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Lewis Carroll

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Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll
tinted monochrome 3/4-length photo portrait of seated Dodgson holding a book
Born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
(1832-01-27)27 January 1832
Daresbury, Cheshire, England
Died 14 January 1898(1898-01-14) (aged 65)
Guildford, Surrey, England
Occupation Writer, mathematician, Anglican cleric, photographer, artist
Nationality British
Genre Children's literature, fantasy literature, mathematical logic, poetry, literary nonsense, linear algebra, voting theory
Notable works Alice's Adventures in Wonderland,
Through the Looking-Glass,
The Hunting of the Snark,
Curiosa Mathematica, Part I: A New Theory of Parallels,
Curiosa Mathematica, Part II: Pillow Problems,
"The Principles of Parliamentary Representation"


Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (;[1] [2] 27 January 1832 – 14 January 1898), better known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll (), was an English writer, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and photographer. His most famous writings are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, which includes the poem Jabberwocky, and the poem The Hunting of the Snark, all examples of the genre of literary nonsense. He is noted for his facility at word play, logic, and fantasy. There are societies in many parts of the world (including the United Kingdom, Japan, the United States, and New Zealand[3]) dedicated to the enjoyment and promotion of his works and the investigation of his life.


Dodgson's family was predominantly northern English, with Irish connections. Conservative and High Church Anglican, most of Dodgson's ancestors were army officers or Church of England clergy. His great-grandfather, also named Charles Dodgson, had risen through the ranks of the church to become the Bishop of Elphin.[4] His paternal grandfather, another Charles, had been an army captain, killed in action in Ireland in 1803 when his two sons were hardly more than babies.[5] The oldest of these sons – yet another Charles Dodgson – was Carroll's father. He reverted to the other family tradition and took holy orders. He went to Westminster School, and then to Christ Church, Oxford. He was mathematically gifted and won a double first degree, which could have been the prelude to a brilliant academic career. Instead he married his first cousin, Frances Jane Lutwidge,[6] in 1827 and became a country parson.[7]

Dodgson was born in the little parsonage of Daresbury in Cheshire near the towns of Warrington and Runcorn,[8] the eldest boy but already the third child of the four-and-a-half-year-old marriage. Eight more children were to follow. When Charles was 11, his father was given the living of Croft-on-Tees in North Yorkshire, and the whole family moved to the spacious rectory. This remained their home for the next twenty-five years.

Young Charles' father was an active and highly conservative cleric of the Church of England who later became the Archdeacon of Richmond[9] and involved himself, sometimes influentially, in the intense religious disputes that were dividing the church. He was High Church, inclining to Anglo-Catholicism, an admirer of John Henry Newman and the Tractarian movement, and did his best to instill such views in his children. Young Charles was to develop an ambiguous relationship with his father's values and with the Church of England as a whole.[10]


Home life

During his early youth, Dodgson was educated at home. His "reading lists" preserved in the family archives testify to a precocious intellect: at the age of seven the child was reading The Pilgrim's Progress. He also suffered from a stammer – a condition shared by most of his siblings[11] – that often influenced his social life throughout his years. At the age of twelve he was sent to Richmond Grammar School (now part of Richmond School) at nearby Richmond.


In 1846, young Dodgson moved on to Rugby School, where he was evidently less happy, for as he wrote some years after leaving the place:

I cannot say ... that any earthly considerations would induce me to go through my three years again ... I can honestly say that if I could have been ... secure from annoyance at night, the hardships of the daily life would have been comparative trifles to bear.[12]

Scholastically, though, he excelled with apparent ease. "I have not had a more promising boy at his age since I came to Rugby", observed R. B. Mayor, then mathematics master.[13]


He left Rugby at the end of 1849 and matriculated at Oxford in May 1850 as a member of his father's old college, Christ Church.[14] After waiting for rooms in college to become available, he went into residence in January 1851.[15] He had been at Oxford only two days when he received a summons home. His mother had died of "inflammation of the brain" – perhaps meningitis or a stroke – at the age of forty-seven.[15]

His early academic career veered between high promise and irresistible distraction. He did not always work hard, but was exceptionally gifted and achievement came easily to him. In 1852 he obtained first-class honours in Mathematics Moderations, and was shortly thereafter nominated to a Studentship by his father's old friend, Canon Edward Pusey.[16][17] In 1854 he obtained first-class honours in the Final Honours School of Mathematics, standing first on the list, graduating Bachelor of Arts.,[18][19] He remained at Christ Church studying and teaching, but the next year he failed an important scholarship through his self-confessed inability to apply himself to study.[20][21] Even so, his talent as a mathematician won him the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship in 1855,[22] which he continued to hold for the next twenty-six years.[23] Despite early unhappiness, Dodgson was to remain at Christ Church, in various capacities, until his death.[24]

Character and appearance

Lewis Carroll self-portrait circa 1856

Health challenges

The young adult Charles Dodgson was about 6 feet (1.83 m) tall and slender, and he had curly brown hair and blue or grey eyes (depending on the account). He was described in later life as somewhat asymmetrical, and as carrying himself rather stiffly and awkwardly, although this might be on account of a knee injury sustained in middle age. As a very young child, he suffered a fever that left him deaf in one ear. At the age of 17, he suffered a severe attack of whooping cough, which was probably responsible for his chronically weak chest in later life. Another 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.[25]

