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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Digging up the True Dirt on Mr. Carmichael (CR# 8)

Will the real Mr. Augustus Carmichael / Joseph Wolstenholme please stand up?

Ellen Tremper begins her critical article stating that Virginia Woolf, just like her character Clarissa from Mrs. Dalloway, enjoyed reading memoirs, but in about the third paragraph the reader discovers what Tremper’s argument really is.  In 1987 John Ferguson wrote an article for the Journal of Modern Literature arguing that Augustus Carmichael was modeled after Thomas De Quincey.  Woolf wrote an essay on his autobiography titled “De Quincey’s Autobiography,” so she does know the man.   (It can be found in The Common Reader:  Second Series.)   Tremper claims that the person Carmichael was modeled after was a man who stayed at Talland House with the family to get away from his wife.  I decided to make a chart of the similarities of the characters, so perhaps you, dear reader, can have a stab at deducing.

Loved Thoby/Andrew
Math Man
Bad Marriage
Opium Habit
Augustus Carmichael
Oh yes
Mr. Wolstenholme
perhaps, gave him a gold crown
Fat cheeks
No, just grumpy read below
Thomas De Quincey
Did he even know him?
Skinny as a rail filed to a needle's width
Well, married beneath his status but loved her.

In making a simple chart, we find that Mr. Wolstenholme is the clear winner with De Quincey and Carmichael only having the opium use in common.  If by winning you mean a reclusive, opium using, portly poet; then yes, he is the winner.  Tremper does not use a simple chart to argue her point; she employs lines from the holograph manuscript of the novel.  Ferguson uses the opium and marriage as the strongest arguments; however, De Quincey introduced his wife to the Wordsworths who were devastated to hear of her death (165).  Now, if he was ashamed of her, would he have introduced to her to the Wordsworths?
I just bumbled onto something in the web.  As you know, I like to have an image that represents my blog in some way, so I googled Augustus Wolstenholme in images.  Amazingly, I actually found one, but there was also information.  Tremper thought that the real “Woolly One” was not an opium user, but read on:

"Leslie Stephen, the father of the author Virginia Woolf, studied mathematics at Cambridge and held a fellowship at Cambridge from 1854 till 1864. During that period he became friends with Wolstenholme. Several years after Wolstenholme's death, Stephen wrote down details of his own life for his children and in these he refers to Wolstenholme (Conner, Fergusion):-

I think especially of poor old Wolstenholme, called 'the woolly' by you irreverent children, a man whom I had first known as a brilliant mathematician at Cambridge, whose Bohemian tastes and heterodox opinions had made a Cambridge career inadvisable, who tried to become a hermit at Wastdale. He had emerged, married an uncongenial and rather vulgar Swiss girl, and obtained a professorship at Cooper's Hill. His four sons were badly brought up: he was despondent and dissatisfied and consoled himself with mathematics and opium. I liked him or rather was very fond of him, partly from old association and partly because feeble and faulty as he was, he was thoroughly amiable and clung to my friendship pathetically. His friends were few and his home life wretched. ... [We] had him stay every summer with us in the country. There at least he could be without his wife (Gow)." (I emphasized "opium.")

(I am rather excited that I further proved Wolstenholme’s likeness to Carmichael.  Okay, back to our regularly scheduled blogging.)

The other aspect of Ferguson’s article that Tremper takes umbrage at is that he also equates Woolf to Carmichael and De Quincey.  He believes that the opium use of the two men is the same as Woolf’s “inner ocean of depression” (169).  I believe anyone stating that her illness had no effect on her writing would be remiss, because any aspect of the whole as some effect on a person’s life, job, and creativity.  Tremper uses the argument that Woolf used her past to help construct characters in her creations, but that her bouts with mental illness do not equate to the same a De Quincey and Carmichael’s voluntary use of opium.

All-in-all, Tremper makes an attempt to disclaim Fergurson's arguments.  I think she proved her argument well, even without my assist. 

Works Cited:
Gow, R. "Joseph Wolstenholme, Leslie Stephen and 'To the Lighthouse.'" Irish Math. Soc. 34 (1995), 40-46.  (This was cited from O'Connor and Robertson below.  I didn't know how to cite a citation within a webpage.)

O'Connor, J.J.  and E. F. Robertson.  “Joseph Wolstenholme Biography.”  The MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive.  24 October 2010.  Web.   June 1998.

Tremper, Ellen.  “’The Earth of our Earliest Life’:  Mr. Carmichael in To the Lighthouse.”  Journal of Modern Literature, XIX, I, Summer, 1994.  pp. 163-171.  Print.

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