Lewis Carroll Hated Fame So Much He Almost Wished He’d Never Written His Books

At least, that’s what he said in a letter, now in the University of Southern California library

Charles Dodgson
Charles Dodgson adoc-photos/Corbis

Lewis Carroll’s stories about Wonderland remain popular more than a century after they were first published, but it appears the author had an issue with his fame. His antipathy for being famous is revealed in a short letter to a friend written in 1891—which just sold for thousands of dollars on the auction block.   

From the New York Times:

In the three-page letter, written to his friend Anne Symonds in 1891, Carroll (whose real name was Charles Dodgson) railed against collectors of his autograph letters. “All of that sort of publicity leads to strangers hearing of my real name in connection with the books, and to my being pointed out to and stared at by strangers and being treated as a ‘lion,’” he wrote. “And I hate all of that so intensely that sometimes I almost wish I had never written any books at all.”

The letter was purchased in an auction on March 19 by the university for $19,959. For comparison, a one-page letter to the same friend sold on the same day fetched only $3,361 (but the latter letter was only about his dietary restrictions, not the downsides of fame).

The letter will be digitized and made available to the public, while the original is kept in a climate controlled vault. Its purchase means that it joins 3,000 other Dodgson-related items in USC’s Cassady Collection. 

The private letters (and even emails) of famous people give historians a unique look into the private lives of very public people. The glimpses into the mindset of a person in a totally different time can feel almost refreshing. Dodgson wasn’t the only one who had days where he wasn’t happy with himself. Even Charles Darwin once wrote:

But I am very poorly today & very stupid & hate everybody & everything

Don't we all have days like that?

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