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Down The Rabbit-Hole: Lewis Carroll

lewisBy Stacy Parish, Children’s Library Assistant

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (January 27, 1832-January 14, 1898 — and yes, his birthday is this month) was better known by his nom de plume, Lewis Carroll. Although he is remembered primarily for his literary works, Dodgson was also a mathematician, logician, educator, Anglican deacon, inventor, and photographer.

Dodgson’s most famous writings are Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland (1865), its sequel Through The Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871, and which includes the poems “Jabberwocky” and “The Walrus and the Carpenter”) and the poem The Hunting of the Snark, all of which are examples of the genre of literary nonsense. Dodgson’s creations were not limited to that genre, however. He also penned several epic poems (Phantasmagoria, also published as Rhyme?And Reason?), poetry collections (Three Sunsets and Other Poems), and numerous writings about mathematics and logic.6639da733b10ce68a756868bdd2d573d

Factual information on Dodgson’s life from 1858-1863 is scarce. His personal diaries from that time are sporadic; large portions of some of the volumes are missing, and some years are completely absent.   Hence, there are quite a few improbable and controversial stories about him that proliferated and became accepted even without any evidence to support them. It has been suggested by some of Dodgson’s biographers that he had an improper interest in young females; however, his personal diaries and letters reflect that he was keenly interested in adult women, and enjoyed numerous relationships with single and married women, some of which were deemed somewhat scandalous by the social dictates of the Victorian era. Dodgson’s nephew and biographer Stuart Dodgson Collingwood wrote that children appealed to Dodgson primarily because he was an educator at heart, and he saw in them the best slate to work upon. Collingwood also says that Dodgson had an uncanny gift for making even the dullest subjects interesting.

aliceDodgson’s life changed drastically in many ways after the overwhelming commercial success of Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland as the fame of his pen name “Lewis Carroll” spread rapidly throughout the world. He was bombarded with fan mail and often with unwanted attention. Dodgson also began earning significant sums of money from his writing, yet he remained at Oxford in various capacities until his death. The sequel to Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland was published in late 1871 (although the title page of the first edition erroneously lists 1872 as the publication date) and was entitled Through The Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. The mood of this book is slightly darker, and perhaps is a reflection of the changes in Dodgson’s life since the publication of the first Alice book.

Whether your taste runs to Alice’s fanciful adventures down the rabbit-hole or through the looking-glass, or to Dodgson’s/Carroll’s beautiful and often biting poetic verse, certainly there are worse ways to spend a winter’s afternoon than curled up with a volume of one of his marvelous creations.

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