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Lewis Carroll was a British mathematician, photographer, and author most noted for his works in children’s stories. He kindled the imaginations of children (and adults) of future generations with classics such as Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, and The Hunting of the Shark.
Until now, his adventure stories are being adapted for different media platforms for the enjoyment of fans throughout the world.
Lewis Carroll was the pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, born on January 27, 1832, in the tiny parish of Daresbury in Cheshire, England. He was the third eldest in a brood of eleven. He was the son of Frances Jane Lutwidge and Rev. Charles Dodgson, a senior member of the clergy.
The Dodgson kids’ childhood in the isolated community was sheltered, quiet, and dull. However, they made up for the lack of friends by amusing themselves with a variety of games.
At a young age, it was already noticeable how Carroll possessed a fanciful imagination and had a knack for entertaining children. He displayed a strong interest and talent in inventing games, performing magic tricks, and directing puppet shows to keeps his brothers and sisters occupied.
Carroll’s flair for writing started when he was 12. While attending the Richmond School, the Dodgsons began to issue a family magazine called “Rectory Magazines”, where the family members served as writers and contributors.
Most of the manuscript in the surviving compilations were penned by Lewis Carroll. These include compositions such as: Useful and Instructive Poetry (written in 1845, published in 1954), The Rectory Magazine (written in 1850, unpublished), The Rectory Umbrella (written between 1850 and 1853, published in 1932), and Mischmasch (written between 1853 and 1862, published in 1932).
Eventually, the flourishing writer also ventured into writing about mathematics and humorous subjects. In 1856, he created the pen name by translating his first and middle names into Latin. Charles Lutwidge became Carolus Ludovicus. He then translated it back to English and wrote it in reverse order, finally coming up with Lewis Carroll.
From when he was a young boy until his college days, Lewis Carroll was extremely shy and reserved. He also suffered from a stammer that affected most of the Dodgson children. Moreover, he endured a number of illnesses, one of which caused him to be deaf in one ear. For these reasons, he struggled to thrive in school and often became the subject of campus bullying.
While he was usually socially aloof with adults, Carroll was naturally warm and affable with children. One youngster he had much affection for was four-year-old Alice Liddell, the youngest daughter of the dean of his college at Christ Church in Oxford, England. The Liddell family went to the same church as the Dodgsons and the three Liddell sisters were the only children among the members.
Having pursued photography, Lewis Carroll often made Alice the model for his projects. It was also Alice who inspired him to make up whimsical stories so that he could have something to amuse the girl with. He spent a lot of time with the Liddell sisters, telling them fantastic tales in imaginary worlds.
In fact, it was them who first heard the early iteration of what would later become the story of Wonderland, then titled Alice’s Adventures Underground. Alice fell in love with the story and urged Carroll to make her the main protagonist. He eventually granted the girl’s wish and added more sub-stories based on tales he has told Alice in their outings.
In 1865, his book was published as Alice in Wonderland, then becoming a sleeper hit. The following year, he began writing a sequel based on more stories told to the Liddell sisters. In 1871, the follow-up Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There was released to equally positive – if not better reception – from readers and critics alike.
The Carroll Legacy
Many critics have tried to explain the phenomenal success of Alice in Wonderland, looking for hidden psychological, political, or even religious meanings in the works. However, it is believed that as with the Mad Hatter’s riddle in the story, the answer does not exist. They are no more or less than adventure stories meant for children to enjoy.
Most literati credit Carroll’s natural wit and eccentricity, as well as his gift in using word play, logic, and satire in a way that is also childlike. It is said that the real wonder of Alice in Wonderland lies in the ability of Carroll’s stories to make children understand “reality” the same way that adults would grasp the real world.
Carroll’s two books eventually became the most popular children’s book in England by the time of his death in 1989. Now, Alice in Wonderland has been made into several blockbuster movies and hit television shows, and has been reimagined in almost all types of media.
Have a taste of Lewis Carroll’s whimsy through 20 of his most memorable quotes:
Lewis Carroll Quotes
“If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does.” – Lewis Carroll
“I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.” – Lewis Carroll
“Alice: How long is forever? White Rabbit: Sometimes, just one second.” – Lewis Carroll
“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.” – Lewis Carroll
“We’re all mad here.” – Lewis Carroll
“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.” – Lewis Carroll
“I’m not strange, weird, off, nor crazy, my reality is just different from yours.” – Lewis Carroll
“Everything is funny, if you can laugh at it.” – Lewis Carroll
“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” – Lewis Carroll
“I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?” – Lewis Carroll