This month’s “Spotlight On:…” post is going to focus on Lewis Carroll, most known for his Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland books. I recently watched a documentary on him and found that he led quite an interesting, as well as questionable, life.
As always, the post will be divided up into 6 different parts:
1. A little bit about their life
2. Their works I have read
3. Their works I am yet to read
4. Great film/TV adaptations based on their works
6. An author biography recommendation
So without further ado…
A Little Bit About Their Life
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll, was born in the village of Daresbury, England on 27th January 1832. Charles was the eldest child in a family of eleven children. His father was a clergyman and the children were raised in a rectory. Charles was particularly gifted in mathematics and, at age twenty, he was awarded a scholarship to Christ Church College, Oxford. In 1854, he was awarded his degree in mathematics and the following year, he began work as a lecturer at the same college. In addition to his interest in maths, Charles was also interested in photography and writing essays, poetry and prose which were often published in Comic Times.
In 1856, Charles submitted a parody to the magazine The Train. The editor of this magazine was Edmund Yates who chose the pen name, Lewis Carroll, from a list that Charles had submitted to be chosen from. It was this same year that Charles met Alice Liddell, daughter of Henry George Liddell (the dean of Chris Church College), and his apparent inspiration for Alice in Wonderland.
Carroll suffered from a bad stammer but found that this disappeared when he spoke to children. The relationships that Carroll had with children have, despite being the inspiration for many of his stories, have been subject to scrutiny and have been a huge point of speculation about his life.
On 4th July 1862, Carroll took a boat trip with Alice Liddell and several others to Godstow. It was on this time that Carroll passed the time by telling the children a nonsense tale set in a wonderland. He later wrote this story down and called it Alice’s Adventures Underground. He finished writing this book in 1863 and was urged by friends and family to publish it. It was finally published in 1865 and gained a lot of popularity, so much so that Carroll wrote the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871). At the same time as he was publishing his Alice’s adventures, he was also still publishing mathematical essays. He claimed that he was a man of science and mathematics who also happened to write nonsense.
Besides writing and mathematics, Carroll created a number of fine photographs that have been exhibited over the world. His notable portraits included actress Ellen terry and poet Alfred Tennyson. He often photographed children in costumes, eventually making nude studies of them. There have been many, many investigations about this and there is little real evidence of child abuse in relation to Carroll. I really urge you to watch the documentary The Mind Behind Wonderland which is available on Youtube to try and get a better understand ing of this and to formulate your own opinion.
Charles Dodgson died of bronchitis on January 14, 1898. He is buried in Mount Cemetery, Guildford, Surrey, near the home he bought for his family.
Their Works I Have Read/Am Yet To Read
I have read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, however I am yet to read Jabberwocky, The Hunting of the Snark, Sylvie and Bruno and some of his poetry.
Great Film/TV Adaptations Of Their Work
I think the most obvious answer to this question is the Disney classic, Alice in Wonderland (1951). I also really enjoyed the Tim Burton versions of Alice in Wonderland (2010) and Through the Looking-Glass (2016).
“Everything is funny, if you can laugh at it.”
“No, no! The adventures first, explanations take such a dreadful time.”
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?’
‘That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,’ said the Cat.
‘I don’t much care where -‘ said Alice.
‘Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,’ said the Cat.
‘- so long as I get SOMEWHERE,’ Alice added as an explanation.
‘Oh, you’re sure to do that,’ said the Cat, ‘if you only walk long enough.”
“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”
“I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then”
“I don’t think…” then you shouldn’t talk, said the Hatter.”
“One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.”
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
An Author Biography Recommendation
I would definitely recommend watching the documentary I mentioned earlier to get a better grasp of who Lewis Carroll was as a person. Despite the fact that he was quite a quiet, reserved, shy person, you do get to learn a bit more about the controversy surrounding him.
Otherwise, I would recommend reading The Story of Alice: Lewis Carroll and the Secret History of Wonderland by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst or Lewis Carroll: A Biography by Morton Cohen.
If you want to read a book that has done extensive research on Lewis Carroll has all his controversies, I would recommend In the Shadow of the Dreamchild: The Myth and Reality of Lewis Carroll by Karoline Leach.
Have you read anything by Lewis Carroll?
Thank you for reading!
Love, Zoë x