‘Well!’ wrote the 27-year-old Charles Dodgson at the end of a particularly long letter to one of his cousins, ‘you ought to be very much obliged to me for writing so long a letter (and I hate letter-writing as a general rule)’. Some 1400 letters later, you might be forgiven for questioning the applicability of this ‘general rule’, but then the writer was more than capable of devising general rules to suit any circumstance – with the positive assurance that they really were ‘the oldest rules in the book’.
The majority of these letters are signed ‘C. L. Dodgson’, though a good few are the work of ‘ Lewis Carroll’. Still others support the notion (later so beloved of the psychoanalysts) that there was really a Mr Dodgson and a Mr Carroll: ‘A friend of mine called Lewis Carroll,’ writes Dodgson in one such letter, ‘tells me he means to send you a book. He is a very dear friend of mine. I have known him all my life (we are the same age) and have never left him.’