I reference these:
Originally Posted by BrianShaw
What you want is History Laid Bare: Remarkable Accounts of Love, Sex, and Perversity, edited by Richard Zacks and published by HarperCollins; they were originally published by Oxford University Press in The Letters of Lewis Carroll.
What struck me when I read this book (in Uni quite some time ago) was his substantial persistence in trying to arrange for the girls to visit and pose. He put enormous effort in convincing the parents to make it happen with those girls at that specific time of their development. He rationalizes the mother's excuses for rejection and then cleverly turns the tables on her through rhetoric. They were not "Come over for tea. Bring the kids." They are incredibly detailed exhortations of having these girls in his presence fulfill an emotional need, not just a Victorian fancy for innocent nude children in artistic representation. To him it may have been an exercise in eroticism. To the children it appears they were objectified for his needs; he used them, and the parents as well. The thing that always struck me about the letters to the Liddell's was how manipulative he was of the parents. He tried to make them feel guilty. Even by the standards of Victorian prose, they are over the top.
Sexual fetishes and even deviancy were part of the fabric of Victorian/Edwardian life, even tolerated well into the 21st Century. They crucified Oscar Wilde for his, but Carroll's fetish is clearly more than an attempt to collect porcelain pieces or experiments in photography. I don't think the more recent defenses of his behavior make the case that he did NOT have a young girl erotic fetish. They simply deflect by trying to show him in a more "normal" light. All well to paint a more nuanced picture of an important literary figure, but the letters he wrote to the Liddell parents are too strong evidence to ignore. He was complex, but he also really, really, really liked quite young girls.
My major criticism of the attempts to normalize child nudes in Victoria culture is that it comes across as de-sexualizing the nudes. I think this nonsense. The idea that child nudes back then was to reclaim innocence is far too simple and facile. Just because we have an impression of Victorian times as prudish doesn't mean that under the bustle it was. It was just expressed differently. Carroll manipulates parents to bring him young girls for nude portraiture.
This a good article in summary: