Autodidact: self-taught



by V. L. Craven

Alice in Wonderland Penguin Clothbound Carroll, Lewis. Nonfiction quotes from the Penguin Clothbound Classics Edition of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass by Hugh Haughton
001. xvi. One of [the Dodgson family’s] odder shared characteristics was a chronic stammer. Charles himself had to battle with a stammer all his life (he had regular speech therapy as an adult), and six of his seven sisters were stammerers too. The ‘Dodo’ of Wonderland represents the first syllables of his stammered surname–‘Do-Do-Dodgson’–and it may be that his fine ear for linguistic nonsense, and for semantic and logical impediments of all kinds had some relation to his speech impediment.
002. xxiii. Much of the obsessional inventiveness of Dodgson’s life, in particular his imaginative life–his investment in inventing games, puzzles, ingenious gadgets like his Nictograph for night-writing, his lists and catalogues–can be seen as a defensive construction against not only anxiety but his own subjectivity, and its potential for disorder.
003. xliii. Sense-making is imperative in this world, but it’s a lonely business.
004. l. The obsessively tidy Dodgson was acutely concerned by contemporary debates which threatened the established order.
005. lxx. [A Note on the Text] …Carroll was always one of the prissiest of English writers.
006. 301-2. Isa Bowman recalls how he ‘loved correct elocution’ (Isa Bowman, Lewis Carroll as I Knew Him, London, 1899, p 88) and in a letter to his sister Mary written in 1892, Carroll having ticked her off for the slipshod grammar of a pamphlet she had written, affirmed:

Good English , and graceful arrangement, are higher qualities, not attainable by rule , but only by having read much good English, and so having got a musical ‘ear’, so to speak…I think newspapers are largely responsible for the bad English now used in books. How few novels of the day are written in correct English! To find any such, you must go back 50 years or more. That is one reason why I like reading the older novels–Scott’s, Miss Austen’s, Miss Edgeworth’s, etc–that the English is so perfect ( Letters , vol 2, p916)

007. 310. Carroll’s diary for 9 February 1856: Query: when we are dreaming, and as often happens, have a dim consciousness of the fact and try to wake, do we not say and do things which in waking life would be insane?
008. 311. Isa Bowman records the mild eccentricity of Carroll’s tea parties at Christ Church:

He was very particular about his tea, which he always made himself, and in order that it should draw properly he would walk about the room swinging the tea-pot from side to side for exactly ten minutes. The idea of the grave professor promenading his book-lined study and carefully waving a teapot to and fro may seem ridiculous, but all the minutiae of life received an extreme attention at his hands ( Lewis Carroll as I Knew Him , pp. 36-7)

009. p311. …the dormouse may have been modelled on Dante Gabriel Rossetti’s pet wombat, which used to sleep on the table. Carroll certainly knew the Rossettis well and had visited and photographed them.
010. p311. Why is a raven like a writing-desk? In his preface to the 1896 edition Carroll wrote:

Enquiries have so often been addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter’s Riddle can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer, viz. ‘Because it can produce a few notes, though they are  very flat; and it is never put with the wrong end in front!’ This, however, is merely an afterthought; the Riddle, as originally invented, had no answer at all.

011. p317. Addison thought them [puns] a sign of false humour: ‘There is no kind of false Wit which has been so recommended by the Practice of all Ages, as that which consists in a Jingle of Words, and is comprehended under the general Name of  Punning .’ Nevertheless he concedes that ‘The Seeds of Punning are in the Minds of all Men, and tho’ they may be subdued by reason, Reflection and good Sense, they will be very apt to shoot up in the greatest Genius, that is not broken and cultivated by the Rules of Art’ ( Spectator , No 61).
012. p342. Gardner compares Carroll’s letter of 23 May 1864 to Mary MacDonald in which he tells her ‘not to be in such a hurry to believe’ his tall stories next time:

If you set to work to believe everything, you will tire out the believing-muscles of your mind, and then you’ll be so weak you won’t be able to believe the simplest true things. Only last week a friend of mine set to work to believe Jack-the-giant-killer. He managed to do it, but he was so exhausted by it that when I told him it was raining (which was true) he  couldn’t believe it, but rushed out into the street without his hat or umbrella, the consequence of which was his hair got seriously damp’ ( Letters, vol 1, p. 64).

Court of Cacus

The Court of Cacus Or The Story of Burke and Hare by Alexander Leighton
001. I consider it a benefaction that the knowledge which kills shall be accompanied by the knowledge which cures.

002. If it had been so ordered that there were not in the soil of the heart congenital germs of wickedness ready to spring up and branch into crimes under favouring circumstances, which the complications of society are eternally producing, and that, consequently, all evil was sheer imitation, something might be said for concealing the thing to be imitated, even at the expense of losing the antidote.

003. so that it seems to follow, that he who can render the acted crimes of history as disagreeable and hateful as they can be made, even with the aid of the dark shadows of his fancy, performs an act favourable to the interests of society.

004. Then he looked more intently to ascertain whether he was not one of the regular staff of body-snatchers who supplied “the thing,” as they called it. But no; the stranger, whoever he might be, was neither “Merryandrew,” nor “the Spune,” nor “the Captain,” nor any other of the gouls,—some half-dozen,—yet he would have done no discredit to the fraternity either as to dress or manner: little and thick-set, with a firm round face, small eyes, and Irish nose, a down-looking sleazy dog, who, as he furtively turned his eye up to the window, seemed to think he had no right to direct his vision beyond the parallel of a man’s pocket.

005. while there have been many slaughtering kings, there never was but one William Burke.

006. That these adventures should have taken strange and sometimes grimly-ludicrous turns might have been expected, and yet it is more true that they transcended belief.

007. Even the bitterness of soul towards competitors was not sufficiently gratified by the pouring forth of the toffana-spirit of his sarcasm.

The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen.
‘Christophe was growing a new skin. Christophe was growing a new soul. And seeing the worn out and rotten soul of his childhood fall away he never dreamed that we was taking on a new one, younger & stronger. As through life we change our bodies, so also do we change our souls; & the metamorphosis does not always take place over several days; there are times of crisis when the whole is suddenly renewed. The adult changes his soul. The old soul is cast off and dies. In those hours of anguish we think that all is at an end. And the whole thing begins again. A life dies. Another one has already come into being.’ –Romain Rolland
-001- …why isn’t rape, or at least most rape, considered a hate crime?
-002- There’s something interesting about the rate at which men in prison are raped: it’s lower than the rate at which women are raped in the culture at large. Most studies suggest that 25 percent of women in the U.S. are raped during their lifetimes, and another 19 percent have to fend off rape attempts. I suppose you could say that for women—and not just those in prison—rape is ‘a fact of life.’ When a man goes to prison, everyone seems to think: ‘Oh shit, he’s going to get raped.’ But everyday, women walk down the streets or stay in their homes and face the same possibility.
-003- ‘Do you know what the main instrument of genocide is these days?… Television’ Derrick’s friend John Osborn p120

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