Alice Liddell

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“He was the kindest friend a child could have.” 

PR-01 - Sources: see below.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), better known by his literary pseudonym Lewis Carroll, was an English writer, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and photographer. He is best known for his books Alice in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass

It is commonly believed that Lewis Carroll named his most famous literary character Alice after a young muse, Alice Pleasance Liddell (1852-1934). However, Carroll denied that his character was based on any real child.
What is uncontroversial though is that he developed a close friendship with the young Alice Liddell, her two sisters, and their mother. As a photographer he also took scores of images of young girls, and is known to have taken nude photographs of children. 

There has been an extensive public and scholarly debate about the question whether Carroll was a “pedophile” who felt erotically attracted to Alice Liddell.

Opponents of this notion seem to believe that “pedophilia” is a dangerous psychiatric syndrome that almost inevitably leads to predatory behavior and is incompatible with more common feelings towards adults. They point out that Carroll was never accused of having molested children and also showed interest in women. His friendships with under-aged girls and an occasional boy would have been quite common among Victorian men and his interest in taking nude pictures of such girls would have been purely aesthetic. 

However, proponents of the hypothesis claim that Carroll's feelings for Alice were unusually strong and do suggest that he had fallen in love with her. Some authors even appear to be aware of the difference between amorous or erotic “pedophile” feelings and a tendency to rape children. 

Nonetheless, there seems to be no dispute that there was a strong platonic bond between Lewis Carroll and the Liddell sisters, especially Alice Liddell. He made up stories and games for them and took them on short trips. On a July afternoon in 1862, he took the three Liddell sisters on a stretch of the river between Oxford and Godstow and told them the story that would become Alice. Alice Liddell, then 10, was delighted that the main character bore her name and asked him to write down the story.

In a BBC-documentary, Vanessa Tait, great-granddaughter of Alice Liddell says, 

“My understanding is that he was in love with Alice, but he was so repressed that he never would have transgressed any boundaries."

What is most important is that throughout her life, Alice Liddell referred to Lewis Carroll as 

"the kindest friend a child could have." 


Jenny Woolf. Lewis Carroll's Shifting Reputation, 2010.

Nicolaas Matsier. Lewis Carroll: Met 4 ¾ kus: Brieven aan kinderen, maar niet alleen. De Bezige Bij, 2011. 

C.M. Rubin. Alice – True or Not True?, 2012. 

Lorena Muñoz-Alonso. Was Lewis Carroll a Pedophile? His Photographs Suggest So, 2015.  

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