It’s my old friend… who are you?

alice tenniel tea partyWindows into History… in Wonderland 8.

We have a connecting theme this month: Lewis Carroll (Rev. Charles Dodgson) and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Dodgson died in 1898 after his cold symptoms took a turn for the worst and he fell victim to pneumonia.  With remarkable efficiency, his nephew Stuart Dodgson Collingwood had published an excellent biography of his life by the end of the year.  The following quote is taken from The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll, and concerns an aspect of Dodgson’s personality I can relate to myself:

He had a wonderfully good memory, except for faces and dates. The former were always a stumbling-block to him, and people used to say (most unjustly) that he was intentionally short-sighted. One night he went up to London to dine with a friend, whom he had only recently met. The next morning a gentleman greeted him as he was walking. “I beg your pardon,” said Mr. Dodgson, ‘‘but you have the advantage of me, I have no remembrance of having ever seen you before this moment.” “That is very strange,” the other replied,” for I was your host last night!”

I share a terrible memory for faces, despite a good memory for other things.  In my line of work I have to deal with customers who place orders, and sometimes when collecting they will just say hello and then nothing more, waiting for me to head off and find their order for them, assuming I will remember them, which invariably I don’t.  That’s understandable when several days have elapsed since their first visit, but like Dodgson I have often been guity of forgetting a face by the following day, or even the same day!  It’s not an age thing either – I’ve always been like that.  Science is yet to explain the variations in ability to recognise faces, although studies have proven that not-insignificant differences exist from one person to another.  At the most severe end of the scale exist those with “prosopagnosia”, or “face blindness”, with some sufferers even unable to recognise their own faces.  At the other end of the scale are “super recognisers” who can sometimes perform better than face recognition software, and are therefore useful to criminal investigations.

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About Roger Pocock

Author of Co-writer on Editor of
This entry was posted in 19th Century, Alice in Wonderland, Books, History, Science and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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