From the Man that Brought us Alice

Shawn and I went to a little house by the name of Good Books in the Woods, which is becoming one of our favorite places to hunt for treasure. My eyes fell on a set of books by the name of The Letters of Lewis Carroll I & II. I opened it, wondering whether there were any communications recorded with George MacDonald (knowing they had been friends). There were many indeed, and then this lovely letter, which made me smile. I don’t know if reading other people’s mail will ever get old, even if the letter was written in 1883, or any date. With letters in particular I feel that sense of awe, of walking through a wardrobe (or pen) and stepping suddenly into that room, that world – of being included in that conversation, in that thought, and touching that psyche for a moment. 🙂

 

To Ellen Terry

MS: Houghton

Christ Church, Oxford

March 20, 1883

 

Dear Mrs. Wardell,

 

  This letter needs no answer. Now that I have learned the fact (I think it was Polly who revealed it) that you find letter-writing a tiring occupation, I am loth to do anything to add to your fatigues – for I am sure you are very hard-worked. But reading a letter takes very little time or trouble: besides, you are not obliged to read it, you know!

Lucy Arnold1 tells me that, each day of her life, the recollection of her night at the play becomes more delightful! (What it will be by the time she is 50, and whether such ecstasy, as she will then have reached, will be consistent with sanity, is a serious question.) So you see what an amount of happiness you have conferred – not only by your acting, which was for all others as well, but by your special kindness to herself. I think you have learned a piece of philosophy which many never learn in a long life – that, while it is hopelessly difficult to secure for oneself even the smallest bit of happiness, and the more trouble we take the more certain we are to fail, there is nothing so easy as to secure it for somebody else: so that, if only A would aim at B’s happiness, and B at C’s, and so on, we should all be happy, and there would be little need to wait for heaven: we should have it. There are some verses I am very fond of repeating to myself, that say all this so much more perfectly than I have managed to do, that I will run the risk of wearying you with yet more reading, by copying them for you.

Ethel was here yesterday afternoon, and was keenly interested in reading some of your old letters, which I picked out for her. I did not know, before, that she had had the presumption to write and ask for your autograph! However, she has it now, in a form very precious to herself, on that photograph you sent her. She is regularly stage-struck at present, that girl: I should not wonder if she finds her way, some day, upon the stage. I have no idea whether she has any talent for acting, but if enthusiasm will do it, she ought to succeed.

Now I’m going to put before you a “Hero-ic” puzzle of mine: but please remember, I do not ask for your solution of it, as you will persist in believing, if I ask your help in a Shakespeare difficulty, that I am only jesting! However, if you won’t attack it yourself, perhaps you would ask Mr. Irving some day how he explains it?

My difficulty is this: Why in the world did not Hero (or at any rate Beatrice when speaking on her behalf) prove an “alibi, “in answer to the charge? It seems certain she did not sleep in her own room that night: for how could Margaret venture to open the window and talk from it, with her mistress asleep in the room? It would be sure to wake her. Besides, Borachio says, after promising that Margaret shall speak with him out of Hero’s chamber-window, “I will so fashion the matter that Hero shall be absent.” 2 (How he could possibly manage any such thing is another difficulty: but I pass over that.)

Well, then, granting that Hero slept in some other room that night, why didn’t she say so? When Claudio asks her, “What man was he talked with you yesternight Out at your window betwixt twelve and one?” 2 Why doesn’t she reply, “I talked with no man at that hour, my lord: Nor was I in my chamber yesternight, But in another, far from it remote.” And this she could of course prove by the evidence of the housemaid, who must have known that she had occupied another room that night.

But even if Hero might be supposed to be so distracted as to not remember where she had slept the night before, or even whether she had slept anywhere, sure Beatrice has her wits about her? And when an arrangement was made, by which she was to lose, for that one night, her twelve-months’ bedfellow, is it conceivable that she didn’t know where Hero passed the night? Why didn’t she reply

 

But, good my lord, sweet Hero slept not there:

She had another chamber for the nonce.

‘Twas sure some counterfeit that did present

Her person at the window, aped her voice,

Her mien, her manners, and hath thus deceived

My good lord Pedro and this company?

 

With all these excellent materials for proving an “alibi,” it is incomprehensible that no one should think of it. If only there had been a barrister present, to cross-examine Beatrice! “Now, ma’am, attend to me, if you please: and speak up, so that the jury may hear you. Where did you sleep last nigh? Where did Hero sleep? Will you swear that she slept in her own room? Will you swear you do not know where she slept? Etc. etc.” I quite feel inclined to quote old Mr. Weller, and to say to Beatrice at the end of the play (only I’m afraid it isn’t quite etiquette to speak across the footlights), “Oh, Samivel, Samivel, vy vorn’t there a halibi? 3

   But I shall bore you if I go on chattering. I will copy those lines I spoke of.

