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CHAPTER VII

 

(1888-1891)

 

A systematic life—"Memoria Technica"—Mr. Dodgson's shyness—"A Lesson in Latin"—The "Wonderland" Stamp-Case—"Wise Words about Letter-Writing"—Princess Alice—"Sylvie and Bruno"—"The night cometh"—"The Nursery 'Alice'"—Coventry Patmore—Telepathy—Resignation of Dr. Liddell—A letter about Logic.

 

AN old bachelor is generally very precise and exact in his habits. He has no one but himself to look after, nothing to distract his attention from his own affairs; and Mr. Dodgson was the most precise and exact of old bachelors. He made a précis of every letter he wrote or received from the 1st of January, 1861, to the 8th of the same month, 1898. These precis were all numbered and entered in reference-books, and by an ingenious system of cross-numbering he was able to trace Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/290 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/291 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/292 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/293 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/294 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/295 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/296 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/297 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/298 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/299 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/300 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/301 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/302 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/303 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/304 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/305 282 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF son proves a series of Propositions, which lead up to and enable him to accomplish the feat referred to above. At the end of Book II. he places a proof (so far as finite magnitudes are concerned) of Euclid's Axiom, preceded by and dependent on the Axiom that *' If two homogeneous magnitudes be both of them finite, the lesser may be so multiplied by a finite number as to exceed the greater." This Axiom, he says, he believes to be assumed by every writer who has attempted to prove Euclid's 1 2th Axiom. The proof itself is borrowed, with slight alterations, from Cuthbertson's *' Euclidean Geometry." In Appendix I. there is an alternative Axiom which may be substituted for that which intro- duces Book II., and which will probably com- mend itself to many minds as being more truly axiomatic. To substitute this, however, involves some additions and alterations, which the author appends. Appendix II. is headed by the somewhat startling question, Is Euclid's Axiom true?" and though true for finite magnitudes — the sense in which, no doubt, Euclid meant it to be taken — it is shown to be not universally true. In Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/307 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/308 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/309 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/310 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/311 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/312 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/313 290 THE LIFE AND LETTERS OF At the beginning of 1894 a Baptist minister, preaching on the text, " No man Uveth to himself," made use of " Sylvie and Bruno " to enforce his argument. After saying that he had been reading that book, he proceeded as follows : — - A child was asked to define charity. He said it was "givin' away what yer didn't want yerself." This was some people's idea of self-sacrifice ; but it was not Christ's. Then as to serving others in view of reward : Mr. Lewis Carroll put this view of the subject very forcibly in his " Sylvie and Bruno " — an excel- lent book for youth ; indeed, for men and women too. He first criticised Archdeacon Paley's definition of virtue (which was said to be " the doing good to mankind, in obedience to the will of God, and for the sake of everlasting happiness,") and then turned to such hymns as the following : — Whatever, T.ord, we lend to Thee, Repaid a thousandfold shall be, Then gladly will we give to Thee, Giver of all ! Mr. Carroll's comment was brief and to the point. He said : " Talk of Original Sin I Can you have a stronger proof of the Original Goodness there must be in this nation than the fact that Religion has been preached to us, as a commercial specu- lation, for a century, and that we still believe in a God ? " [" Sylvie and Bruno," Part i., pp. 276, 277.] Of course it was quite true, as Mr. Carroll pointed out, that our good deeds would be rewarded ; but we ought to do them because they were good, and not because the reward was great. In the Preface to " Sylvie and Bruno," Lewis Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/315 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/316 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/317 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/318 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/319 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/320 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/321 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/322 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/323 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/324 judge (in India, it seems, the judge decides things, without a jury, like our County Court judges). "Give your decisions boldly and clearly; they will probably be right. But do not give your reasons: they will probably be wrong." If your lot in life is to be in a country parish, it will perhaps not matter much whether the reasons given in your sermons do or do not prove your conclusions. But even there you might meet, and in a town congregation you would be sure to meet, clever sceptics, who know well how to argue, who will detect your fallacies and point them out to those who are not yet troubled with doubts, and thus undermine all their confidence in your teaching.

At Eastbourne, last summer, I heard a preacher advance the astounding argument, "We believe that the Bible is true, because our holy Mother, the Church, tells us it is." I pity that unfortunate clergyman if ever he is bold enough to enter any Young Men's Debating Club where there is some clear-headed sceptic who has heard, or heard of, that sermon. I can fancy how the young man would rub his hands, in delight, and would say to himself, "Just see me get him into a corner, and convict him of arguing in a circle!"

The bad logic that occurs in many and many a well-meant sermon, is a real danger to modern Christianity. When detected, it may seriously injure many believers, and fill them with miserable doubts. So my advice to you, as a young theological student, is "Sift your reasons well, and, before you offer them to others, make sure that they prove your conclusions."

I hope you won't give this letter of mine (which it has cost me some time and thought to write) just a single reading and then burn it; but that you will lay it aside. Perhaps, even years hence, it may be of some use to you to read it again.

Believe me always
Your affectionate Uncle,
C. L. Dodgson.