The stammer has always been a significant part of the image of Dodgson: it is said that he stammered only in adult company and was free and fluent with children, but there is no evidence to support this idea.[26] Many children of his acquaintance remembered the stammer, while many adults failed to notice it. Dodgson himself seems to have been far more acutely aware of it than most people he met; it is said he caricatured himself as the Dodo in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, referring to his difficulty in pronouncing his last name, but this is one of the many "facts" often repeated, for which no first-hand evidence remains. He did indeed refer to himself as the dodo, but that this reference was to his stammer is simply speculation.[24]

Although Dodgson's stammer troubled him, it was never so debilitating that it prevented him from applying his other personal qualities to do well in society. At a time when people commonly devised their own amusements and when singing and recitation were required social skills, the young Dodgson was well-equipped to be an engaging entertainer. He reportedly could sing tolerably well and was not afraid to do so before an audience. He was adept at mimicry and storytelling, and was reputedly quite good at charades.[25]

Social connections

In the interim between his early published writing and the success of the Alice books, Dodgson began to move in the [25][27]

Politics, religion, and philosophy

In broad terms, Dodgson has traditionally been regarded as politically, religiously, and personally conservative. Martin Gardner labels Dodgson as a Tory who was "awed by lords and inclined to be snobbish towards inferiors."[28] The Reverend W. Tuckwell, in his Reminiscences of Oxford (1900), regarded him as "austere, shy, precise, absorbed in mathematical reverie, watchfully tenacious of his dignity, stiffly conservative in political, theological, social theory, his life mapped out in squares like Alice's landscape."[29] However, Dodgson also expressed interest in philosophies and religions that seem at odds with this assessment. For example, he was an early member of the Society for Psychical Research and a letter he wrote suggests he accepted what was then called "thought reading" as real.[30]

Dodgson wrote some studies of various philosophical arguments. In 1895, he developed a philosophical regressus-argument on deductive reasoning in his article "What the Tortoise Said to Achilles", which appeared in one of the early volumes of Mind.[31] The article was reprinted in the same journal a hundred years later, in 1995, with a subsequent article by Simon Blackburn titled "Practical Tortoise Raising".[32]

Artistic activities


From a young age, Dodgson wrote poetry and short stories, both contributing heavily to the family magazine Mischmasch and later sending them to various magazines, enjoying moderate success. Between 1854 and 1856, his work appeared in the national publications, 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 (in which I do not include the Whitby Gazette or the Oxonian Advertiser), but I do not despair of doing so some day," he wrote in July 1855.[25] Sometime after 1850, he did write puppet plays for his siblings' entertainment, of which one has survived: La Guida di Bragia.[33]

In 1856 he published his first piece of work under the name that would make him famous. A romantic poem called "Solitude" 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, and Carroll an Irish surname similar to the Latin name Carolus, from which comes the name Charles.[7] The transition went as follows: "Charles Lutwidge" translated into Latin as "Carolus Ludovicus". This was then translated back into English as "Carroll Lewis" and then reversed to make "Lewis Carroll".[34] This pseudonym was chosen by editor Edmund Yates from a list of four submitted by Dodgson; the others being Edgar Cuthwellis, Edgar U. C. Westhill and Louis Carroll.[35]

Alice books

"The chief difficulty Alice found at first was in managing her flamingo". Illustration by John Tenniel, 1865.
The Jabberwock, as illustrated by John Tenniel for Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, including the poem "Jabberwocky".
One of Carroll's own illustrations

In the same year, 1856, a new dean (i.e. head of the college), Henry Liddell, arrived at Christ Church, bringing with him his young family, all of whom would figure largely in Dodgson's life and, over the following years, greatly influence his writing career. Dodgson became close friends with Liddell's wife, Lorina, and their children, particularly the three sisters: Lorina, Edith and Alice Liddell. He was for many years widely assumed to have derived his own "Alice" from Alice Liddell: the acrostic poem at the end of Through the Looking Glass spells out her name in full, and there are also many superficial references to her hidden in the text of both books. It has been noted that Dodgson himself repeatedly denied in later life that his "little heroine" was based on any real child,[36][37] and he frequently dedicated his works to girls of his acquaintance, adding their names in acrostic poems at the beginning of the text. Gertrude Chataway's name appears in this form at the beginning of The Hunting of the Snark, and it is not suggested that this means that any of the characters in the narrative are based on her.[37]

Though information is scarce (Dodgson's diaries for the years 1858–1862 are missing), it seems clear that his friendship with the Liddell family was an important part of his life in the late 1850s, and he grew into the habit of taking the children (first the boy, Harry, and later the three girls) on rowing trips accompanied by an adult friend[38] to nearby Nuneham Courtenay or Godstow.[39]

It was on one such expedition, on 4 July 1862, that Dodgson invented the outline of the story that eventually became his first and greatest commercial success. Having told the story and been begged by Alice Liddell to write it down, Dodgson eventually (after much delay) presented her with a handwritten, illustrated manuscript entitled Alice's Adventures Under Ground in November 1864.[39]

