Alice in Wonderland

Will the Real Lewis Carroll Please Stand Up?

History has left few clues into the life of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), though myth and mysteries abound surrounding the infamous Lewis Carroll, the pseudonym by which he wrote his imaginative tales. A mathematician, poet, and author, Charles Dodgson lived a majority of his life in Oxford, England. From an early age, he showed signs of creativity, writing poems and short stories throughout his teen years at school. Dodgson became a very gifted mathematician and logistician, and after graduation he became a Mathematics Lecturer at Christ Church School in Oxford.

Throughout his adult life, Dodgson sought out the companionship of both young and old. His need for socialization bordered on an obsession with being accepted. However, even with this desire for constant camaraderie, Dodgson was a very private man. He suffered from a stammer, which in part affected his abilities as a lecturer and socialite. In his personal life, he sought out the company of individuals he felt most comfortable speaking around, which often ended up being the children of his fellow professors at Christ Church.

The myths surrounding Lewis Carroll started almost as soon as this persona came into being in 1856, when Dodgson first started using this now famous pseudonym. Dodgson often fueled fires behind rumors about the life of Lewis Carroll, including his eccentricities and choice of companions. By allowing rumors to fly about the life of Lewis Carroll, Dodgson kept out of the spotlight, which allowed him to keep the real details of his own affairs to himself. By drawing attention to his alter-ego, Dodgson was able to live his life in relative peace.

Upon his death in 1898, Dodgson’s family destroyed nearly all of his personal papers, leaving little hard evidence about the life of this mysterious man. Over the years, myths about the author of Alice—now referred to commonly by his own pseudonym—have been taken as fact in the absence of any definitive truth. Because of this, the true identity of Charles Dodgson will be forever linked with the mystery of Lewis Carroll, which continues to make us “curiouser and curiouser.”

has since been translated into more than eighty languages. The equally popular sequel Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, was published in 1872. His books are among the most quoted works in the English language, and his influence (as well as that of his illustrator, Sir John Tenniel) can be seen everywhere, from the world of advertising to that of atomic physics.

Origins of Alice

Mystery also surrounds the origins of the Alice series. The story of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) can be traced back to a summer picnic that Charles Dodgson had with the family of his colleague Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ Church. Dodgson took Liddell’s three children on a boat ride, where he invented the story of Alice in order to pass the time. Afterwards, the children begged him to write it and the story of Alice in Wonderland was born. The character of Alice was rumored to be inspired by Henry Liddell’s daughter Alice, who was on the boat that day.  However, beliefs differ amongst researchers as to the truth of this claim.

Since its publication, the tale has been translated into more than eighty languages. The equally popular sequel Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, was published in 1872. The tale of young Alice has inspired countless generations since, with a wide variety of film and cartoon adaptations of the story, as well as appropriations of the iconic characters into popular culture.

Works Cited:

Carpenter, Humphrey. Secret Gardens: A Study of the Golden Age of Children’s  Literature. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1985.

Hudson, Derek. Lewis Carroll: An Illustrated Biography. New York: C.N. Potter, 1977. Print.

Leach, Karoline. “Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll): A Brief Biography.”

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll): A Brief Biography. N.p., 25 Nov. 2004. Web. 04 Nov. 2012. <http://www.victorianweb.org/authors/carroll/bio1.html&gt;.

Leach, Karoline. “Lewis Carroll: A Myth in the Making.” Dreamchild. London: Peter Owen, 1999. Print.

One thought on “Will the Real Lewis Carroll Please Stand Up?

  1. Hello! We are in the midst of our opening night performance of Alice in Wonderland here at Ensemble Theatre Cincinnati. I had a great time finding out about Charles Dodgson/Lewis Carroll, and I hope you have just as much fun watching our production.

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