[(essay date 1932) In the following excerpt, Partington discusses collecting the major works of Carroll, noting that his letters and manuscripts are far more collectible than his mathematical writings. ]
The centenary of Lewis Carroll has been duly celebrated—even to the unprecedented extent of a Prayer of Thanksgiving for his gift of laughter being offered in an English cathedral. The celebrators—or most of them—have only been some thirty-three years out in their reckoning. It was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson who was born in 1832; and the shy mathematician, dwelling in the Groves of the Immortals with those other Lords of Nonsense—Lear and Gilbert—would mildly object that Lewis Carroll was not born until 1865, for the purpose of escorting Alice, under the rose, out of his secret Wonderland.
There have been the usual appreciations; and one or two of Dodgson’s girl-child friends have re-searched the fast-dimming past for reminiscences of that grown-up child in his Oxford rooms, with his camera, and his fancy dresses, and his lovely toys. I cannot say that they have given us any new impressions of him. Collingwood’s is the chief Life of Dodgson; and it admirably served its initial purpose. But does it give us the complete picture of the man? I do not think so. There is a remarkable “Life and Letters of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson” yet to be done; and the writer of it will need to go far beyond Collingwood; he will need to use the many revealing and unpublished letters of the author which are strewn throughout the United States and the collections in England—to acquaint himself with friendships other and not less surprising than those already, although inadequately, recorded.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson is, rightly, one of our collected authors, and yet, despite his considerable Bibliography, an author considered by several eminent bibliophiles to have a very definitely limited collecting appeal. Take away the first editions of Alice, Through the Looking-Glass, The Hunting of the Snark, and the two Sylvie and Brunos, and the rest is on a far different plane. My own view is that, apart from his few best known works, there is more scope for collecting interest in his letters and MSS, especially in view of what has been said about his biography. There is more to be revealed about Dodgson from his correspondence than from his other Carrolliana. Collingwood made suppressions even in the comparatively small amount of correspondence he edited. The definitive editor and biographer must cast his net wide and give us everything of value. He will also have his author’s Diaries, which the nephew Mr. C. H. W. Dodgson is now preparing for publication: here, again, we are likely to have suppressions, for Mr. Dodgson writes: “It is my intention that the publication of the diaries shall shed an absolutely authentic light on my uncle’s life; but archaic as my methods may seem to the reader of modern diaries, I propose deliberately to exclude any passage which may cause pain or annoyance to any living person.”