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Not including the appendix, this bio clocks in at 533 pages. I'm approaching page 50, and Carroll is still at university. The most interesting part of the biography is a 12-year-old's dream. I present it to you unedited, and with no further comment:

Fagging was, in fact, one of the sanctioned elements in the Arnold-Tait hierarchy, where older boys governed the houses and imposed discipline on the younger ones. Ruled by the elite sixth form, undisciplined youths were supposed to be transformed into responsible, dutiful men.

Two typed of fagging existed: school fagging and house fagging. If a member of the sixth wanted a fag for any outdoor activity, like umpiring cricket, he merely picked one of the three hundred or so boys in the lower forms. House fagging was more arduous and humiliating, ranging from scullery work to running errands. On call virtually all the time he was not in class, the fag could not call his life his own.

If a fag did not perform his duties or was found wanting, he was punished. "For minor offenses," Rouse wrote, "there was a 'study-licking' of three strokes; for others, a more serious chastisement administered before the Sixth, or 'hall licking.'"
Well, actually, a couple of comments: This biography is from 1995. And the guy writing it teaches (or taught; he was old in 1995) at City University of New York. Actually, not just teaches; he's Professor Emeritus. I mention this because I guess maybe I don't want to feel entirely responsible for the immaturity of my thoughts. As an adult, I should be able to read words like "fag," "fagging," and "licking," and not snicker like an asshole while poking Zach to take a look at my book. However, as a Professor Emeritus, maybe homeboy could invest in a thesaurus. I'm just saying.

Oh, and from the Victorian Web, I give you this picture: A Boy in the Lower School Fagging.

One of the things that made the Steegmuller bio of Gustave Flaubert successful is that his focus is narrow: he's giving us an account of the period that leads Flaubert to writing Madame Bovary, and then gives us the fallout from the publication of Madame Bovary. What's germane to this action is what makes it into the biography.

The Carroll biography, on the other hand, simply has Carroll's whole life as the focus -- and thus feels like one of Henry James's "baggy monsters." In several places, Morton Cohen, (the author), glides into speculation while quoting extensively from outside sources:

We do not know whether matriculation provided Charles with hsi first view of Oxford. Perhaps he saw it as a fellow Oxonian first did, from Magdalen Bridge, when one could look "straight acoss the Christ Christ cricket-ground to th meadows beyond Cherwell...[for] an uninterrupted view of every tower in the city from Magdalen to the Cathedral...a fairyland of spires and pinnacles, rising from a foreground of trees and verdure...'the noblest of cities.'"
There are now two camps in Carroll scholarship: those who think that Carroll was a pedophile, and those who think he was simply a Victorian with a camera and no funds for costumes. Cohen is firmly in the former camp, and yet feels some responsibility to rehabilitate Carroll as he goes along. While at Christ Church, Oxford, Carroll writes a series of essays for his finals, each taking a Latin phrase as its thesis. Cohen sees these as Carroll's first attempts at recognizing the "forces he felt operating within him and of his intention to control them, to follow the righteous road, to serve God in every deed. This struggle--" Cohen will repeat this idea several times over "--is a keynote to his character."

Of course, I'm only nearing page 50. I'm nowhere near Carroll's first nude photograph of a little girl. If I had to hazard a position now, though, I might suggest a middle ground between Carroll's obsession with very young girls and the Victorian era's obsession with the innocence and purity of childhood. It had to be a confusing time to be a pedophile, to see naked cherubs on all the household decorations (especially around Christmastime, with the ultimate naked baby, Jesus, lying there all nude-like in his messianic splendor), but then to also know that any pursuit of a relationship with these children would not be looked on as at all appropriate. (You had to wait until the girl was at least 12 to begin pestering her parents for the permission to marry her. Usually.)

And while not defending them at all now, I will say that the confusion hasn't gotten any better for today's modern pedophiles. We rightly forbid them to touch children; and yet we sexualize children in our culture and our advertising all the time. "We can exploit children sexually for profit," the rule seems to go; "but you cannot exploit the children at all sexually for your needs because that's where we draw the line." And I'm not suggesting that's a terrible place to draw the line at all. I just wish maybe we weren't in the line-drawing position in the first place. Maybe sexualizing children for profit should be as forbidden as sexualizing children for personal pleasure.

Two other quick bits from this biography before I close this:

(1) A nephew of Carroll's, S.D. Collingwood, wrote a biography of him which included this tidbit: "In this quiet home the boy invented the strangest diversions for himself...He tried to encourage civilised warfare among earthworms."

(2) He stays for a time with an uncle, Skeffington Lutwidge (I KNOW) (it's Skeffington who introduces him to photography), and his uncle Skeffington is "a barrister and Commissioner in Lunacy." Well, of course he is.