Before this, the family of friend and mentor Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 under the Lewis Carroll pen-name, which Dodgson had first used some nine years earlier.[27] The illustrations this time were by Sir John Tenniel; Dodgson evidently thought that a published book would need the skills of a professional artist. Annotated versions provide insights into many of the ideas and hidden meanings that are prevalent in these books.[40][41]

The overwhelming commercial success of the first Alice book changed Dodgson's life in many ways. The fame of his alter ego "Lewis Carroll" soon spread around the world. He was inundated with fan mail and with sometimes unwanted attention. Indeed, according to one popular story, Queen Victoria herself enjoyed Alice In Wonderland so much that she commanded that he dedicate his next book to her, and was accordingly presented with his next work, a scholarly mathematical volume entitled An Elementary Treatise on Determinants.[42][43] Dodgson himself vehemently denied this story, commenting "...It is utterly false in every particular: nothing even resembling it has occurred";[43][44] and it is unlikely for other reasons: as T.B. Strong comments in a Times article, "It would have been clean contrary to all his practice to identify [the] author of Alice with the author of his mathematical works".[45][46] He also began earning quite substantial sums of money, but continued with his seemingly disliked post at Christ Church.[27]

Late in 1871, a sequel – Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There – was published. (The title page of the first edition erroneously gives "1872" as the date of publication.[47]) Its somewhat darker mood possibly reflects the changes in Dodgson's life. His father had recently died (1868), plunging him into a depression that lasted some years.[27]

The Hunting of the Snark

In 1876, Dodgson produced his next great work, The Hunting of the Snark, a fantastical "nonsense" poem, exploring the adventures of a bizarre crew of tradesmen, and one beaver, who set off to find the eponymous creature. The painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti reputedly became convinced the poem was about him.[27]

Sylvie and Bruno

In 1895, 30 years after publication of his masterpieces, Carroll attempted a comeback, producing a two-volume tale of the eponymous fairy siblings. Carroll entwines two plots, set in two alternate worlds: one set in rural England and the other in the fairytale kingdoms of Elfland, Outland and others. The latter world satirizes English society, and more specifically, the world of academia. Sylvie and Bruno came out in two volumes, and is considered a lesser work, although it has remained in print for over a century.


Photo of Alice Liddell taken by Lewis Carroll (1858)

In 1856, Dodgson took up the new art form of photography, under the influence first of his uncle Skeffington Lutwidge, and later of his Oxford friend Reginald Southey.[48] He soon excelled at the art and became a well-known gentleman-photographer, and he seems even to have toyed with the idea of making a living out of it in his very early years.[27]

A study by Roger Taylor and Edward Wakeling exhaustively lists every surviving print, and Taylor calculates that just over half of his surviving work depicts young girls, though this may be a highly distorted figure as about 60% of his original photographic portfolio is now missing.[49] Dodgson also made many studies of men, women, boys and landscapes; his subjects also include skeletons, dolls, dogs, statues and paintings, and trees.[50] His pictures of children were taken with a parent in attendance and many of the pictures were taken in the Liddell garden, because natural sunlight was required for good exposures.[38]

He also found photography to be a useful entrée into higher social circles.[51] During the most productive part of his career, he made portraits of notable sitters such as John Everett Millais, Ellen Terry, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Julia Margaret Cameron, Michael Faraday, Lord Salisbury, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson.[27]

By the time that Dodgson abruptly ceased photography (1880, over 24 years), he had established his own studio on the roof of Tom Quad, created around 3,000 images, and was an amateur master of the medium, though fewer than 1,000 images have survived time and deliberate destruction. Dodgson reported that he stopped taking photographs because keeping his studio working was too time-consuming.[52] He used the wet collodion process; commercial photographers, who started using the dry-plate process in the 1870s, took pictures more quickly.[53] Popular taste for the types of photographs he produced changed with the advent of Modernism.


To promote letter writing, Dodgson invented "The Wonderland Postage-Stamp Case" in 1889. This was a cloth-backed folder with twelve slots, two marked for inserting the then most commonly used penny stamp, and one each for the other current denominations up to one shilling. The folder was then put into a slip case decorated with a picture of Alice on the front and the Cheshire Cat on the back. All could be conveniently carried in a pocket or purse. The pack also included a copy of Carroll's pamphletted lecture, Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter-Writing.[54][55]

Reconstructed nyctograph, with scale demonstrated by a 5 euro cent.

