Campbell Dodgson, 1867-1948
Campbell Dodgson, grandfather's uncle. SJ Dodgson. MJoTA 2014 v8n1 p0225.
Campbell is definitely my favorite amongst all Dodgsons during the past 200 years. He was a lot of fun, and he was deadly serious in his work. A great combination, I hope I am seen to be the same.
Dodgson was the 8th child and 7th son, the youngest child of stockbroker William Oliver Dodgson and Lucy Elizabeth Smith, daughter of Henley Grose-Smith who owned the Priory on the Isle of Wight.
My great-grandfather Charles Heathfield Dodgson was the 7th child and 6th son.
Campbell has 5 reasons not to be forgotten.
In the 1880s, as the English say, he "went up" to Oxford, to New College. The most famous Dodgson had been there for some years.
Dodgson was of the same generation as Uncle Campbell's father, and was
his 3rd cousin. Putting this in perspective, the great-great-grandchildren
of my great-grandfather are my 3rd cousins.
I have been told that the White Rabbit was modeled after Campbell, but the fact that Alice in Wonderland was published in 1865, 2 years before Campbell's birth, makes this impossible. More likely, Campbell modeled himself on the White Rabbit: he wore white suits with an enormous pocket watch and was always losing things. Did Campbell know the more famous Dodgson? I imagine he did, and that the elder Dodgson did everything he could to stay away from the flamboyant younger Dodgson.
A student before him in Oxford was Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), and a student after him was Lord Arthur Douglas (1870-1945). Uncle Campbell outlived them both and arguably had a greater impact on civilization than either of them, whom he has been reported to have introduced and spent the summer of 1892 at a gorgeous house overlooking the ocean at Torquay, with the goal of tutoring Lord Douglas so he could graduate (he never did) and helping Oscar and the staff take care of Oscar's 2 little boys Cyril and Vivyan.
I have read that Uncle Campbell reported a lot of wine was consumed, and a lot of wild times.
the summer ended, Mrs Wilde returned, law suits were filed because the Marquess of Queensberry hated, hated his son's friend Oscar. Oscar was sentenced to 2 years of hard labor, lost everything. Mrs Wilde changed her name to Mrs Holland and died in 1898,
with no reference to Oscar anywhere on the grave.
In 1900 Oscar
died, and the next 48 years of Uncle Campbell's life were spent in
collecting and writing about wood prints for the British Museum. Uncle
Campbell avoided the ravages of the first and second world wars as much
as was possible for a Londoner in a war zone, with 3 Dodgson nephews
dead in the trenches. I have read he worked in British Intelligence during World War I; which makes sense, he was fluent in German.
His 4th claim to fame was that he hired Laurence Binyon to work with him at the British Museum. Laurence Binyon later wrote a poem "For the Fallen" that is a staple at Remembrance Day services. "....They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.."
Campbell did not produce children, not with his wife Catherine Spooner
Dodgson, or anyone else. His 5th claim to fame was his wife: Aunt Catherine's father was the Professor Spooner who mangled words and had these words,
spoonerisms, named after him.
My gosh. What a life. What a time. I first knew about him when I read that the current curator of prints at the British Museum was in his debt. In 2005, I traveled to London, and found Uncle Campbell's name on a plate as being a substantial donor, and knew immediately why he spent his life in the British Museum.
I brought my daughter there in 2006, after we left she told me we needed to live in a flat next to it. Indeed.
From The Bibelot, A Reprint of Poetry and Prose for Book Lovers, chosen in part from scarce editions and sources not generally known,
Volume X, Testimonial Edition, Edited and Originally Published by
Thomas B. Mosher, Portland, Maine; Wm. Wise & Co.; New York; 1904;
III. POEMS BY LIONEL JOHNSON.
PLATO IN LONDON.
To Campbell Dodgson.
THE pure flame of one taper fall
Over the old and comely page:
No harsher light disturb at all
This converse with a treasured sage.
Seemly, and fair, and of the best,
If Plato be our guest,
Should things befall.
Without, a world of noise and cold:
Here, the soft burning of the fire.
And Plato walks, where heavens unfold,
About the home of his desire.
From his own city of high things,
He shows to us, and brings,
Truth of fine gold.
The hours pass; and the fire burns low;
The clear flame dwindles into death:
Shut then the book with care; and so,
Take leave of Plato, with hushed breath:
A little, by the falling gleams,
Tarry the gracious dreams:
And they too go.
Lean from the window to the air:
Hear London’s voice upon the night!
Thou has bold converse with things rare:
Look now upon another sight!
The calm stars, in their living skies:
And then, these surging cries,
This restless glare!
That starry music, starry fire,
High above all our noise and glare:
The image of our long desire.
The beauty, and the strength, are there.
And Plato’s thought lives, true and clear,
In as august a sphere:
Perchance, far higher.