The celebrated Victorian author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, remains one of the most popular and admired English writers of all time. His most famous work Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland still stands as one of the most beloved children’s books ever written. He was born in, 1832, in Cheshire – the third progeny to a family which would eventually stretch to eleven children. He died, in 1898, in Guildford of complications resulting from pneumonia.
The legacy of Lewis Carroll has become a very controversial one in recent years, with many scholars now seeking to investigate the fixation which the author seemed to have with very young female children. He not only dedicated his writing to children, he also spent a great deal of time photographing children in the nude – this has led to suggestions that there may have been a sexual element to his relationship with Alice Liddell, the inspiration for the titular Alice.
From a very early age, Lewis Carroll was a performer and a storyteller. He would spend hours putting together magic shows and marionette performances for his parents and siblings – when he was not acting out his daydreams, he was writing poetry for a variety of invented newspapers which he worked on constantly.
In 1854, an older and wiser Carroll left Christ Church College, Oxford, with a degree in mathematics and writing. He enjoyed the subjects so much that he decided to stay at the institution as a teacher. During this period as a mentor and a tutor, he published a variety of mathematical treatises, including Determinants, Euclid and His Modern Rivals, and Curiosa Mathematica. He was also ordained as a deacon in these years, though he did not preach.
His links with the church brought him into contact with the Dean at Christ’s Church, who had a young daughter called Alice. The two started to spend a great deal of time together and he often used her as the subject of his portraiture – Carroll had recently taken up photography and enjoyed shooting the child in a variety of different ways. It is this hobby which has provoked much speculation from modern literary scholars.
It is almost certain that this Alice is the inspiration for the main character in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, though Carroll refused to confirm the rumours. By 1881, he had completely given up public speaking and photography to concentrate on his writing – the aforementioned classic was published in 1865. In 1872, it was joined by sequel Through the Looking Glass.
The two novels were celebrated both for their inventiveness and for what was perceived to be an extremely skilful layer of satire. They represent the deep love and appreciation which the author had for play, puzzles, and logic conundrums. Throughout his life, Carroll would suffer strange and unexplained attacks of memory and sometimes even lose consciousness. To modern doctors, this sounds like the writer may have suffered from epilepsy.
He died whilst at the home of his sister, in Guildford, Surrey, in 1898 – following a serious bout of influenza. His work continues to be enjoyed, referenced, copied, parodied, and loved today.
The proper name of Lewis Carroll was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and he was born at Daresbury, England, on January 27, 1832. Educated at Rugby and at Christchurch, Oxford, he specialised in mathematical subjects. Elected a student of his college, he became a mathematical lecturer in 1855, continuing in that occupation until 1881. His fame rests on the children's classic, "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," issued in 1865, which has been translated into many languages. No modern fairy-tale has approached it in popularity. The charms of the book are its unstrained humour and its childlike fancy, held in check by the discretion of a particularly clear and analytical mind. Though it seems strange that an authority on Euclid and logic should have been the inventor of so diverting and irresponsible a tale, if we examine his story critically we shall see that only a logical mind could have derived so much genuine humour from a deliberate attack on reason, in which a considerable element of fun arises from efforts to reconcile the irreconcilable. The book has probably been read as much by grown-ups as by young people, and no work of humour is more heartily to be commended as a banisher of care. The original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel are almost as famous as the book itself.