricature in later life

Okay.  Couple of things to ponder –

1. Edward Wakeling does not maintain there is  ‘no myth’, in fact he  has a link on his own  website entitled ‘Myths About Lewis Carroll’, with a  long list of  said myths, many of which are identical with those we examine.

2. Anyone have any idea  what the difference is between a life that is mythic and one that has been ‘comprehensively misrepresented’? Or what “this can be attributed to Carroll’s own behaviour and in particular his tendency to self-caricature in later lifeactually means?  That  poor Carroll was responsible for all the lies and nonsense said about him  for a hundred years and  more after his death? And that means, somehow (how?) that there’s no myth? Just a ‘comprehensive misrepresentation’ that is all Carroll’s own fault?

Correct me if I’m wrong but isn’t this semantic gibberish?

We have no idea who wrote this, but we think Mr W and Ms W should probably be informed in case they want to make changes.


~ by Contrariwise on August 27, 2010.

32 Responses to “wiki-weird II”

  1. Why would Jenny Woolf be a member of Contrariwise if she doesn’t accept there is a myth? I think this person is just very confused!

  2. oh and thanks for an update, will you be adding anything more about The Wasp?

  3. The only way anyone can say there is no myth would be if they were maintaining everything previously believed about Carroll was true, but how could they do that with any sense? There is no myth, so therefore Carroll *was* a pedophile and *was* in love with little Alice and *did* give up his childfriends at puberty and *was* a cripplingly shy man who spent his life dreaming of little girls? It’s just bizarre that anyone could be saying that in light of everything that has been uncovered.

  4. Edward Wakeling does not believe there is a myth

    • Then why does he have a section on his website called ‘Myths about Lewis Carroll?’

  5. The problem with Edward Wakeling is that on the one hand he wishes to re-assure traditionalist that there is really no Myth, yet on the other hand he wishes to claim credit for dispelling myths. This is clear in his tortuous, self congratulatury article he publishes on his web site.

    It actually say nothing of import. It merely suggests that because he is the editor of the diaries, he is therefore the fount of all knowledge regarding Lewis Carroll. Yet he does no more than ‘abolish’ such myths that Carroll was a ‘Shy and stammering’ man, that he had a love affair with Alice Liddel or that he had an affair with Mrs Liddel!

    He does not address the major myths covering Carroll’s life. For example that he was a reactionary conservative, bound to the coat tails of Pusey: or concede that he mingled with both men and women who were seen, at the time as being beyond the pail of ‘respectable society. He has NEVER attempted to explain Carroll’s relationships with the Likes of MacDonald, Rossetti, Holiday, and especially FD Maurice. Such associations do not exist in Wakeling’s world. To him, despite the reality, it is imperative that such associations remain in the realm of myth.

    • The problem may be the attempt to associate Dodgson with just a single school of thought, e.g. Pusey’s. To me, Holiday’s repeated use of the “Image Breakers” (1567?, Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder) in his illustrations to the “Snark” could be a hint to a more open minded and diverse orientation of the makers of the “Snark”. Dodgson (as Carroll) and Holiday may have wanted to address the quality of dispute within the (Anglican) church as such rather than single directions within church, where the bowsprit got mixed with the rudder sometimes.

      Also Gheeraerts seems to have been ambigous about his position within christianity in very dangerous times. Edward Hodnett (Utrecht 1971, p. 25-27 of his book on Gheeraerts) assumes, that Gheeraerts mainly took issue at the brutality of the conflict between Chistians without taking sides neither for the protestant nor the catholic direction. Like Gheeraerts, Dodgson and Holiday seem to have despised Boojum. And they addressed it cautiously (Gheeraerts almost not cautiously enough) in order not to become its victim.

      Seemingly, even discussions about more harmless issues (e.g. about Dodgson/Carroll himself) can get a bit too spicy easily. Initially (not anymore) I thought, that the “Snark” was harmles too 😉

  6. The Wiki entry is semantic gibberish

  7. Uh, since when was it a myth that Carrol had an affair with Alice’s mother? It was only suggested for the first time about a year ago!

  8. Why is it semantic gibberish? Misrepresentation isn’t necessarily the same as myth, and Karoline Leach also says that Carroll was responsible for creating much of the misconception about him.

    • Misrepresentation can be different from myth, of course, but how would it be different in this case? How is a ‘widespread misrepresentation’ of someone’s life quantifiably different from a ‘myth’? It’s a distinction being made simply for the sake of trying to make it seem there’s a difference when there isn’t. And In the Shadow of the Dreamchild said Carroll was responsible for some of the initial misconceptions about him – it didn’t make the ridiculous claim that he was somehow to blame for all the mad things said about him long after his death! Surely no one can seriously suggest that?

