For a discussion of the Carroll influence on this episode, please see the article on Lewis Carroll connections in Curiouser and Curiouser.
Charles Dodgson was the oldest boy in a large family born to an active and highly conservative clergyman of the Anglican church. He was initially educated at home, before being sent to boarding school, and then to Oxford in January 1851, where he attended his father's old college, Christ Church. He may not always have worked hard, but he was exceptionally gifted and achievement came easily to him. His talent as a mathematician won him the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship, which he continued to hold for the next twenty-six years. Although the income was good, the work bored him. Nevertheless, Dodgson was to remain at Christ Church, in various capacities, until his death.
At a time when people commonly devised their own amusements and when singing and recitation were required social skills, the young Dodgson was well-equipped to be an engaging entertainer. He could sing tolerably well, and was adept at mimicry and storytelling, and was, reputedly, quite good at charades. He was also socially ambitious, and anxious to make his mark on the world as a writer or an artist. In 1856 he published his first piece of work under the name that would make him famous. A romantic poem called "Solitude" appeared in The Train under the authorship of "Lewis Carroll". The pseudonym was a play on his real name: Lewis is the anglicised form of Ludovicus, which is the Latin for Lutwidge; and Carroll is an Irish surname similar to the Latin name Carolus, from which the name Charles comes.
In the interim between his early published writing and the success of the Alice books, Dodgson began to move in the Pre-Raphaelite social circle. Indeed, his scholastic career may well have been intended as something of a stop-gap on the way to other more exciting achievements. He first met John Ruskin in 1857 and became friendly with him. He developed a close relationship with Dante Gabriel Rossetti and his family, and also knew William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Arthur Hughes among other artists. He also knew the fairy-tale author George MacDonald well. It was the enthusiastic reception of an early version of Alice by the young MacDonald children that convinced Dodgson to submit the work for publication.
Alice's Adventures in WonderlandEdit
In 1856, a new Dean, Henry Liddell, arrived at Christ Church, bringing with him his young family. Dodgson became close friends particularly with the three sisters: Lorina, Edith and Alice. He grew into the habit of taking the children on rowing trips to nearby Nuneham Courtenay or Godstow. It was on one such expedition, on 4 July 1862, that Dodgson invented the outline of a story that he was later begged by Alice Liddell to write down. After much delay, Dodgson presented her in November 1864 with a handwritten, self-illustrated manuscript entitled "Alice's Adventures Under Ground".
He had already shown the unfinished manuscript to the publisher Macmillan in 1863. After the possible alternative titles "Alice Among the Fairies" and "Alice's Golden Hour" were debated, the book was finally published as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 under the Lewis Carroll pen name. The illustrations were by Sir John Tenniel. Late in 1871, a sequel—Through the Looking-Glass And What Alice Found There—was published, followed in 1876 by The Hunting of the Snark, a fantastical "nonsense" poem, exploring the adventures of a bizarre crew of variously inadequate beings who set off to find the eponymous creature. His last novel, Sylvie and Bruno, was published in two volumes in 1889 and 1893. Its apparent confusion baffled most readers.
The overwhelming commercial success of the first Alice book changed Dodgson's life in many ways. The fame of his alter ego, "Lewis Carroll", soon spread around the world; he was inundated with fan mail and with sometimes unwanted attention. Nevertheless, Dodgson continued to teach at Christ Church until 1881, and remained in residence there until his death. He died on 14 January 1898 at his sisters' home, "The Chestnuts" in Guildford, of pneumonia following influenza, and is buried in Guildford at the Mount Cemetery.
- Adapted from the Wikipedia article on Lewis Carroll.