Another invention was a writing tablet called the nyctograph that allowed for note-taking in the dark of night: thus eliminating the need to get out of bed and strike a light when one woke with an idea. The device consisted of a gridded card with sixteen squares and system of symbols representing an alphabet of Dodgson's design, using letter shapes similar to the Graffiti writing system on a Palm device.[56]

Among the games he devised outside of logic there were a number of word games, including an early version of what today is known as Scrabble. He also appears to have invented, or at least certainly popularised, the "doublet" (see word ladder), a form of brain-teaser that is still popular today: the game of changing one word into another by altering one letter at a time, each successive change always resulting in a genuine word. For instance, CAT is transformed into DOG by the following steps: CAT, COT, DOT, DOG.[27]

Other items include a rule for finding the day of the week for any date; a means for justifying right margins on a typewriter; a steering device for a velociam (a type of tricycle); new systems of parliamentary representation;[57] more nearly fair elimination rules for tennis tournaments; a new sort of postal money order; rules for reckoning postage; rules for a win in betting; rules for dividing a number by various divisors; a cardboard scale for the Senior Common Room at Christ Church, which, held next to a glass, ensured the right amount of liqueur for the price paid; a double-sided adhesive strip to fasten envelopes or mount things in books; a device for helping a bedridden invalid to read from a book placed sideways; and at least two ciphers for cryptography.[27]

Mathematical work

Within the academic discipline of mathematics, Dodgson worked primarily in the fields of geometry, linear and matrix algebra, mathematical logic and recreational mathematics, producing nearly a dozen books under his real name. Dodgson also developed new ideas in linear algebra (e.g. the first printed proof of the Kronecker-Capelli theorem),[58][59] probability, and the study of elections (e.g., Dodgson's method) and committees; some of this work was not published until well after his death. He worked as the Mathematical Lecturer at Christ Church, an occupation that gave him some financial security.[60]

His mathematical work attracted renewed interest in the late 20th century. Martin Gardner's book on logic machines and diagrams, and William Warren Bartley's posthumous publication of the second part of Carroll's symbolic logic book have sparked a reevaluation of Carroll's contributions to symbolic logic.[61][62][63] Robbins' and Rumsey's investigation[64] of Dodgson condensation, a method of evaluating determinants, led them to the Alternating Sign Matrix conjecture, now a theorem. The discovery in the 1990s of additional ciphers that Carroll had constructed, in addition to his "Memoria Technica", showed that he had employed sophisticated mathematical ideas to their creation.[65]


According to a special letter register, devised by himself, Dodgson wrote and received as many as 98,721 letters. He documented his advice about how to write more satisfying letters in a missive entitled "Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter-Writing".[66]

Later years

A posthumous portrait of Lewis Carroll by Hubert von Herkomer, based on photographs. This painting now hangs in the Great Hall of Christ Church, Oxford.

Over the remaining twenty years of his life, throughout his growing wealth and fame, his existence remained little changed. He continued to teach at Christ Church until 1881, and remained in residence there until his death. The two volumes of his last novel, Sylvie and Bruno, were published in 1889 and 1893, but the intricacy of this work was apparently not appreciated by contemporary readers; it achieved nothing like the success of the Alice books, with disappointing reviews and sales of only 13,000 copies.[67][68]

The only known occasion on which he travelled abroad was a trip to Russia in 1867 as an ecclesiastical together with the Reverend Henry Liddon. He recounts the travel in his "Russian Journal", which was first commercially published in 1935.[69] On his way to Russia and back he also saw different cities in Belgium, Germany, the partitioned Poland, and France.

He died on 14 January 1898 at his sisters' home, "The Chestnuts" in Guildford, of pneumonia following influenza. He was two weeks away from turning 66 years old. He is buried in Guildford at the Mount Cemetery.[27]

Controversies and mysteries

"Carroll Myth"

Since 1999, a group of scholars—including Karoline Leach, Hugues Lebailly and Sherry L. Ackerman, John Tufail, Douglas Nickel, and others—have argued that what Leach terms the "Carroll Myth" has wildly distorted biographical perception of his life and his work. Those such as Carolyn Sigler and Cristopher Hollingsworth have joined the ranks of those calling for a major reassessment. Leach's book, In the Shadow of the Dreamchild, claims that:

  • In general terms, Dodgson's life has been simplified and "infantilised" by a combination of inaccurate biography and the longstanding unavailability of key evidence, which allowed legends to proliferate unchecked.
  • By the time the evidence did become available, the "mythic" image of the man had become so embedded in scholastic and popular thinking it remained unquestioned, despite the fact the evidence failed to support it.
Lewis Carroll portrait of Beatrice Hatch
  • If the evidence were examined dispassionately, it shows many of the most famous legends about the man (e.g. his "paedophilia" and his exclusive adoration of small girls) are untrue, or at least grossly simplified.

Arguments against Dodgson being a paedophile

In more detail, Lebailly has endeavoured to set Dodgson's child-photography within the "Victorian Child Cult", which perceived child-nudity as essentially an expression of innocence. Lebailly claims that studies of child nudes were mainstream and fashionable in Dodgson's time, and that most photographers—including Oscar Gustave Rejlander and Julia Margaret Cameron—made them as a matter of course. Lebailly continues that child nudes even appeared on Victorian Christmas cards, implying a very different social and aesthetic assessment of such material. Lebailly concludes that it has been an error of Dodgson's biographers to view his child-photography with 20th- or 21st-century eyes, and to have presented it as some form of personal idiosyncrasy, when it was in fact a response to a prevalent aesthetic and philosophical movement of the time.

