About Lewis Carroll

Illustration by Sir John Tenniel in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that inspirated the Mad Hatter Day.

Lewis Carroll is the pseudonym of the English writer and mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, b. Jan. 27, 1832, d. Jan. 14, 1898, known especially for ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND (1865) and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (1872), children's books that are also distinguished as satire and as examples of verbal wit.

Carroll invented his pen name by translating his first two names into the Latin "Carolus Lodovicus" and then anglicizing it into "Lewis Carroll."

The son of a clergyman and the firstborn of 11 children, Carroll began at an early age to entertain himself and his family with magic tricks, marionette shows, and poems written for homemade newspapers. From 1846 to 1850 he attended Rugby School; he graduated from Christ Church College, Oxford, in 1854.

Carroll remained there, lecturing on mathematics and writing treatises and guides for students. Although he took deacon's orders in 1861, Carroll was never ordained a priest, partly because he was afflicted with a stammer that made preaching difficult and partly, perhaps, because he had discovered other interests.

Among Carroll's avocations was photography, at which he became proficient. He excelled especially at photographing children. Alice Liddell, one of the three daughters of Henry George Liddell, the dean of Christ Church, was one of his photographic subjects and the model for the fictional Alice.

Carroll's comic and children's works also include The Hunting of the Snark (1876), two collections of humorous verse, and the two parts of Sylvie and Bruno (1889, 1893), unsuccessful attempts to re-create the Alice fantasies.

As a mathematician, Carroll was conservative and derivative. As a logician, he was more interested in logic as a game than as an instrument for testing reason. In his diversions as a photographer and author of comic fantasy, he is most memorable and original--the man who, for example, contributed, in "Jabberwocky," the word chortle, a portmanteau word that combines "snort" and "chuckle," to the English language. DONALD J. GRAY

Born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson at Daresbury, Cheshire, England, in 1832, he was educated at Rugby and Oxford, took orders in 1861, and was a lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church College, Oxford, from 1855-81 when he resigned to devote his life to writing under his pseudonym, Lewis Carroll.

As a boy he was fascinated by the craft of conjuring and this, together with ideas for games, puzzles, anagrams, riddles, chess problems, mathematical recreation and logic, occupied his mind for all of his life. He was responsible for many original puzzles and new innovations, including ‘Doublets’ invented in 1879 and ‘The Game of Logic’ in 1886.

One can appreciate the extent of his obsession with puzzles when considering that almost all seventy-two of his ‘Pillow-Problems’, many of which had complicated mathematical solutions, were compiled by him while lying awake at night. He would commit nothing to paper until the morning, when he would first of all write down the answer, followed by the question and then the detailed solution.

The children’s classic: ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’ (1865) was written for the young Alice Liddell, the daughter of the head of his Oxford college. along with its sequel ‘Through the Looking Glass’ (1872) it combines elements of fantasy, logic and nonsense. He also wrote nonsense verse, notably ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ (1876) which appears on the CD Jack Thompson, The Poems of Lewis Carroll along with classics such as You Are Old Father William.

Order your  copy of Lewis Carroll poems on CD.

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