Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
(Born – January 27, 1832, in Daresbury, Chesire, England )
(Died : January 14, 1898, in Gildford, Surrey, England)
LIMERICK BY LEWIS CAROLL TO VERA BERINGER
There was a young lady of station,
“I love man” was her sole exclamation;
But when men cried, “You flatter,”
She replied, “Oh! no matter, Isle of Man is the true explanation.”
27th January 1832 was the day when Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – (pen name Lewis Caroll) was born. A distinguished mathematician and logician who wrote several mathematical treatises as well as fiction and poetry, Lewis Carroll is best known as the creator of the classic children’s novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This classic novel is at once a social satire and a whimsical fairy tale, and can be appreciated by both adults and children. Born to Francis Jane Lutwidge and Reverend Charles Dodgson, Carroll began practicing the art of entertaining children with his ten younger siblings while growing up in an isolated community in Chesire, England.
Carroll attended the Richmond and Rugby schools, where his reserved character made him a target for bullying by other students. He did not like these early school experiences, but continued on to a scholarly career at Christ College, Oxford which was to last virtually until the end of his life. After graduating with honors in mathematics and classical studies he was granted a fellowship and became a faculty member at age twenty-four. At twenty-five he obtained his master’s degree and was ordained in 1861 to fulfill the requirements of remaining at Oxford, which he
did, as a teacher of mathematics, until 1881.
At Christ College Carroll also found an appreciative audience for his storytelling capabilities in the children of the dean: Alice, Lorina and Edith Liddell. Being unmarried and childless himself (a stipulation of the university), Carroll often amused other people’s children, such as those of writers George Macdonald and Alfred Lord Tennyson, with his stories. However it was to Alice Liddell that Carroll first told the fanciful story of falling down a rabbit hole into another world. She urged him to write down the story so that she might read it again, and thus the prototype of the now famous tale was first put into written form.
This story, accompanied by some rough drawings, was admired by the novelist Henry Kingsly who was visiting the Liddells, and Carroll was encouraged to publish it. At the behest of the publisher Carroll added some stories to bring the story to novel length. With illustrations by cartoonist Sir John Tenniel, the book was first published in 1865. Both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, written in 1871, were considerable successes.
The stories continue to delight children today, and their whimsical appeal have been analyzed by adults for deeper meanings, although critics remain divided on this point. Some uncertainty similarly surrounds the nature of Carroll’s friendships with little girls, and the photographic portraits of children he was known for. What is certain is the lasting appeal of Carroll’s “Alice” stories, particularly the delightful poetry, twisted logic and memorable characters to be found there.
Gatten, Brian. SparkNote on Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass. 27 Jan. 2009
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