About the famous English author Lewis Carroll, history and biography of the writer of Alice in Wonderland

Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) (1832-1898). On July 4, 1862, 2 young English scholars took 3 little girls on a picnic. One of the men was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, and during this outing he told a fascinating tale of a girl named Alice and what happened to her after she fell down a rabbit hole. It was not unusual for Dodgson to tell stories, for he was very fond of little girls and liked to entertain them. However, on this occasion he outdid himself and so enraptured his listeners that one of them, Alice Liddell, the model for the heroine of the story, insisted that he write it down.


That night in his room at Oxford University he worked furiously until 6 in the morning, adding incidents to flesh out the story. He illustrated the work with his own drawings and presented it to Alice, who was not the only one enchanted with the result. For Henry Kingsley, a Victorian novelist and friend of Alice's family, happened to read Alice's Adventures Underground and told Mrs. Liddell that he thought highly of the book and that she should urge the author to publish it.


Dodgson took this advice, but before he had his work published he very wisely decided to replace his drawings with those of the famous illustrator, John Tenniel. A more fortunate union of writer and artist could not be imagined, for in 1865 their combined efforts brought forth a book--retitled Alice's Adventures in Wonderland--that has become one of the most famous children's books of all time, one that appeals to child and adult alike. (A curious sidelight is that Dodgson, dissatisfied with the 1st printing, stopped the presses after 48 copies had been run off. Twenty one of these have survived and are among the rarest of rare books.) On the title page of Alice appeared a pen name that has become immortal--Lewis Carroll.


This cleric and mathematician chose to hide behind a pseudonym because he wished to keep his "nonsense" works separate from his mathematical and other treatises to which he attached his true name. He arrived at "Lewis Carroll" by reversing his 1st and middle names, translating them into Latin (Ludovicus Carolus), and then retranslating into English. This perfectly illustrates the playful mind of a man who delighted in puzzles, riddles, and the most elaborate word play. He has added a number of words to the English language, like "chortle" and "galumph" (a triumphant gallop), and his poems and poetic parodies have often been anthologized. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its successor, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, are among the most often quoted works in the language.


Not only was Dodgson a brilliant man of letters; he was also an exceptional photographer. He was noted for his portraits of leading Victorians, and he specialized in studies of nude children, particularly girls. This latter activity caused some eyebrows to be raised, and he abruptly ceased taking pictures altogether. Some have tried to find sinister things in Dodgson's affection for little girls, but perhaps the true cause of his lifelong pursuit of preadolescent females was a lonely bachelor's need for love. He found at least one grown-up woman attractive, the actress Ellen Terry. Their relationship managed to make up in endurance what it lacked in intimacy. Perhaps, as have many of his readers, he found in his world of "nonsense" a refuge from the real world.



©1975 - 1981 by David Wallechinsky & Irving Wallace
Reproduced with permission from "The People's Almanac" series of books
All rights reserved



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