Leach's reappraisal of Dodgson focused in particular on his controversial sexuality. She argues that the allegations of paedophilia rose initially from a misunderstanding of Victorian morals, as well as the mistaken idea—fostered by Dodgson's various biographers—that he had no interest in adult women. She termed the traditional image of Dodgson "the Carroll Myth". She drew attention to the large amounts of evidence in his diaries and letters that he was also keenly interested in adult women, married and single, and enjoyed several scandalous (by the social standards of his time) relationships with them. She also pointed to the fact that many of those he described as "child-friends" were girls in their late teens and even twenties.[70] She argues that suggestions of paedophilia evolved only many years after his death, when his well-meaning family had suppressed all evidence of his relationships with women in an effort to preserve his reputation, thus giving a false impression of a man interested only in little girls. Similarly, Leach traces the claim that many of Carroll's female friendships ended when the girls reached the age of fourteen to a 1932 biography by Langford Reed.[71]

Speculation on Dodgson's sexuality

Dodgson's nephew and biographer Stuart Dodgson Collingwood wrote:

And now as to the secondary causes which attracted him to children. First, I think children appealed to him because he was pre-eminently a teacher, and he saw in their unspoiled minds the best material for him to work upon. In later years one of his favourite recreations was to lecture at schools on logic; he used to give personal attention to each of his pupils, and one can well imagine with what eager anticipation the children would have looked forward to the visits of a schoolmaster who knew how to make even the dullest subjects interesting and amusing.[72]

Despite comments like this, and the fact that his pictures of children were taken with a parent in attendance (many in the Liddell garden),[38] modern psychological interpretations of Dodgson's friendships with young girls and of his related work—especially his photographs of nude or semi-nude girls—have led some late twentieth century biographers to speculate that he was a paedophile, including Morton N. Cohen in his Lewis Carroll: A Biography (1995),[73] Donald Thomas in his Lewis Carroll: A Portrait with Background (1995), and Michael Bakewell in his Lewis Carroll: A Biography (1996). All of these works more or less assume that Dodgson was a paedophile, albeit a repressed and celibate one.

Cohen, in particular, claims Dodgson's "sexual energies sought unconventional outlets", and further writes:

We cannot know to what extent sexual urges lay behind Charles's preference for drawing and photographing children in the nude. He contended the preference was entirely aesthetic. But given his emotional attachment to children as well as his aesthetic appreciation of their forms, his assertion that his interest was strictly artistic is naïve. He probably felt more than he dared acknowledge, even to himself.

Cohen goes on to note that Dodgson "apparently convinced many of his friends that his attachment to the nude female child form was free of any eroticism", but adds that "later generations look beneath the surface" (p. 229). He and other biographers argue that Dodgson may have wanted to marry the 11-year-old Alice Liddell, and that this was the cause of the unexplained "break" with the family in June 1863,[74] an event for which other explanations are offered. Biographers Derek Hudson and Roger Lancelyn Green (Green also having edited Dodgson's diaries and papers) stop short of identifying Dodgson as a paedophile, but concur that he had a passion for small female children and next to no interest in the adult world; in the last ten years several other writers and scholars have challenged the evidentiary basis for Cohen's and others' speculations regarding this interest of Dodgson.

In addition to the biographical works that have drawn the foregoing conclusion, there are modern artistic interpretations of his life and work that do so as well, in particular, Dennis Potter in his play Alice and his screenplay for the motion picture Dreamchild, and Robert Wilson in his film Alice.


Dodgson had been groomed for the ordained ministry in the Church of England from a very early age and was expected, as a condition of his residency at Christ Church, to be ordained within four years of obtaining his master's degree. He delayed the process for some time but was eventually ordained as a deacon on 22 December 1861. But when the time came a year later to be ordained as a priest, Dodgson appealed to the dean for permission not to proceed. This was against college rules and initially Dean Liddell told him he would have to consult the college ruling body, which would almost undoubtedly have resulted in his being expelled. For unknown reasons, Liddell changed his mind overnight and permitted Dodgson to remain at the college in defiance of the rules.[75] Uniquely amongst senior students of his time, Dodgson never became a priest.

There is currently no conclusive evidence about why Dodgson rejected the priesthood. Some have suggested his stammer made him reluctant to take the step, because he was afraid of having to preach.[76] Wilson[77] quotes letters by Dodgson describing difficulty in reading lessons and prayers rather than preaching in his own words. But Dodgson did indeed preach in later life, even though not in priest's orders, so it seems unlikely his impediment was a major factor affecting his choice. Wilson also points out that the then Bishop of Oxford, Samuel Wilberforce, who ordained Dodgson, had strong views against clergy going to the theatre, one of Dodgson's great interests. Others have suggested that he was having serious doubts about Anglicanism. He was interested in minority forms of Christianity (he was an admirer of F.D. Maurice) and "alternative" religions (theosophy).[78] Dodgson became deeply troubled by an unexplained sense of sin and guilt at this time (the early 1860s) and frequently expressed the view in his diaries that he was a "vile and worthless" sinner, unworthy of the priesthood and this sense of sin and unworthiness may well have affected his decision to abandon being ordained to the priesthood.[79]

