The Cambridge History of English and American Literature in 18 Volumes (1907–21).
Volume XIII. The Victorian Age, Part One.
§ 16. Lewis Carroll
It would be difficult to pass over, in this survey of university wits, the verse included in the ever delightful Alice in Wonderland and other pieces of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, otherwise Lewis Carroll. In some respects, and those important ones, it comes nearer to Lear’s than to any other by the approximation to nursery rimes; he wrote pure nonsense sometimes; the use of jargon in proper, and, indeed, in common, names and so forth. But, it is, in others, not far from Calverley’s—the two men, indeed, were born close together and must have been actual contemporaries at Oxford before Calverley migrated. Dodgson’s academic vein, however, was mathematical not classical, and there is something of the manipulation of symbols in his systematical absurdity and the nonsensical preciseness of his humour. Some, indeed, of his collegiate and private skits were actually mathematical in form. But the public joy which he gave to grown-up people quite as much as, or even more than, to the young, was scarcely analysable; for it arose from all sorts of springs of wit and humour combined or alternated. The mazy but not entirely unplanned jargon of Jabberwocky, and the sense married to nonsense, without the slightest grotesqueness of language, in The Walrus and the Carpenter are, each in its kind, supreme. His later book Rhyme? and Reason? contained some things that were not in his proper vein, and Sylvie and Bruno unwisely set at naught the Aristotelian warning against shifting from kind to kind. But the comparative unpopularity of The Hunting of the Snark was not quite justified. It may be a little too long for its style; but some things in it are of its author’s best quality, and the subtle distinction between “Snark” and “Boojum” is but too true an allegory of life and literature.