alicedrawingYou never know who’s reading the TeleBlog.

Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti recently told of the horrors of copyright law when she was getting permissions for her new book on Lewis Carroll, real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Well, who should write in but an old net.friend of ours, Nicholas Bentley, a copyright reformer, who, ironically, appears to be a very distant relative of—yes, Carroll (albeit not directly by blood).

Nicholas tells Sadi: “As far as I know, we have absolutely no contact with the Dodgson estate but as I said before, I have to check with my mother because she is the one who tracks all the family history and contacts. If anything comes up, I will get back to you.”

Meanwhile you can enjoy Sadi’s just-posted podcast of her essay (MP3).

Related: Earlier TeleBlog podcasts, mostly by Sadi. Subscribe here.

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  1. Hi David, Sadi,

    OK, your post forced me to phone my mother and get the story straight. I have to say that my relationship to Charles Dodgson is very tenuous indeed. It was my Great Great Aunt, Alice Donkin (I think), who was married to Charles Dodgson’s brother. Of course, there is no blood line here, but apparently and not unexpectedly, the families did spend some time together.

    Just to prove this tenuous relationship, my mother also said that she read a Dodgson biography once (no idea which one) and it contained a reproduction of a photograph my G. G. Aunt Alice climbing out of a window! Another snip of family gossip is that at a later date some Dodgson/Donkin? nieces were tearing pages out of a Charles Dodgson diary for some reason. All very intriguing, but I think you would need a detective to put this story together.

    (Disclaimer, I have no documentary evidence of any of this although my mother is checking that she doesn’t still have some photo’s buried somewhere.)

  2. Hi Nicholas:

    The photo of Alice Donkin is Alice as Little Red Riding Hood and is one of Carroll’s/Dodgson’s famous photographs, actually… it’s a great photo. The missing diary pages were cut by Menella Dodgson, his niece, after his death. A lot of his papers were, alas, also destroyed upon is death rather unceremoniously by his brother Wilfred, I believe, who went to Dodgson’s rooms at Christ Church and simply auctioned off a lot and threw out others. Some things, such as certain negatives, Dodgson asked be destroyed to protect the identities etc. of certain child friends and one respects those wishes, but alas, much of what Dodgson had created is now gone and we can never know what we have lost.

    Thankfully however, Dodgson was so prolific that a great many of his diaries do exist and are now in print and annotated and also, one scholar found a note that documents what the missing diary pages said (it all begs the question, why cut them out when Dodgson himself felt no need of such self-censorship). Menella may have felt she was doing her uncle a favor, but in fact, she did him a great disservice by doing this because those pages have fostered a great deal of pure speculation, rumor and gossip all founded on essentially nothing.

    This is not to say that Dodgson/Carroll was a saint; he wasn’t. He was wholly human, like anybody. But he wasn’t what a lot of people believe he was – a pedophile, etc etc. It is not at all unreasonable, i think to believe that an ordained deacon who was likely hyposexual due to a medical condition (that is indicated anyway and quite possible, perhaps probable), that he died a virgin – a fact that people today seem to not believe. We cannot look at Dodgson/Carroll with a backward glance. It is to take him totally out of context.

    I think it’s really interesting that you are related in even this distant way… you may wish to read more about Carroll or dip in anyway. My book will be out this summer and if you like, I can send you the information on how to get it since it is a good primer on Carroll’s life and work as opposed to a full-length biography (i’ll get to that later), this one is better for dipping in and etc. Let David know if you want a copy to buy; it’s called

    A Bath, Bedside, and Armchair Companion to Lewis Carroll by Sadi Ranson-Polizzotti and is available through the usual channels online and hopefully bookstores, but you can get it direct at

    I’m really glad you wrote in. Feel free to contact me directly. David has my information…

    Be well,


  3. Sadi,

    Thanks for the additional background information. As I started reading your post I was thinking that I should read a little more of Dodgson’s history. Now I know where to go. I will wait for your book to come out. I wish you every success with it.

    Does it have a reproduction of Alice as Little Red Riding Hood in it?

  4. Sadi, hello again,

    I don’t know if you are still following this thread but if this doesn’t work I will send a mail via David.

    My mother has a sketch book produced by Sarah Donkin dated 1820. Sarah was the sister of Alice Donkin. All of the sketches are of buildings and gardens and are of a high quality as I remember. There are no sketches of any Dodgsons but my mother says there is one of the family home in Westoe. Is this of any interest to you?

    Best, Nicholas

  5. My research has been on Thomas Bateman brother of Alice Bateman who married Thomas Donkin father of Alice and Sarah Bateman (of the sketchbook) and grandparents of Alice Jane(window photo) via Edward and Alice Emily via William Fishburn (all Donkins) Is their any data about the batemans in your family archive? regards Les Millard

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