Missing diaries

At least four complete volumes and around seven pages of text are missing from Dodgson's 13 diaries.[80] The loss of the volumes remains unexplained; the pages have been removed by an unknown hand. Most scholars assume the diary material was removed by family members in the interests of preserving the family name, but this has not been proven.[81] Except for one page, the period of his diaries from which material is missing is between 1853 and 1863 (when Dodgson was 21–31 years old).[82][83] This was a period when Dodgson began suffering great mental and spiritual anguish and confessing to an overwhelming sense of his own sin. This was also the period of time when he composed his extensive love poetry, leading to speculation that the poems may have been autobiographical.[84][85]

Many theories have been put forward to explain the missing material. A popular explanation for one missing page (27 June 1863) is that it might have been torn out to conceal a proposal of marriage on that day by Dodgson to the 11-year-old Alice Liddell. However, there has never been any evidence to suggest this was so, and a paper discovered by Karoline Leach in the Dodgson family archive in 1996 offers some evidence to the contrary.[86]

The "cut pages in diary" document, in the Dodgson family archive in Woking

This paper, known as the "cut pages in diary document", was compiled by various members of Carroll's family after his death. Part of it may have been written at the time the pages were destroyed though this is unclear. The document offers a brief summary of two diary pages that are missing, including the one for 27 June 1863. The summary for this page states that Mrs. Liddell told Dodgson there was gossip circulating about him and the Liddell family's governess, as well as about his relationship with "Ina", presumably Alice's older sister, Lorina Liddell. The "break" with the Liddell family that occurred soon after was presumably in response to this gossip.[87][88] An alternative interpretation has been made regarding Carroll's rumoured involvement with "Ina": Lorina was also the name of Alice Liddell's mother. What is deemed most crucial and surprising is that the document seems to imply that Dodgson's break with the family was not connected with Alice at all; until a primary source is discovered, the events of 27 June 1863 will remain in doubt.

Migraine and epilepsy

In his diary for 1880, Dodgson recorded experiencing his first episode of migraine with aura, describing very accurately the process of 'moving fortifications' that are a manifestation of the aura stage of the syndrome.[89] Unfortunately there is no clear evidence to show whether this was his first experience of migraine per se, or if he may have previously suffered the far more common form of migraine without aura, although the latter seems most likely, given the fact that migraine most commonly develops in the teens or early adulthood.[90] Another form of migraine aura, Alice in Wonderland syndrome, has been named after Dodgson's little heroine, because its manifestation can resemble the sudden size-changes in the book. Also known as micropsia and macropsia, it is a brain condition affecting the way objects are perceived by the mind. For example, an afflicted person may look at a larger object, like a basketball, and perceive it as if it were the size of a golf ball. Some authors have suggested that Dodgson may have suffered from this type of aura, and used it as an inspiration in his work, but there is no evidence that he did.[90]

Dodgson also suffered two attacks in which he lost consciousness. He was diagnosed by three different doctors; a Dr. Morshead, Dr. Brooks, and Dr. Stedman, believed the attack and a consequent attack to be an "epileptiform" seizure (initially thought to be fainting, but Brooks changed his mind). Some have concluded from this he was a lifetime sufferer of this condition, but there is no evidence of this in his diaries beyond the diagnosis of the two attacks already mentioned.[91] Some authors, in particular Sadi Ranson, have suggested Carroll may have suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy in which consciousness is not always completely lost, but altered, and in which the symptoms mimic many of the same experiences as Alice in Wonderland. Carroll had at least one incidence in which he suffered full loss of consciousness and awoke with a bloody nose, which he recorded in his diary and noted that the episode left him not feeling himself for "quite sometime afterward". This attack was diagnosed as possibly "epileptiform" and Carroll himself later wrote of his "seizures" in the same diary.

Most of the standard diagnostic tests of today were not available in the nineteenth century. Recently, Dr Yvonne Hart, consultant neurologist at the Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, considered Dodgson's symptoms. Her conclusion, quoted in Jenny Woolf's The Mystery of Lewis Carroll, is that Dodgson very likely had migraine, and may have had epilepsy, but she emphasises that she would have considerable doubt about making a diagnosis of epilepsy without further information.[92]


On Copenhagen Street in Islington is the Lewis Carroll Children's Library.[93]


