Met Vanessa St. Clair, the likeable great-granddaughter of "Alice" She has a remarkably direct link with the past, because both her mother and her grandfather had children very late in life, and so her mother actually met Alice Liddell.

She was too young to ask her the kind of penetrating questions I'd have asked, alas, but remembers Alice as having been stern and strict. I found it interesting that Alice, despite the sternness, seems to have doted upon her in private.

It's an attitude I have come across again and again in my readng of Victorian texts. There seemed to be an idea that making too much of children would turn their heads and make them conceited and "spoiled"; it must have drained so much warmth and happiness out of life. Even Carroll, who was usually totally on the children's side, used to think that too much attention and praise was bad for their social development.

Perhaps it is. I was at a magic show not long ago and a boy of about 11 was interrupting the performer with endless stupid, unfunny remarks. The first one got a laugh, the subsequent ones didn't. His parents were beaming with pride at every word, as the audience sighed and grimaced. Somehow the performer managed to avoid saying anything rude but if anyone had dared take a vote on whether to puncture the little horror's self esteem, I suspect it would have been carried overwhelmingly.