Important collection of Lewis Carroll letters, presentation copies and autograph poem

Posted on: February 16th, 2013 by Oxford Book Fair
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PBFA bookseller Michael Kemp will be bringing along a collection of fascinating Lewis Carroll items to the 2013 Premier Oxford Book Fair; his description herewith:




An important collection of material from one of Dodgson’s child friends containing previously unrecorded presentation copies, letters and an interesting and amusing unpublished manuscript poem previously unknown to scholars.

Elizabeth “Bessie” Ley Hussey (1852-1919) was the only daughter of Robert Hussey (1803-1856), Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Oxford, and his wife, Elizabeth née Ley (1810-1896). They lived in Oxford and sometime after the early death of Robert Hussey moved to Brighton. Bessie married Charles Frederick Hill (1834-1902), Commander in the Royal Navy, in 1891. Dodgson almost certainly met the Husseys through Mrs Hussey’s brother Jacob Ley who gave Dodgson rooms on his arrival at Christ Church as an undergraduate in 1851. They were all long-standing friends of Dodgson and he and Bessie remained friends until his death in 1898.

The collection comprises 6 main items:

Item 1 – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

’s Adventures in Wonderland.

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1880. Reprint. 64th thousand. Original red cloth, gilt, worn, inner joints worn and with a small hole at the foot of the spine.

Pasted to the verso of the frontispiece is a slip inscribed by Dodgson in violet ink:

“Bessie Hussey
from the Author”

followed by a typical Dodgson flourish.

Also tipped in to the back of the free end paper is an envelope to Mrs Hussey at a Brighton address postmarked 14 June 1881 in Dodgson’s violet ink.

Elizabeth has added her married signature and the date 1901 to the verso of the half title.

According to Edward Wakeling:

There are two possible dates for when Dodgson gave Bessie the inscribed AAIW – 28 December 1880 or 14 June 1881. I think the former is more likely for the book, but he may have posted the inscription on the sheet of paper at the latter date. On 28 December 1880, Dodgson wrote in his diary: “Called on Mrs. Hussey and Bessie, at 37 Bedford Square.” He had lunch with Mrs. Hussey on 30 December 1880, so this is another possible date. Although they originally lived in Oxford, they moved to Brighton after the death of Prof. Hussey. Dodgson was visiting friends in Brighton for a few days at the end of 1880. It’s odd that he didn’t sign the book at the time, but it’s possible that Bessie said she would get herself a copy if he would be kind enough to send an inscription that she could paste into the book. The envelope addressed to Mrs. Hussey has a postmark of 14 June 1881. On that day, Dodgson recorded in his diary that he had “feverish symptoms” and consulted Dr. E. L. Hussey, who happened to be Mrs. Hussey’s nephew. It may have jogged his memory that an inscription for AAIW was awaited.

Item 2 – Through the Looking Glass…

Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There.

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1872 [but 1871]. 1st Edition. Original red cloth, gilt, worn and split on the spine.

Presentation copy inscribed on the half title in violet ink:

“Elizabeth Ley Hussey
from the Author
Christmas 1871”

Elizabeth has added her married signature and the date 1901 to the head of the half title.

Carroll inscribed 101 copies when the book was published in December 1871 and a census has so far identified 89 recipients; this copy was not on the original census and makes 90 copies known.

Item 3 – Rhyme? And Reason?

Rhyme? And Reason?

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1883. 1st Edition. Original green cloth, rubbed.

Presentation copy inscribed on the half title in violet ink:

“Elizabeth Ley Hussey
with the sincere regards
of the Author
Feb. 19/84”

Elizabeth has added her married signature and the date 1901 to the lower part of the half title.

On 19 February 1884 Dodgson wrote in his diary: “Had Bessie Hussey and her friend Miss Blair to 5 o’clock tea and pictures.”

Item 4 – Printed letter with ms. additions

Circular Letter About Appointments.

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1886. 1st Edition. Single 8vo sheet, folded once and printed on two sides. [Williams, Madan, Green and Crutch, 192] Folded and creased, a little split on the creases.

With the manuscript address “My Dear Bessie” signed “yours affectionately C.L. Dodgson” and with a one page manuscript ps in violet ink regarding his unwillingness to meet with Bessie in the company of a friend since:

“Two young ladies at a time is my special aversion.

