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  Lewis Carroll
   

 

 

 

Emily Chesley first read the work of Lewis Carroll (aka CHARLES LUTWIDGE DODGSON) in early 1894. She had been at a book signing tea, inserting her monogram into the cleavage of the Brain Beasts of Blenheim Township, when a young reader plopped down a copy of Carroll's latest book, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893) and asked her to sign it. She tried to explain to the young boy that the book was not hers, but he would not be mollified. Instead, he started lobbing jam tarts and other foodstuff at the prim proprietor of the sleepy bookstore, inadvertently spattering a Mrs. Shapely Legg (nee Bottom ) with clotted cream. (1)

In the ensuing melee, Chesley slipped the tome in her carpet bag. She devoured the contents of the book later, like so many hirsute Norwegian horsemen.

The book's content and style enthralled her. Sylvie and Bruno Concluded has been described aptly as "one of the most interesting failures in English literature." The elaborate combination of fairy-tale, social novel, and collection of ethical discussions was unduly neglected and ridiculed. It was to have a profound influence on Chesley's writing career.

With the infamous Library Bosom Affair over, Michael Flannigan's financial resources were much depleted by legal fees. Oh, he was still extremely wealthy by the standards of a bog-trotting inventor, and the house on 45 Maitland was bought and paid for, but the prolific inventor needed to get away from London, Ontario and the glare of publicity around the unfortunate circumstances surrounding his Mammary Sympathizer. His chance came when the British Society of Insane Inventors (later known as the Mad Society of Mad Scientists Society Gobble Bobble Rachamach) invited Flannigan to Britain for a barmy lecture tour.

The tour was to have profound literary consequences. While in Bigone-on-Tyne, explaining how the Pornograph had come to be stolen by another inventor, an aging Charles Dogdson was keen to show the famous creator of the "Introspection Wheel" one of his own devices -- the Nyctograph, a device for taking notes in bed (or while under the influence of mind-altering substances). (2) While discussing the vagaries of patent law, Dogdson invited Flannigan over for tea.

"Would ye' mind if I brought along me darlin' niece?" Flannigan asked.

"Of course, of course," said Dogdson, his eyes sparkling in anticipation, "I shall have my camera at the ready." (3)

Dogdson was somewhat disappointed to find that Emily was fully grown (and spectacularly, if the journals of the 7th Regiment are to be believed). He was delighted, however, to find a fellow-traveler in speculative literature. While her uncle rifled through Dogdson's notes describing the Nyctograph, the two writers shared a pipe of something that Flannigan's friend, Gunter Gruntz, would no doubt have recognized if he wasn't thoroughly decomposed.

Their shared experience resulted in Chesley's first attempt to write children's literature, the Bungywash (pronounced Bung-ee-wash) Fables.

--"Scholarship" by The Squire

Notes:

(1) This was a most unfortunate circumstance. The young lady in question had only recently concluded both a court case (the infamous Library Bosom Affair) and the prima noctis of her marriage to Mr. Big Legg III. With the trauma of both incidents still foremost in her mind, the gobbet of clotted cream that landed in her décolletage and along the side of her face left her in, according to the attending physician, "an advanced state of sexual catatonia."

The young man was later inducted into the RCR, and fought in France during the First World War, penning war poetry under the clipped pseudonym "Banger McReady". Chesley, remembering the encounter, quoted one of his best known poems: "Mud, Mud, Blud, Blud" in the opening chapter of her 1917 novel, Aantz! [back]

(2) The similarities to the Nyctograph and Flannigan's Automatic Pen (circa 1894) have not gone unnoticed by patent historians. [back]

(3) One of the few things that engaged Carroll was young girls. He frequently had them over for tea, more than he had adults over, and enjoyed photographing them. The subjects were often nude, but his close acquaintances insisted it was an innocent passion. His niece commented: "He...seemed almost quivering with delight at the prospect of playing with four or five little girls." [back]

 

Lewis Carroll
One of the few things that engaged Carroll was young girls.

 

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