  9. Calling it a myth is just hype, why call it a myth?

  10. According to the Wiki history that stuff was added by ‘Jenny Woolf’

    • Yeah, I saw that, but I don’t see how it can be the real Jenny Woolf. No author would make such nonsensical claims about their own work! I think it’s possibly a misguided fan of hers or something.

  11. The quote mentioned at the start of this thread (“Edward Wakeling, editor…”) perhaps is not that absurd. Listing up myths does not necessarily mean, that there are true myths. You can list up “myths” in order to demystify and/or debunk them.

    An obfuscating behaviour and in particular a tendency to self-caricature can contribute to myth building. But that is not necessarily the fault of an author, who displays such an behaviour (in order to challenge to his readers) and who is strong enough to produce self-caricature. Carroll neither puplished psychoanalyzises on himself nor did he (as Dodgson did) produce scientific papers. He was an artist and he left the clear science (including clear riddles) to Dodgson. The myths then developped in the brains of the readers. Thus, Carroll’s readers are responsible for misconceptions, not the author.

    Take Nietzsches “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”. Nietzsche could have written a strictly logical philosophic treatise. But he wrote a “A Book for All and None”, a great and beautiful philosophical novel, with some poetry too. Since then, those who interpret the book, discuss whether what Zarathustra says is what Nietzsche means. This contributes to myths about Nietzsche.

    Nietzsche and Carroll just didn’t want to bore their readers. Rather, they entertained and challenged their readers: “It is possible that the author was half-consciously laying a trap, so readily did he take to the inventing of puzzles and things enigmatic; but to those who knew the man, or who have devined him correctly through his writings, the explanation is fairly simple.” (1898-01-29, Henry Holiday on Lewis Carroll’s The Hunting of the Snark.)

    I think, Carroll layed his traps consciously, legitimately and artfully. Some myths may be a punishment for those readers, who got cought in one of his traps.

    I also think, that Carroll was not so self centered that he hid personal issues in his work to an extent which justifies all these discussions about Carroll rather than about what the works themselves could mean. Carroll’s works are not about Carroll.

    • I think you are right to say LC set his traps consciously. He was a highly liminal tricksterish kind of man, who rarely did or said anything without full knowledge and intent, yet the Myth (or Comprehensive Misrpresentation, as I think we now style it), persistently infantilises him, simplifies him, or is just too basically stupid to understand what it’s dealing with.

  12. I think what you have here angel is someone trying to manufacture disagreement just for the purpose of being able to say they disagree. They don’t want to just be a person repeating everything you already said. They want to be unique and wonderful and win prizes for greatness, so they say “ah but, the difference between me and her is she – silly girl – thinks it’s a myth, and I think it’s a Comprehensive Blaaaaaahhh, only see how different I am!” It’s a sign you have won the argument and they entirely know it. Will it catch on? Hope it does. I wanna read ‘Sylvia Plath: the Woman and the Comprehensive Misrepresentation.’ They will have to print the title very small.

  13. Karoline Leach’s book has been widely discredited, and I can’t see why anyone would want to follow in her shoes.

  14. Karoline’s book was very flawed

    • Mr 1832, are you and Karoline personally acquainted? If not your use of first-name terms, whatever your opinion of her work, seems somewhat inappropriate in this context

  15. Are comments being blocked?

  16. I think they are

  17. I see what you are doing

  18. Please could my name be removed from the list of Contrariwise members. Thanks, Jenny Woolf.

    • Well, if you are the real Jenny Woolf could you email us privately with that request? You seem to have the same IP as another frequent poster here, so we need to be sure.

  19. The last three comments I find rather gothic! perhaps the authors may explain?

    I would have thought that if commentrsw are being blocked, then any comment querying ‘are comments being blocked? – woulde certainly be blocked!

  20. By the way Goetze, I liked your comment very much. Your use of the Holiday quotation is particularly apposite. I wish more Carroll ‘experts’ would take note of the implications of this quote.

    • Holiday must have been quite an insightful person with an very analytical mind. I also like his civilized style in : “Art and Individualism” (1909). As among the other illustrators of CLD Holiday is said (Cohen & Wakeling) to have had the most harmonious cooperation with CLD, then understanding CLD through him could be interesting. If Hans Reichert (one of the German translators of the “Snark”) is right, Holiday not only illustrated the Snark inspired by CLD, but some of the Snark-poem also may have been inspired by Holiday. – As for the discussion *about* CLD: Reading the “Snark” makes me think about the difficulties we have discussing controversial topics until today. Some difficulties didn’t change even though more that 130 years went by.

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