2009-10-18

Last testament of Lewis Carroll?


Sylvia and Bruno was one of the last items published in his lifetime.

[From preface]

...But, once realise what the true object is in life—that it is not pleasure, not knowledge, not even fame itself, 'that last infirmity of noble minds'—but that it is the development of character, the rising to a higher, nobler, purer standard, the building-up of the perfect
Man—and then, so long as we feel that this is going on, and will (we trust) go on for evermore, death has for us no terror; it is not a shadow, but a light; not an end, but a beginning!

[He'd indicated there were a couple of items he wished he'd written before time caught up with him. I don't agree with everything he set down (what's suitable for children and young women for example); but, in principle the ideas are good]

...First, a Child's Bible. The only real essentials of this would be,carefully selected passages, suitable for a child's reading and pictures. One principle of selection, which I would adopt, would be that Religion should be put before a child as a revelation of love no need to pain and puzzle the young mind with the history of crime and punishment...


Secondly, a book of pieces selected from the Bible—not single texts, but passages of from 10 to 20 verses each—to be committed to memory. Such passages would be found useful, to repeat to one's self and to ponder over, on many occasions when reading is difficult, if not impossible: for instance, when lying awake at night—on a railway-journey —when taking a solitary walk-in old age, when eye-sight is failing of wholly lost—and, best of all, when illness, while incapacitating us for reading or any other occupation, condemns us to lie awake through many weary silent hours: at such a time how keenly one may realise the truth of David's rapturous cry 'O how sweet are thy words unto my throat:


yea, sweeter than honey unto my mouth!'


I have said 'passages,' rather than single texts, because we have no means of recalling single texts: memory needs links, and here are none: one may have a hundred texts stored in the memory, and not be able to recall, at will, more than half-a-dozen—and those by mere chance:whereas, once get hold of any portion of a chapter that has been committed to memory, and the whole can be recovered: all hangs together.


Thirdly, a collection of passages, both prose and verse, from books other than the Bible. There is not perhaps much, in what is called 'un-inspired' literature (a misnomer, I hold: if Shakespeare was not inspired, one may well doubt if any man ever was), that will bear the process of being pondered over, a hundred times: still there are such
passages—enough, I think, to make a goodly store for the memory.


These two books of sacred, and secular, passages for memory—will serve other good purposes besides merely occupying vacant hours: they will help to keep at bay many anxious thoughts, worrying thoughts, uncharitable thoughts, unholy thoughts. Let me say this, in better words than my own, by copying a passage from that most interesting book, Robertson's Lectures on the Epistles to the Corinthians, Lecture XLIX.


"If a man finds himself haunted by evil desires and unholy images,
which will generally be at periodical hours, let him commit to
memory passages of Scripture, or passages from the best writers in
verse or prose. Let him store his mind with these, as safeguards to
repeat when he lies awake in some restless night, or when despairing
imaginations, or gloomy, suicidal thoughts, beset him. Let these be to
him the sword, turning everywhere to keep the way of the Garden of Life
from the intrusion of profaner footsteps."





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