You are currently viewing archive for July 2007
30 July 2007
You can't do a really successful imitation of another person's writing any more than you can copy that person's personal mannerisms. There's a little spark that's uncopy-able.

So I'm puzzled about "Wasp in a Wig". It is a so called suppressed chapter from one of the "Alice" books, discovered in galley proof some years ago. It tells how Alice meets a sad old wasp who sings a song for her. The wasp is unattractive, and dull, the song is average music hall stuff. It's sort of like Carroll, but not really. And because the quality is so much worse than the rest of the book, many people think it's not his work.

However the annotations are in his own hand, and, having once studied handwriting analysis, I sneakily took a magnifying glass and checked some of the tiny little pen marks which we all make and are distinctive and unique to us. The tiny marks in the handwriting are definitely Carroll's. So I think he did write this chapter and it got as far as galleys before he pulled it.

What intrigues me is that it feels and reads like a copy of his work. It entirely lacks charm and life. It is as if it were written by someone copying him. People often say Carroll had two distinct personalities and reading "Wasp in a Wig" makes me think this might indeed be so. Thank goodness his creative side managed to pull the chapter in time.
26 July 2007
I'm still busy with other things. But I was thinking that standard, straightforward biographies of Carroll tend to recycle the same old stuff without looking behind the surface at the kind of man he actually was. I am trying the whole time to imagine what he must have been like. What would I have felt if I already knew him and he walked into the room? Would my spirits rise, fall or stay the same?

He saw life so differently from most people that those who had the chance to creep behind his stiff exterior seem to have been delighted to have the chance of his company. I imagine that he would have frozen me out though - probably because I'd want to know so much about him. These reflections can become rather circular....

01 July 2007
I haven't felt like writing the blog lately because I've been involved with trying to sell the old family home in SW London - rather sad to clear it out. It's been in the family nearly 100 years and is full of memories. It's more like getting rid of a dear old pet than a mere house. I've known it since my earliest memories and am familiar with every inch, in the way a child is - even the bits around the skirting boards.

My sister tried to buy it to live in it but property prices in London being what they are, she just couldn't raise the cash even by selling a larger house in the Midlands and raising over ?100,000 of extra cash. As I am not a beneficiary of the will, I can't help her out.

I'm still thinking about Carroll. Sometimes I feel as if Carroll is my brother - if not my incubus) - it's easy to forget that other people don't know anything and probably don't care either. So it's been a matter of pitching the proposal in a way that will interest not only those who ARE intrigued by him, but also the others who vaguely think he wrote "Peter Pan".

There's also the problem of giving a crash course in history. Carroll was such a one-off that he had some difficulty in fitting into his own society. (He might have had difficulty fitting into ANY society, although the 18th century might well have suited him more than the 19th).

But, to see how he dealt with his society, you have to know a bit about that society, and I can't assume that the reader knows, of course. It's fairly safe to guess they're not familar with the Oxford Movement, but shouldn't a reasonably educated person be able to make a guess about what Victorian genre paintings are? It's hard to get it right.

On an Angry Old Woman note, I was also shocked to find that a professional who read my proposal and reported on it, constantly misspelled and misused words in her report. She used "hoards" when she meant "hordes", was a fan of "greengrocer's apostrophe's" and consistently used "it's" as the possessive of "it". My inner schoolteacher was brandishing an imaginary red pen all over her report. She was a lovely lady, and perhaps her teachers felt that learning grammar and punctuation stifled creativity... but I confess that if I were making a career in publishing and couldn't spell or punctuate, I'd buy myself a book or go on a course.

Having said that, Lewis Carroll, for all his love of literature, was no great shakes in the punctuation department.

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