Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (January 27, 1832 - January 14, 1898), better known by the pseudonym Lewis Carroll was a 19th century British writer. Carroll, a lecturer in mathematics at the University of Oxford, is best known today for his children's books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, its sequel Through the Looking-Glass and his poem The Hunting of the Snark.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born in Daresbury, Cheshire, England in 1832 to Reverend Charles Dodgson and his wife, Frances Jane née Lutwidge. He was the eldest son and third of eleven children. Initially educated at home, Dodgson excelled in mathematics from a young age. After studying at Rugby, he was awarded a scholarship to Christ Church College at Oxford and took up residence there in 1851. He graduated in 1854 with first class honors in Mathematics and third in Classics. The following year, he was appointed Mathematical Lecturer, a position he would hold for over twenty-five years.
Dodgson started writing poetry at a very early age, and he continued writing while at school and after graduation, publishing both mathematical and literary works. He was reticent about putting his name on poems and articles he published, so the editor of a journal for which he wrote, Edmund Yates, urged him to take up a pen name. In 1856, with Yates’ help, Dodgson selected the now famous pseudonym, Lewis Carroll (Latinate forms of Lutwidge and Charles).
Following in his father’s footsteps, Dodgson was ordained as a deacon in the Church of England in 1861. Even with additional duties, he managed to continue writing. Dodgson also somehow found time for his hobby of amateur photography. He became known as one of the best gentleman photographers of the time, and photographed many notable figures in addition to family and friends.
Dodgson suffered from a bad stammer since childhood, but he felt at ease with young children. He enjoyed entertaining them with fantastic stories he made up. On 4 July 1862, he went on a river trip with friends including the Dean of Christ Church College, Henry Liddell, and three of his daughters. When they returned home, one of the children, Alice, begged him to write down some of the stories he told on the trip. He kept his promise to her. On November 26, 1864, he presented her with a manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground, which would later be revised and expanded asAlice's Adventures in Wonderland. The book was first published in 1865. It became so popular that Dodgson wrote a sequel, published in 1871 as Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.
Dodgson remained a bachelor all his life, but he was dedicated to his large family. After his farther’s death in 1868 (his mother had already passed away earlier), he assumed the role of head of the family as the eldest son. He leased a large house for his brothers and sisters in Guildford and visited them frequently. While taking a walk there in 1874, a line of verse suddenly came to him: “For the Snark was a Boojum, you see.” Dodgson did not know what it meant, but he wrote it down. The stanza developed backwards from that one line, and over the next couple of years it would grow into a full poem. The Hunting of the Snark was published in 1876, with the original line being its last.
In 1881, Dodgson resigned his post as Mathematical Lecturer in order to devote more time to writing. He went on to publish many more literary and mathematical works, including a major volume on symbolic logic. In January 1898, Dodgson became ill during one of his Guildford visits. He died from a bad case of influenza complicated by pneumonia. He is buried in a simple grave in Guildford.
Selected literary works
- Alice's Adventures Under Ground (1864)
- Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
- Phantasmagoria (collection of poems, 1869)
- Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There (1871)
- The Hunting of the Snark (1876)
- Rhyme? And Reason? (collection of poems, 1883)
- A Tangled Tale (1885)
- Sylvie and Bruno (1889)
- The Nursery "Alice" (1890)
- Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893)