An ink drawing of a Birmingham schoolgirl by Alice In Wonderland author Lewis Carroll is expected to fetch up to £6,000 at an auction tomorrow.
Edith Blakemore – who lived at Augustus Road, Edgbaston and who later attended Edgbaston High School For Girls – was only five- years old when she met Carroll on holiday in Eastbourne in the summer of 1877.
The picture, done in Carroll’s trademark violet ink, shows Edith in a beach costume holding a bucket and spade and leaning against the wheel of a Victorian bathing machine.
After their first meeting,Carroll – real name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – wrote: “This evening,on the pier, I have made friends with quite the brightest child and nearly the prettiest I have yet seen here.”
A spokesman for auctioneers Bonhams, who are selling the picture in London, said: “Dodgson first made the acquaintance of Edith Blakemore,whilst staying for his annual holiday at Eastbourne,in July 1877.He immediately engineered regular meetings with her,engaging her mother to facilitate these.
“Unusually in his relations with young girls, Dodgson continued a friendly correspondence with Edith for nearly twenty years.
“He acknowledged this in a letter written in March 1890, addressing her as ‘my old friend Edith”, and describing her as “rather the exception among the hundred or so child-friends,who have brightened my life.
“‘Usually the child becomes so entirely a different being as she grows into a woman that our friendship had to change too... I hope we may continue equally good friends during the years.’”
Edith, affectionately known as Dolly, lived with her family in Edgbaston, and was educated at the nearby Edgbaston High School For Girls. Her father, Arthur Villiers Blakemore, was a hardware merchant and publisher.She was in her seventies,when she died in 1947.
Edward Wakeling, a leading authority on the life and work of Lewis Carroll,said: “Edith showered Dodgson with gifts for many years, things she had made for him and drawings she had painted for him.
“She must have been a talented child. There is correspondence between them from 1878 until 1896, when she was 24. Dodgson also wrote frequently to her mother.
“Dodgson’s bachelorhood comes from his profession. As a Victorian don at Oxford, he was not allowed to marry and had to take holy orders. He was made a Deacon of the Church of England in 1861, but never proceeded to full priest’s orders.
“The requirement to remain unmarried was changed in the late 1870s,but Dodgson maintained his commitment of celibacy for the rest of his life, as did many of his colleagues.
“Yet he had normal interests in females and was comfortable in their company. He tended to associate with children and married women, probably a safer option for him. The Blakemores were typical in this respect.”
The wheel in the drawing is from a bathing machine, an object of great fascination to Dodgson and which appears in some of his humorous poems – notably The Hunting Of The Snark.
The violet ink Dodgson used was standard issue at the time and available in the Christ Church Common Room in Oxford.
At their auction on June 24, Bonhams are also selling two books signed by Dodgson and given to Edith. Also in the sale is a signed first edition presentation copy of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, which Dodgson gave to Edith’s mother.