Published on January 27th, 2017 | by Michelle Roper-Shaw
The Man Behind Wonderland
Today, celebrates the birthday of Lewis Carroll, the man behind the magic of Wonderland and Alice’s adventures. He was born 185 years ago and his work is still as popular and a favourite for all ages.
Lewis Carroll was actually born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson but wrote under his pen name. He was an English author, mathematician, logician and photographer.
He is most famous for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. Both of these books have both been turned into films. The latest film adaptation, Alice Through the Looking Glass featuring Mia Wasikowska, was made just last year.
This sequel also includes the poems “Jabberwocky” and “The Hunting of the Snark”, both are examples of the genre, literacy nonsense. Most of his work is based on word play, logic and fantasy. Readers can shut themselves from the real world and imagine something that is magical but at the same time, crazy.
Today, Lewis Carroll remains one of the world’s most loved Authors. There are various societies throughout the world, dedicated to the enjoyment and promotion of his work and his life.
The Creation of Alice and Wonderland
The inspiration for Alice has often been assumed to be a girl called Alice Liddell, the daughter of the Vice Chancellor of Oxford University, Henry Liddell. Dodgson was close friends with Liddell’s wife and so knew their children, particularly Lorina, Edith and Alice.
An acrostic poem at the end of Through the Looking Glass actually spells out her name. Other commentators note several references to her in the text in both books.
Dodgson always denied the connection. He stated his “little heroine” was not actually based on any real child. In fact, he would often dedicate his works to girls he was acquainted with. He would also add their names in acrostic poems at the beginning of the text.
Despite this, there is no doubt that Dodgson’s friendship with the Liddell family was an important part of his life in the late 1850s.
Throughout this time, Dodgson would take the children on rowing trips. It was on one of these trips on 4 July 1862 that he invented the outline of the story that eventually became his first and greatest commercial success.
Dodgson told the story to Alice Liddell and she begged him to write it down. Carroll would eventually hand her a handwritten, illustrated manuscript entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground in November 1864.
Alice in Wonderland, from Manuscript to Literary Masterpiece
Meanwhile, Dodgson began writing this wonderful story. He gave his friend and mentor George McDonald a copy of the incomplete manuscript. The enthusiasm for the story from McDonald’s children gave Carroll the confidence to pursue in getting his book published.
In 1863 he took the unfinished manuscript to Macmillan the publisher. They liked it immediately. Several titles were considered and rejected before Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865. Dodgson used the pen-name Lewis Carroll which he had first used nine years earlier.
This literary masterpiece is captured vividly in the Alice in Wonderland range at the Post Office Shop. Most notably, the fantastic range of characters and their series of adventures are shown in the stunning Alice in Wonderland Framed Stamp Set.
The book was a resounding commercial success. Lewis Carroll became famous all over the world. It is even rumoured that Queen Victoria was so taken with the book that she commanded he should dedicate his next book to her!
Late in 1871, he published the sequel Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. However, the title page of the first edition erroneously gives “1872” as the date of publication. It’s somewhat darker mood possibly reflects changes in Dodgson’s life. His father’s death in 1868 plunged him into a depression that lasted several years.
Lewis Carroll, The Later Years
Dodgson’s life did not change over the remaining twenty years of his life, despite his growing wealth and fame. He continued to teach at Christ Church until 1881 and remained in residence there until his death.
Two volumes of his last novel, Sylvie and Bruno were published in 1889 and 1893. Yet, they did not capture the public’s imagination as the Alice series of books had.
Sadly, he died of pneumonia after a bout of influenza on 14th January 1898 at his sister’s home in Guildford. He is buried in Guildford at the Mount Cemetery.