And if, in thy life on earth,

In the chamber, or by the hearth,

‘Mid the crowded city’s tide,

Or high on the lone hill-side,

Thou canst cause a thought of peace

Or an aching thought to cease,

Or a gleam of joy to burst

On a soul in sadness nurst –

Spare not thy hand, my child,

Though the gladdened should never know

The well-spring amid the wild

Whence the waters of blessing flow;

Find thy reward in the thing

Which thou hast been blest to do;

Let the joy of others cause joy to spring

Up in thy bosom too.

And if the love of a grateful heart

As a rich reward be given,

Lift thou the love of a grateful heart

To the God of Love in heaven. 4

By the way, I must not forget to say that I thought the change in the fainting business a great improvement. I presume the changes was made owing to some one else having suggested it, before I did (as you do not say it was owing to me), but even so I am glad to have my opinion thus confirmed.

Love to the Children.

 

Yours ever,

C.L. Dodgson

 

 

1 Lucy Arnold first enters Dodgson’s (Caroll) diaries on December 7, 1877.

2 Much Ado about Nothing, Act II, sc. 11, ll. 47-8.

3 Ibid. Act IV, sc.1, ll. 84-5

4 This quotation, so dear to Dodgson that he was able to quote it again more than twelve years later (see his letter to Edith Rowel, p. 1066 below), is from a poem by his friend George MacDonald (“To C.C.P.,” which appeared as part of a set of three poems entitled “Lessons for a Child” in MacDonald’s Poems (1857). The revised version, included in MacDonald’s Poetical Works (1893) does not include the lines that Dodgson quotes (Anthony W. Shipps supplied the source of the quotation).

The Blanket

– To Jamie, with love.

 

She gave me a blanket, my sister so sweet,

Of blue, cream and ochre, to put on my feet.

 

And happy was I at the sweet thought of this,

– Warm nights now to come, all wrapped up in bliss!

 

So I laid my new blanket on a chair and I took

A pillow, and glass, and a nice looking book.

 

And when I came to my chair in peace to repose

I found that dear blanket – stolen! Right under my nose!!

 

And across the room, so happy I see

A certain daughter of mine, cheeks shining rosily!

 

Happily humming, and cozily huddled,

Enveloped in softness so sweetly she cuddled

 

And what do I see – “My Blanket!” I cried,

but sweetly she looked, and sadly she sighed.

 

Regaining that blanket, my couch now I took,

And remembered that I had forgotten to look

 

So again to my shelf away now once more,

I went for the book I had left there before

 

For that other good quote I had wanted to find,

The case of the blanket had robbed from my mind

 

And the tome now regained I come back and I find,

That boy (Scoundrel!) So angelic, reclined

 

Upon that sweet blanket, that once I called mine,

For a sweet precious moment, a second in time

 

And I sit down beside that boy and I pull

For a corner of blanket and sweet warming wool

 

I reach over my boy for the book and I sigh

As I take up my glass, and I lift up my eye

 

And I see a whole house full of things once thought “mine;”

Trinkets, and curtains, and runners of twine

 

I see that among all these things I now find,

My treasures are shifted, and different in kind

 

They have hairs that they shed, and leave on the sink,

And soft glowing eyes that glisten and wink

 

They have clothes that are strewn all over the room

They wear my mascara, and spill my perfume

 

They are big, and so tall, and they eat all the day

And who knows what mice do while the cats are away

 

But they giggle, and laugh, and fill my whole space

With joy, and with life, and a beautiful grace

 

They are bold, and they’re brave, they’re growing in heart,

And little by little are becoming their part

 

And to these – my new treasures, my old treasures yield,

Priorities shifted, I till a new field

 

For how can a blanket ever compare

To the boys and the girls whose life I can share?

 

How can a mere pleasure once sweet in my eyes

Bring life a new meaning, true riches comprise?

 

So softly my blanket and couch I do give

And find though surrendered – somehow – richer I live.

 

 

~ Watergirl

Thoughts for a New Year, To my Children

As I look back over this year I cannot help but smile at all the amazing little things that come together to make a beautiful life – perhaps not the vision of a “perfect” life some might imagine, but it is perfect to me. It is filled with people, all standing in line, waiting to use the bathroom… All exaggeration aside (and when I say “exaggeration”…), I find my life is filled with amazing people who make my life beautiful, without whom I could not count my life worth living.