I wouldn’t walk out as one of such a trio, not if you paid me for it! (N.B. I observe that the above is now regarded as one of the strongest forms available for assertion, when you really want to be believed. It does not seem necessary to specify whether the sum proposed to be paid is 6d or £1000.)”

…the long manuscript P.S. for Bessie makes this a more interesting item, and fits with a letter to Mrs. Hussey when he suggested that Bessie might call for “tea and pictures.” He preferred tete-a-tete meetings, hence his decline to accept Bessie’s friend. The style of this, and the poem, is very characteristic of Dodgson.

- Edward Wakeling

 Item 5 – Autograph Letter Signed

Autograph Letter Signed C. L. Dodgson to Mr [Hedley] Vicar[s].

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18th September [1860?] Headed Croft Rectory, Darlington in black ink.

Dodgson writes to Vicars enclosing 6 photographs [not present here] out of a promised twelve promising the rest to follow in time. Dodgson’s father, also called Charles had the living at Croft in Darlington from 1843 until his death in 1868.

Addressed to Mr Vicar (Dodgson’s mistake) it should read Mr. Vicars. [Wakeling doesn’t understand why] this should be with the Hussey collection! Maybe Bessie was offered it, and decided to keep it. She didn’t need Dodgson’s autograph because she already had that. I can find no link with the families. Hedley Vicars (1798-1864) was a barrister who lived at Rugby, and Dodgson met him when he was at RugbySchool (1846-49). Two of Mr. Vicars’ sons were contemporary pupils with Dodgson at RugbySchool – which is probably how he got to know him. Mr. Vicars studied at TrinityCollege, Cambridge, and was BA (16th Wrangler) in 1820 – this means he was an able mathematician (another link with Dodgson). The date, 18 September, gives no year, but I think it is 1860. The style of handwriting is early. Dodgson was at Croft Rectory on this date. Dodgson had taken many photographs during the summer of 1860, and was busy sending people copies in the early autumn. I think Mr. Vicars attended the Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science at Oxford at which the new Darwinian theory, Origin of Species, was debated. Dodgson took this opportunity to photograph many of the participants, and clearly Dodgson photographed Mr. Vicars around this time. He sends half of the 12 requested photographs (probably including some of the other people at the debate). On Mr. Vicars’ death four years later, Dodgson sends a letter and more photographs to Mrs. Vicars, in memory of her husband (MS: Princeton). The letter to Mr. Vicars has never surfaced before and is unpublished.

- Edward Wakeling

Item 6 – Autograph Unpublished Poem


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To a Young Lady, of whom I was in doubts whether she expected to be called “Miss So-and-So” or “So-and-So” without the “Miss.” Feb 18/ 1884. 8 lines in two stanzas, manuscript poem, unpublished and unrecorded. With Dodgson’s reference number 46309 and [copy], all in violet ink.

Any previously unknown writings by Dodgson are an important discovery and this witty and amusing poem, full of Dodgson’s alliteration and wordplay show him at his carefree best.

There are two letters in my files to Miss Hussey, dated 9 February 1884 and 13 February 1884 – both attributed to Minnie Hussey. I am now convinced that they were sent to Bessie Hussey, and may have been the cause/reason for the poem being written. Usually, Dodgson addressed her as “Bessie,” but in both these letters be begins “My dear Miss Hussey.” She probably complained that he was getting too formal.

- Edward Wakeling

also included – Envelopes

Three envelopes all addressed in Dodgson’s hand.

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The earliest with unreadable postmarks and written in black ink addressed to:

Miss Hussey

The second postmarked April 5th 1884 addressed in violet ink to:

Miss E.L. Hussey
Tor Road

The third postmarked February 7th 1885 addressed in violet ink to:

Miss Hussey
12 Crick Road

Michael Kemp

An interesting and important collection of Dodgsoniana. It is unusual for collections of this sort to appear on the market and this provides an opportunity to acquire unique examples of a link between Dodgson and one of his child friends.

Edward Wakeling, leading Dodgson scholar and editor of The Lewis Carroll Diaries was invaluable in researching this collection, which I gratefully acknowledge.