cover image In the Shadow of the Dream Child: A New Understanding of Lewis Carroll

In the Shadow of the Dream Child: A New Understanding of Lewis Carroll

Karoline Leach. Peter Owen Publishers, $45.95 (294pp) ISBN 978-0-7206-1044-4

In a vigorous effort to subvert the ""potent mythology"" surrounding Lewis Carroll, n Charles Dodgson (1832-1898)--that he was ""a Victorian clergyman, shy and prim, and locked to some degree in perpetual childhood,"" and, oddly at the same time, a pedophile--Leach, a British playwright, claims that Dodgson had relationships with several mature women, albeit often selfish and cruel ones. These included the artist Gertrude Thomson and the writer Anna Thackery. The eponymous ""dreamchild"" is Alice Liddell, the daughter of Dodgson's dean at Christ College, Oxford, upon whom Alice's Adventures in Wonderland is based and for whom Dodgson assumed the role of attentive father figure. But by studying the ""psychological crisis"" evident in Dodgson's fragmentary journals (many pages were cut out and destroyed by relatives who feared scandal), Leach suggests Dodgson was more involved with Liddell's wife than with Alice and proposes that the seemingly suggestive photos of young girls that Dodgson took stem, in part, from ""strange Victorian child-cult"" in which ""innocence was expressed ultimately through an affected and devotional love of children."" As artfully told as a fine detective story, Leach's account of what truly seems a conspiracy among Dodgson scholars cogently argues that although new materials on Carroll have been released since the late 1970s (his unexpurgated diary, Leach says ""is at present being prepared for publication""), the permanent sabotage of many of his papers has made it virtually impossible ever to attain a clear picture of this unusual individual. (Oct.)