July 21, 2014

Lewis Carroll’s Stylograph


[Posted on L&P on June 7, 2013.]
        Ron Dutcher has stated on several occasions that he is working on a book on Mark Twain’s Pens.  The various chapters will deal with the pencils, steel pens, quills, a stylograph, various fountain pens, and a typewriter that Twain owned and used.  Well, here’s a reference to one of Lewis Carroll’s pens that I ran across lately, one that’s sort of in the same vein as Twain’s pens, for Carroll, too, was a lover of “toys and gadgets”, and “peculiar Victorian devices”.
        The book from which those quotes are taken is Jenny Woolf’s,
The Mystery Of Lewis Carroll.  She recently discovered Carroll’s detailed bank account and financial records in the archive of a large modern financial institution that absorbed Carroll’s old bank.  The bank records kept in those days were much more detailed than they are now, and recorded all the names of the people with whom and the businesses with which he dealt and what exactly was purchased.  She deduced most of this from his bank books, but other items were also mentioned in his letters and his diaries.  On page 129 of her book she writes that his “capacious cupboards...were full of treasures” such as a mechanical bear that spoke, a flying bat driven by elastic bands, musical boxes, a mechanical barrel organ called an “orguinette” that played piano rolls, which he loaded backwards and played in reverse, a hand-propelled “Velociman” tricycle for adult invalids, and one of the earliest typewriters.  He also invented “novelties” himself, such as a “contraption for writing in bed at night in the dark”.  But best of all, on page 282 she writes that he was “an eager purchaser” of such peculiar Victorian devices as “the Stylographic pen”.  She doesn’t state which brand of stylograph it was, but MacKinnon, Livermore, and Cross stylos were all sold in London at the time under that name.  He probably also used wooden pencils, and pen and pencil cases, and quills, and steel pens in penholders, and maybe even some early fountain pens, but someone else is going to have to read all his letters and diaries and financial records to glean that neglected, and overlooked, and temporarily misplaced and discarded information.

George Kovalenko.