See also


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  2. ^ Emerson, R. H. (1996). "The Unpronounceables: Difficult Literary Names 1500-1940". English Language Notes 34 (2): 63–74.  
  3. ^ "Lewis Carroll Societies". Retrieved 2013-09-12. 
  4. ^ Clark (1979) p.10
  5. ^ Collingwood, Stuart (1898). The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll. London: T. Fisher Unwin. pp. 6–7. 
  6. ^ Collingwood, Stuart (1898). The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll. London: T. Fisher Unwin. p. 8. 
  7. ^ a b Cohen, Morton (26 November 1996). Lewis Carroll: A Biography.  
  8. ^ "Google map of Daresbury, UK". Retrieved 22 October 2011. 
  9. ^ "Charles Lutwidge Dodgson". The MacTutor History of Mathematics archive. Retrieved 8 March 2011. 
  10. ^ Cohen, Morton (26 November 1996). Lewis Carroll: A Biography. Vintage Books. pp. 200–202.  
  11. ^ Cohen (1995) p.4
  12. ^ Collingwood, Stuart (1898). The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll. London: T. Fisher Unwin. pp. 30–31. 
  13. ^ Collingwood, Stuart (1898). The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll. London: T. Fisher Unwin. p. 29. 
  14. ^ Clark (1979) 63-64
  15. ^ a b Clark (1979) 64-65
  16. ^ Collingwood (1898) p.52
  17. ^ Clark (1979) 74
  18. ^ Collingwood (1898) p.57
  19. ^ Wilson(2008) p.51
  20. ^ Cohen (1995) p.51
  21. ^ Clark (1979) 79
  22. ^ Flood, Raymond; Rice, Adrian;  
  23. ^ Cohen (1995) pp.414-416
  24. ^ a b Leach, Karoline In the Shadow of the Dreamchild Ch. 2.
  25. ^ a b c d Leach, Karoline In the Shadow of the Dreamchild Ch. 2
  26. ^ Leach, p. 91
  27. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Cohen, Morton N. (26 November 1996). Lewis Carroll: A Biography. Vintage Books. pp. 100–4.  
  28. ^ Gardner, Martin (2000). Introduction to The annotated Alice: Alice's adventures in Wonderland & Through the looking glass. W. W. Norton & Company. p. xv.  
  29. ^ Gardner, Martin (2009). Introduction to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Oxford University Press. p. xvi.  
  30. ^ Hayness, Renée (1982). The Society for Psychical Research, 1882-1982 A History. London: Macdonald & Co. pp. 13–14.  
  31. ^ Carroll, L. (1895). "What the Tortoise Said to Achilles". Mind (14): 278.  
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  33. ^ Heath, Peter L. (2007), "Introduction", La Guida Di Bragia, a Ballad Opera for the Marionette Theatre, Lewis Carroll Society of North America, pp. vii–xvi,  
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  35. ^ Thomas 1996, p. 129
  36. ^ Cohen, Morton N. (ed), The Letters of Lewis Carroll, London: Macmillan, 1979.
  37. ^ a b Leach, Karoline In the Shadow of the Dreamchild Ch. 5 "The Unreal Alice"
  38. ^ a b c Winchester, Simon (2011). The Alice Behind Wonderland. Oxford University Press.  
  39. ^ a b Leach, Karoline In the Shadow of the Dream Child Ch. 4
  40. ^ Gardner, Martin (2000). "The Annotated Alice. The definitive Edition". New York: W.W. Norton.
  41. ^ Heath, Peter (1974). "The Philosopher's Alice". New York: St. Martin's Press.
  42. ^ Wilson (2008)
  43. ^ a b "Lewis Carroll – Logician, Nonsense Writer, Mathematician and Photographer". The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. BBC. 26 August 2005. Retrieved 12 February 2009. 
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  45. ^ Strong, T. B. (27 January 1932). "Mr. Dodgson: Lewis Carroll at Oxford". [The Times]. 
  46. ^ "Fit for a Queen". Snopes. 
  47. ^ Cohen, Morton (24 June 2009). Introduction to "Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass".  
  48. ^ Clark (1979) p.93
  49. ^ Taylor, Roger; Wakeling, Edward (25 February 2002). Lewis Carroll, Photographer.  
  50. ^ Cohen, Morton (1999). "Reflections in a Looking Glass." New York: Aperture.
  51. ^ Thomas 1996, p. 116
  52. ^ Thomas 1996, p. 265
  53. ^ Wakeling, Edward (1998), "Lewis Carroll's Photography", An Exhibition From the Jon A. Lindseth Collection of C. L. Dodgson and Lewis Carroll, New York, NY: The Grolier Club, pp. 55–67,  
  54. ^ Flodden W. Heron, "Lewis Carroll, Inventor of Postage Stamp Case" in Stamps, vol. 26, no. 12, 25 March 1939
  55. ^ "Carroll Related Stamps". The Lewis Carroll Society. 28 April 2005. Retrieved 10 March 2011. 
  56. ^ Everson, Michael. (2011) "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: An edition printed in the Nyctographic Square Alphabet devised by Lewis Carroll". Forward by Alan Tannenbaum, Éire: Cathair na Mart. ISBN 978-1-904808-78-7
  57. ^ Black, Duncan; McLean, Iain; McMillan, Alistair; Monroe, Burt L.; Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge (1996). A Mathematical Approach to Proportional Representation.  
  58. ^ Seneta, Eugene. (1984) Lewis Carroll as a Probabilist and Mathematician,"Mathematical Scientist",9, 79-84.
  59. ^ Abeles, Francine F. (1998) Charles L. Dodgson, Mathematician." An Exhibition From the Jon A. Lindseth Collection of C.L. Dodgson and Lewis Carroll". New York:The Grolier Club, 45-54.
  60. ^ Wilson (2008), p. 61
  61. ^ Gardner, Martin. (1958) "Logic Machines and Diagrams". Brighton, Sussex:Harvester Press, 2nd ed 1982
  62. ^ Bartley, William Warren III, ed.(1977)"Lewis Carroll's Symbolic Logic." New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 2nd ed 1986.
  63. ^ Moktefi, Amirouche. (2008) Lewis Carroll's Logic. In "British Logic in the Nineteenth Century", v.4 of "Handbook of the History of Logic", Dov M. Gabbay and John Woods, eds. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 457-505.
  64. ^ David P Robbins and Howard Rumsey Jr., "Determinants and alternating sign matrices", Advances in Mathematics,62, Issue 2 (1986), 169–184.
  65. ^ Abeles, Francine F.(2005) Lewis Carroll's Ciphers: The Literary Connections. "Advances in Applied Mathematics", 343, 697-708.
  66. ^ Clark, Dorothy G. (April 2010). "The Place of Lewis Carroll in Children's Literature (review)". The Lion and the Unicorn 34 (2): 253–258.  
  67. ^ Angelica Shirley Carpenter (2002). Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass. Lerner. p. 98.ISBN 978-0822500735.
  68. ^ Thomas Christensen (1991). "Dodgson's Dodges".
  69. ^ Chronology of Works of Lewis Carroll at the Wayback Machine (archived February 20, 2009)
  70. ^ Leach, pp. 16–17
  71. ^ Leach, p. 33
  72. ^ Collingwood, Stuart Dodgson (1898). The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll. London: T. Fisher Unwin. 
  73. ^ Cohen, Morton N. (26 November 1996). Lewis Carroll: A Biography. Vintage Books. pp. 166–167, 254–255.  
  74. ^ Cohen, Morton N. (26 November 1996). Lewis Carroll: A Biography. Vintage Books. pp. 100–4.  
  75. ^ Dodgson's MS diaries, volume 8, 22–24 October 1862
  76. ^ Cohen, Morton N. (26 November 1996). Lewis Carroll: A Biography. Vintage Books. p. 263.  
  77. ^ Wilson (2008) pp.103-104
  78. ^ Leach, In the Shadow of the Dreamchild (new edition), 2009, p. 134
  79. ^ Dodgson's MS diaries, volume 8, see prayers scattered throughout the text
  80. ^ Leach, pp. 48, 51
  81. ^ Leach, pp. 48–51
  82. ^ Leach, p. 52
  83. ^ Wakeling, Edward (April 2003). "The Real Lewis Carroll / A Talk given to the Lewis Carroll Society". 1855 ... 1856 ... 1857 ... 1858 ... 1862 ... 1863. Retrieved 14 September 2009. 
  84. ^ Leach p. 54
  85. ^ "The Dodgson Family and Their Legacy". Retrieved 5 January 2011. 
  86. ^ Dodgson Family Collection, Cat. No. F/17/1. "Cut Pages in Diary". (For an account of its discovery see The Times Literary Supplement, 3 May 1996.)
  87. ^ Leach, Karoline In the Shadow of the Dreamchild pp. 170–2.
  88. ^ "Text available on-line". Looking for Lewis Carroll. Retrieved 4 May 2007. 
  89. ^ Wakeling, Edward [1] (Ed.) "The Diaries of Lewis Carroll", vol 9 p. 52
  90. ^ a b "Migraine and Lewis Carroll"; FW Maudie, in The Migraine Periodical,
  91. ^ "The Diaries of Lewis Carroll", vol 9
  92. ^ Woolf, Jenny (4 February 2010). The Mystery of Lewis Carroll.  
  93. ^ "‘A most curious thing’ / Lewis Carroll Library". Retrieved 15 March 2013. 


