(First composed 24th March 2010)
Due to the latest Disney offering the world currently seems to be afloat with Alice her adventures Wonderland once more. Like most children I read Alice, and re read it in my teens and adulthood. Lewis Carroll was always a favourite of ours as our father was similarly interested in Maths and puzzles, himself a great admirer of CL Dodgson. It’s a trait that has followed me into adulthood, although I dropped Maths after GCSE level I have continued to have an interest in the quirkier sides of existence, in mental puzzles of logic and philosophical matters, and this constitutes a large amount of my practise as an artist.
Only in recent years has my birthplace, Ripon, and its Cathedral celebrated their connection with him. C Lutwidge Dodgson used to stay at the Rectory when his father was Canon here. I was unaware of the connection until very recently. It seems strange to find these things out in later life, as though a star of the universe was all the time living just next door.
Ripon Cathedral crypt feels like the safest place in the world. It holds a mysterious air of ancient Holiness that unravels Twenty First century arrogance. To get to it you have to walk along saxon burrows underneath the main church. The crypt was built by St.Wilfrid in 672, oddly (and making my head spin as I find myself putting myself at the centre of all these giddy facts), 1300 years before I was born, a little more than a stone’s throw away in Ripon Hospital. It is like entering a rabbit hole, and this and the superb medieval misericords are thought to have inspired some of the imagery in Alice. In the quirky, not to say bizarre medieval carvings of the weird and improbable the Cathedral certainly has the tone of Alice.
I was completely astonished then, when I recently found out that Dodgson started at Rugby the very same day as my Great, Great Grandfather, William Henry Marriott in 1846(p. 152) They both went up to Oxford in 1851; my G.G. Grandpa to Lincoln College
and Charles Lutwidge Dodgson to Christ Church. Whilst my G.G.Grandpa went on to take full Holy Orders and become Vicar of Thrussington, Leicestershire (we still have the rather beautiful sermon he wrote upon the death of his wife, my G.G. Grandmother), C.L. Dodgson became a Deacon and continued teaching at Oxford.
All the Charles Lutwidge Dodgson correspondence from this time is held by Harvard University. Today (March 24th) I received a warm email welcoming me to come and have a look at their vast collection of Dodgson letters. Another dream to add to my quiver!
Links in this piece are denoted by tiny red dots under the words, so you can see what I’m talking about.