Lewis Carroll is the pseudonym of mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, which he adopted when publishing his famous children’s novels and nonsense verse.
The son of a Cheshire parson, Dodgson grew up in a large family which enjoyed composing magazines and putting on plays. In 1851, he went to Christ Church, Oxford. By 1855, he was a fellow (which necessitated celibacy), lecturing in mathematics. He occupied a tower in the college for the rest of his life. He wrote many books on mathematics and logic, and enjoyed inventing puzzles and games and playing croquet.
His love of paradox and nonsense and his fondness for small children led to the writing of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), a story which he began while rowing Lorina, Alice, and Edith, the three small daughters of the College Dean H G Liddell, up the Thames for a picnic near Binsey. A sequel, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There, appeared in 1871. Interviewed when she was old, Alice remembered him as tall and slender, with blue/grey eyes, longish hair, and ‘carrying himself upright, almost more than upright, as if he had swallowed a poker’.
He published Phantasmagoria and Other Poems in 1869, The Hunting of the Snark in 1876 and Sylvie and Bruno in 1889.
Dodgson wrote and received ‘wheelbarrows full’ of letters (a letter register he started in his late 20s and kept for the rest of his life records more than 98,000 sent and received). Many of these were on religious and political issues while others were full of light-hearted nonsense. He excelled in artfully staged photographs, many of children in costumes and others of friends, including Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Holman Hunt and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. He died, aged 65, of pneumonia.
Further information about the life of Lewis Carroll can be found here via the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.
- Article by:
- Hannah Gabrielle
Hannah Gabrielle, Head of Content and Community at the British Library looks at some of the literary and social influences on Lewis Carroll that lead to the much loved children's novel Alice in Wonderland
- Article by:
- Kimberley Reynolds
- The novel 1832–1880, Childhood and children's literature
Professor Kimberley Reynolds explores how Lewis Carroll transformed logic, literary traditions and ideas about childhood into the superbly inventive and irreverent Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
- Article by:
- M O Grenby
- Childhood and children's literature
Professor M O Grenby looks at the ways in which children’s literature of the 18th and 19th centuries sought to improve its young readers, combining social and moral instruction with entertainment.