External links

  • A calendar of events in 2015 commemorating the 150th anniversary of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
  • The Fales Library Guide to the Alfred C. Berol Collection of Lewis Carroll
  • Works by or about Lewis Carroll in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
  • Works by Lewis Carroll at Project Gutenberg
  • Works by Lewis Carroll at Open Library
  • Lewis Carroll at Goodreads
  • Lewis Carroll at the Internet Book List
  • Lewis Carroll at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database
  • Lewis Carroll at the Internet Movie Database
  • Edward Wakeling's Lewis Carroll site — extensive information on Lewis Carroll by scholar Edward Wakeling.
  • Lewis Carroll: Reality & Myth — comparing some of the legends with the factual reality.
  • The Poems of Lewis Carroll
  • The Nude Photography of Lewis Carroll
  • The Lewis Carroll Society
  • Lewis Carroll Society of North America
  • Lewis Carroll at
  • Contrariwise: the Association for New Lewis Carroll Studies — articles by leading members of the 'new scholarship'
  • Sewell, Byron W.; Sewell, Susan R. "Byron W. Sewell and Susan R. Sewell: A Preliminary Inventory of Their Collection of Lewis Carroll at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center".  
  • Archival material relating to Lewis Carroll listed at the UK National Archives
  • Lewis Carroll online exhibition at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin
  • Lewis Carroll's Shifting Reputation
  • Guide to The Alfred C. Berol Collection of Lewis Carroll in the Fales Library at New York University
  • Guide to Harcourt Amory collection of Lewis Carroll at Houghton Library, Harvard University
  • Lists and images of 1st editions
  • from 1899 to the present dayAlice's Adventures in WonderlandImages of the illustrated editions of
  • The Hunting of the SnarkIllustrators of
  • Lewis Carroll Scrapbook Collection at the Library of Congress

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