Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, also known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll, was a man of diverse interests—in mathematics, logic, photography, art, theater, religion, medicine, and science. He was happiest in the company of children, for whom he created puzzles, clever games, and charming letters.
Carroll was about six feet tall, slender and handsome, with curling brown hair and blue eyes. The only overt defect he carried into adulthood was what he referred to as his "hesitation," a stammer he acquired in early childhood and which plagued him throughout his life.
Carroll wrote poetry and stories from a young age, sending them to various magazines and enjoying moderate success. Between 1854 and 1856, his work appeared in national publications such as The Comic Times and The Train, as well as smaller magazines like the Whitby Gazette and the Oxford Critic. Most of this output was humorous, sometimes satirical, but his standards and ambitions were exacting. "I do not think I have yet written anything worthy of real publication, but I do not despair of doing so some day," he wrote in July of 1855.
In 1856, Dodgson published his first piece of work under the name that would make him famous. It was a predictable romantic poem called "Solitude," and appeared in The Train under the authorship of "Lewis Carroll." This pseudonym was a play on his real name; Lewis was the anglicised form of Ludovicus, which was the Latin for Lutwidge, while Carroll was an anglicised version of Carolus, the Latin for Charles.
As all Carroll's admirers know, his book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, became an immediate success after its publication in 1865, and was subsequently translated into more than eighty languages. The equally popular sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, was published in 1872.
The Alice books are but one example of Carroll's wide ranging authorship. The Hunting of the Snark, a classic nonsense epic (1876), Jabberwocky, and Euclid and His Modern Rivals, a rare example of humorous work concerning mathematics, all still entice and intrigue today's students. Sylvie and Bruno, published toward the end of his life, contains startling ideas, including an 1889 description of weightlessness.
The humor, sparkling wit, and genius of this Victorian Englishman have lasted for more than a century. His books are among the most quoted works in the English language, and his influence, along with that of his illustrator, Sir John Tenniel, can be seen everywhere, from the world of advertising to that of atomic physics.
Illustrators of Alice in Wonderland / Through the Lookingglass
- John Tenniel
- Marjory Torrie
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