 

… In the beginning, there was a girl with brown hair named Erica. She was sweet, and friendly, and she loved to dance. And God looked down and said, “It is not good for Erica to be alone.” And so he sent her a beautiful and bright-eyed little girl. (Erica had always wanted one of those – and she decided to name her Cheryl Spring.) She was wonderfully intelligent, a fast learner and cute as a button. And Erica thought that life was good, but God said, “It is not good for Erica and Cheryl to be alone.” And so He sent along a young adventurous man to join the little family. This young man (whose name was Shawn Lindsley) was brave, good hearted and true. (He also liked hot sauce; Erica had always wanted one of those, and so she decided to marry him.) Shawn always cared for his girls, he took them to the park, and never let any harm come to them. And they thought that life was good. And God said, “It is not good for Shawn and Erica and Cheryl to be alone.” So He sent along a baby boy, with a shining smile. This boy was a jolly soul; he loved to laugh and he loved to eat. (Erica had always wanted one of those, and she and Shawn decided to name him Christian Oliver.) And they all thought that life was good.

And God said, “It is not good for Shawn and Erica and Cheryl and Oliver to be alone.” And so He sent along a beautiful baby girl, with shining copper hair. She was a sweet, sweet child, with shining eyes and the cutest sense of humor. (Erica had always wanted one of those, and she and Shawn decided to name her Vanessa Faye.) And they all thought that life was good. And God said, “It is not good for Shawn and Erica and Cheryl and Oliver and Vanessa to be alone.” And so He sent along a beautiful baby girl, with searching eyes, and a lovely smile. She loved to laugh and loved being a princess. (Erica had always wanted one of those, and she and Shawn decided to name her Katherine Estel – this was the baby girl that climbed in the pot.) And they all thought that life was good.

And God said – to which Erica said, “Lord, do you think any more will fit?” – And God said, “It is not good for Shawn and Erica and Cheryl and Oliver and Vanessa and Katherine to be alone.” And he sent along a baby girl. She was very tiny (she could fit in your hand), black, and white, and furry all over. And when she ran, she looked like a fluffy roly-poly. And they all decided to name her Lucy. And God said, “It is not good for Shawn and Erica and Cheryl and Oliver and Vanessa and Katherine and Lucy to be alone.” And so he sent along a baby with big brown eyes – he was silky, soft and white. He loved to be carried, petted and pampered, but really he just loved everything. They all decided to name him Teddy. And God looked down, and saw all that He had made, and it was very good. And Erica looked round, and she knew it couldn’t have been better.

The En….

But of course, that cannot be the end, because somehow it turns out that one “ending” really ends up just being the beginning of something else. So while it may be the end of God building in our little family, it is only a beginning in each of your lives, where Dad and I get a minute to help prepare you for your lives, and everything that is yet to come for each one of you! And I am grateful for so many things…

First, I am so thankful to have a Father; Who loves me and cares for me so much He is willing to overlook my “crazy” and still loves me and moves forward with helping me to learn even when I try to get in the way. I love seeing how He has taken care of me throughout the years, kept me, and done all those “little” things for me, that in the end are really big.

I am grateful for Shawn, who was willing to listen to my “crazy” and journey through this life with me; who has put up with me over the years, and somehow still loves me. I am grateful for his love for each of you kids, and how he is constantly willing to put us all first, to care for us, protect us, feed us, and regale us with tales, riddles and poems! And I am so grateful that the Lord has kept him true, and I honor him so much for choosing to be a man of God and for continuing to love goodness, truth and beauty, and for sharing these things with us. Without him we would have no Tolkien, Kreeft, Lewis, Chesterton or MacDonald (among many others – Noel, Noel, Noel!). And even if we had stumbled upon them, I don’t know if we would have made any sense out of them without Shawn!

And I am so grateful that you are all a part of our family – it would not be the same without even one of you. It is amazing how the Lord creates the magic that is a family, a husband, a wife, a brother, and sisters (not that puppies aren’t magical, they’re just made of little magic is all).

My prayer this year is for all of you… May the Lord bless you, and keep you, and guide you through the journey of your life. May you walk hand in hand with your Father also, and may He fill your life with all the amazing little things that will come together to make your own unique and “perfect” life; a life that starts something like this:

 

In the Beginning… 

 

~ Watergirl