About Alice Author Lewis Carroll
By A Noise Within
February 27, 2020
Learn more about the man who inspired plays, ballets, films, movies, and more with his novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. The following is an excerpt from our Alice in Wonderland audience guide.
Lewis Carroll was born on January 27, 1832 as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in Daresbury, Cheshire, England. He was the eldest son and third child of eleven born to Frances Jane Lutwidge and the Reverend Charles Dodgson. Dodgson’s father was a member of the clergy in Daresbury’s parsonage and held various positions within the church throughout his life.
Daresbury was an isolated country village, so it provided Dodgson and his siblings with few opportunities to make friends with anyone outside of their family. Nevertheless, they were able to entertain themselves by creating new games to play. Dodgson had a particular knack for inventing games and would often enlist his siblings to take part in them.
When he was twelve years old, Dodgson began his formal education at Richmond School in Yorkshire. Richmond School was small and Dodgson enjoyed his studies there. The following year, Dodgson was sent to Rugby School, a boarding school that he attended for three years. While attending Rugby School, Dodgson excelled in mathematics and won academic prizes for his work there. However, he hated the lack of privacy, found the teaching to be uninspired, and suffered severe bullying.
In 1851, Dodgson began undergraduate coursework at Christ Church in Oxford where he was awarded a studentship (scholarship) for his academic performance. Dodgson continued to excel academically at the university, and before long, he was involved in teaching mathematics courses for the school. During the time he taught mathematics, Dodgson remained involved in creative pursuits. He was an avid photographer and wrote essays and poetry . Dodgson had many of his poems and essays published anonymously, at first. However, in March 1865, Dodgson published the poem “Solitude” under the pseudonym, “Lewis Carroll.” Dodgson continued to publish all non-academic work under that pseudonym, reserving his real name only for his works on mathematics.
As an instructor at Christ Church, Dodgson had difficulty commanding a room of undergraduates during his lectures—he had a quiet voice and severe stammer which made it challenging for him to keep order during classes. However, Dodgson was a gifted storyteller and would entertain the children who visited or lived near Christ Church with fantastical tales. Henry George Liddell, the dean of Christ Church, had four children—Harry, Lorina, Edith, and Alice—who loved Dodgson’s stories.
On July 4,1862, during an afternoon picnic with his friend Robinson Duckworth as well as Alice, Lorina, and Edith, Dodgson began to tell fantastic tales of a young girl’s journey through a wonderland. The children loved the tale. Dodgson had named the protagonist of the story after Alice Liddell, and the story he told that afternoon became the first iteration of what would become Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Once the Liddell children returned home from the picnic, Alice exclaimed that Dodgson simply must write down the story for her. And he did. Two years later, Dodgson delivered a handwritten and illustrated copy of Alice’s Adventures Underground to Alice Liddell.
Later, when the novelist Henry Kingsley visited the Liddell home, he noticed the book in the family’s drawing room. He read it and urged Dodgson to formally publish the work. Dodgson revised his novel, and ultimately published it as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865. The book had a slow but steadily increasing success, and eventually, Dodgson decided to compose a sequel to the work. This sequel, entitled Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There was published in 1871.
Besides writing, Dodgson became a notable photographer, capturing portraits of artists such as the actress Ellen Terry and poet Alfred Lord Tennyson. Throughout his life, Dodgson also wrote a number of humorous pamphlets, essays, and poems which were, for the most part, published in collections such as Phantasmagoria and Other Poems (1869).
In 1898, not long before his 66th birthday, Dodgson contracted a severe case of influenza which led to pneumonia. He died from the disease on January 14, 1898.
Lewis Carroll’s work lives on in our production of Alice in Wonderland play. Get tickets to Alice now!
Edited from: Editors, Biography.com. “Lewis Carroll.” Biography.com, A&E Networks Television, 23 June 2019, www.biography.com/writer/lewis-carroll.
Green, Roger Lancelyn. “Lewis Carroll.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 10 July 2019, www.britannica.com/ biography/Lewis-Carroll.
Woolf, Jenny. “The Mystery of Lewis Carroll.” The Public Domain Review, 4 May 2017, publicdomainreview.org/2015/07/01/the-mysteryof-lewis-carroll/.