Lewis Carroll the unlikely author

Born in Cheshire, England, Lewis Carroll – the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was the oldest of 11 children. Born into a primarily northern English family, his father was a highly conservative cleric of the Church of England who eventually became the Archdeacon of Richmond.

Dodgson was home educated until the age of 14 where he entered the prestigious Rugby School in Warwickshire. Although he suffered from a stammer, it did not seem to get in his way and he excelled academically. At the age of 18 he was accepted into Christ Church college, Oxford. Only a year into college he had to return home as his mother died from inflammation of the brain, probably caused by meningitis or a stroke.

Intellectually he was very gifted, becoming a mathematics honours student and graduating with a Bachelor Arts. In 1855 at the age of 23, he won the Christ Church mathematical Lectureship and held it for 26 years. He was always involved at Christ Church for the remainder of his life. Henry Liddell arrived at the college in 1856 along with his family, they were to become great friends with Dodgson.

It was Henry’s daughter Alice who Dodgson wrote his infamous book for as a gift, after outlining the story on one of Charles and the Liddell’s family boating trips. The published book was produced in 1865 with illustrations by Sir John Tenniel.

The book achieved major commercial success and changed Dodgson’s life; it is said that the book was enjoyed by Queen Victoria herself. In later life Dodgson also wrote other books such as “The Hunting of the Snark” and “Sylvie and Bruno” although neither of these publications came close to the success of Alice in Wonderland. Dodgson had many other interests in life including photography, mathematics, letter writing and inventing.

One of his inventions was known as a Nyctograph – a special type of card grid consisting of symbols which allowed one to write in the dark so as not to have to light up a lantern if a quick idea arose.

Charles Dodgson died at the age of 65 from Pneumonia at his sister’s home in Guildford. He was buried in that same town at the Mount Cemetery. His creativity, wonder and kindness is cherished and celebrated still, 150 years on; with many literary societies, libraries and community groups holding events in his honour to this day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *