Open main menu

CHAPTER XI

 

(the samecontinued.)

 

Books for children—"The Lost Plum-Cake"—"An Unexpected Guest"—Miss Isa Bowman—Interviews—"Matilda Jane"—Miss Edith Rix—Miss Kathleen Eschwege.

 

LEWIS CARROLL'S own position as an author did not prevent him from taking a great interest in children's books and their writers. He had very strong ideas on what was or was not suitable in such books, but, when once his somewhat exacting taste was satisfied, he was never tired of recommending a story to his friends. His cousin, Mrs. Egerton Allen, who has herself written several charming tales for young readers, has sent me the following letter which she received from him some years ago:—

Dear Georgie,—Many thanks. The book was at Ch. Ch. I've done an unusual thing, in thanking for a book, namely,
Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll - Xie Kitchin as a Chinaman.jpg

XIE KITCHIN AS A CHINAMAN.

(From a photograph by Lewis Carroll.)

waited to read it. I've read it right through! In fact, I found it very refreshing, when jaded with my own work at "Sylvie and Bruno" (coming out at Xmas, I hope) to lie down on the sofa and read a chapter of "Evie." I like it very much: and am so glad to have helped to bring it out. It would have been a real loss to the children of England, if you had burned the MS., as you once thought of doing. . . .

The very last words of his that appeared in print took the form of a preface to one of Mrs. Allen's tales, "The Lost Plum-Cake," (Macmlllan & Co., 1898). So far as I know, this was the only occasion on which he wrote a preface for another author's book, and his remarks are doubly interesting as being his last service to the children whom he loved. No apology, then, is needed for quoting from them here:—

Let me seize this opportunity of saying one earnest word to the mothers in whose hands this little book may chance to come, who are in the habit of taking their children to church with them. However well and reverently those dear little ones have been taught to behave, there is no doubt that so long a period of enforced quietude is a severe tax on their patience. The hymns, perhaps, tax it least: and what a pathetic beauty there is in the sweet fresh voices of the children, and how earnestly they sing! I took a little girl of six to church with me one day: they had told me she could hardly read at all—but she made me find all the places for her! And afterwards I said to her elder sister "What made you say Barbara couldn't read? Why, I heard her joining in, all through the hymn!" And the little sister gravely replied, "She knows the tunes, but not the words." Well, to return to my subject—children in church. The lessons, and the prayers, are not wholly beyond them; often they can catch little bits that come within the range of their small minds. But the sermons! It goes to one's heart to see, as I so often do, little darlings of five or six years old, forced to sit still through a weary half-hour, with nothing to do, and not one word of the sermon that they can understand. Most heartily can I sympathise with the little charity-girl who is said to have written to some friend, "I think, when I grows up, I'll never go to church no more. I think I'se getting sermons enough to last me all my life!" But need it be so? Would it be so very irreverent to let your child have a story-book to read during the sermon, to while away that tedious half-hour, and to make church-going a bright and happy memory, instead of rousing the thought, "I'll never go to church no more"? I think not. For my part, I should love to see the experiment tried. I am quite sure it would be a success. My advice would be to keep some books for that special purpose. I would call such books "Sunday-treats"—and your little boy or girl would soon learn to look forward with eager hope to that half-hour, once so tedious. If I were the preacher, dealing with some subject too hard for the little ones, I should love to see them all enjoying their picture-books. And if this little book should ever come to be used as a "Sunday-treat" for some sweet baby reader, I don't think it could serve a better purpose.

Lewis Carroll

.

Miss M. E. Manners was another writer for children whose books pleased him. She gives an amusing account of two visits which he paid to her house in 1889:—

Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/423 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/424 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/425 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/426 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/427 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/428 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/429 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/430 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/431 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/432 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/433 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/434 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/435 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/436 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/437 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/438 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/439 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/440 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/441 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/442 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/443 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/444 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/445 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/446 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/447 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/448 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/449 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/450 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/451 Page:Collingwood - Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll.djvu/452 instruments of every sort. Mr. Dodgson and father and I all went one afternoon to pay him a visit. At that time he was much interested in the big drum, and we found him when we arrived in full practice, with his music-book open before him. He made us all join in the concert. Father undertook the 'cello, and Mr. Dodgson hunted up a comb and some paper, and, amidst much fun and laughter, the walls echoed with the finished roll, or shake, of the big drum—a roll that was Mr. Saul's delight.

 

My father died on August 27, 1897, and Mr. Dodgson on January 14, 1898. And we, who are left behind in this cold, weary world can only hope we may some day meet them again. Till then, oh! Father, and my dear old childhood's friend, requiescatis in pace!