Dodgson, Charles (1832 – 1898)

A charming letter to a child-friend, signed “Lewis Carroll”

A superb unpublished four-page autograph letter signed by Charles Dodgson, signed in the rare “Lewis Carroll” form, in bold purple fountain-pen ink. Addressed to his child-friend, Mabel Burton (“My dear Mab”) and dated June 12th 1879. Dodgson opens with a riddle entitled “Conundrum”: “Why are they ringing all day long in Islington, from the end of April till the beginning of June? Because they have got a —– but I won’t tell you the answer yet.” (The answer is May-bell, a play on his correspondent’s name.) Dodgson goes on, “I sent you a post-card, but I’m afraid you couldn’t make out my bad French. This is the English of it. ‘You never said whether I should be allowed to borrow you, or not. Perhaps you daren’t come all alone on such an alarming expedition’. I guess, from what you say about getting a holiday, that you will be allowed to come, but I want to be certain. What’s the good of coming all the way to Islington for you, if after all I find I can’t get you? (That’s not a conundrum.) If I come, it will be about 11 or 12. I should give you some dinner (bread, cheese, and buttermilk) about 1 or 2, and I should bring you back, tired and cross, at 3, or 4, or 5, as it might happen: just when I got tired of you, you know. So write, my little kitten, and say ‘yes’ or ‘no’, and direct to me at ‘The Chestnuts, Guildford’.” He closes, “Your lovingly, Lewis Carroll”. Slight wrinkling to two corners, otherwise in very fine condition. Dodgson befriended Mabel Burton in 1877 in Eastbourne, when he noted in his diary on 16th August, “Went on the pier in the evening, and made another fortunate acquaintance… my new friend is Mabel Amy Burton, of 53 Pentonville Road, Islington. She seems to be about 8… Mabel herself is entirely charming, and without an atom of shyness: I never became friends with a child so easily or so quickly”. Rare and desirable in this format – of the known series of letters that Dodgson wrote to Mabel, this is the first, and relates to a proposed visit to the Royal Academy that took place on June 17th 1879.