Happy Birthday Lewis Carroll

 

Lewis Carroll

Today we celebrate the life of Lewis Carroll, best known for his books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass.  He was an author, mathematician, Oxford don, part time babysitter, photographer, inventor, and a bit of an all-around inscrutable person.

If you are a regular reader of this blog, you already know of my big obsession with Alice in Wonderland. I have long been fascinated by its white rabbits, mirrors, painted rosebushes, flamingo croquet, and the man who brought then to life.

His given name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, but I will call him Lewis, since he is best known by his pen name Lewis Carroll. He was born on January 27, 1832 in Daresbury, Cheshire, England.  Yes, Cheshire! No evidence as to whether or not he had a cat 🙂

Cheshire_Cat

Carroll’s father was a conservative minister in the Church of England, one in a long line of Dodgson men who had respectable positions in the Anglican clergy. Lewis was home-schooled until the age of twelve and developed an early love for reading amd writing. He attended grammar school at Rugby in Warwickshire, and began study at Oxford University in 1850.  He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and graduated with high honors.  In 1855 he won the Mathematical Lectureship for the college of Christ Church at Oxford, which he held for the next 26 years.

In 1856, a man named Henry Liddell took a position as Dean at Christ Church. Henry arrived in town with his young family, all of whom would eventually serve to influence Lewis’ writing. Lewis became close friends with  Liddell’s wife Lorina and their children, particularly the three sisters Lorina, Edith, and Alice Liddell.

LewisCarroll3

It was this Alice Liddell who served as the inspiration and namesake for the fictional Alice.  Lewis frequently took the children on outings. It was on one such outing, a rowing trip, that the girls begged to hear a story; the result eventually became Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

It is said that Carroll never intended to publish Alice’s adventures, but his friend, fairy-tale author George MacDonald convinced him to do so after Macdonald’s own children read the stories and and loved them. Good thing they did! Can’t imagine a world without Alice.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was first published in 1865. The book quickly became an international hit, and was liked and promoted by Queen Victoria herself! In 1871, Carroll published the sequel Through the Looking-Glass. The Alice books are still among the most popular in the world. Reportedly they are also among the most quoted, second only to the Bible and Shakespeare.  And many of those quotes are really phenomenal, full of wisdom and humor.  Some of my favorites:

“I’m afraid I can’t explain myself, sir. Because I am not myself, you see?”

“I give up,” Alice replied. “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter. 

“I wish the creatures wouldn’t be so easily offended,” Alice thought to herself.

“Shall I never get any older than I am now? That will be a comfort, in one way — never to be an old woman. But then — always to have lessons to learn? Oh, I shouldn’t like THAT!” 

“How am I to get in?” asked Alice. “Are you to get in AT ALL?” said the Footman. “That’s the first question, you know.”  It was, no doubt; only Alice did not like to be told so.

“Well, now that we have seen each other,” said the unicorn, “if you’ll believe in me, I’ll believe in you.”

real

Lewis Carroll was also an amateur photographer. He ran in artistic circles with pre-Raphaelites Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Christina Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and photographer Julia Margaret Cameron.

He took this photo of Alice Liddell. dated 1868. Alice would have been about six.

Alice LIddell

Years later, Julia Margaret Cameron photographed the grown up Alice.

Alice LIddell 2

Despite the fact that the Alice books brought him fame and fortune, Carroll never left his position as don at Oxford. Other than traveling a bit throughout Europe, he seems to have lived modestly. He wrote a few more books — The Hunting of the Snark, a fantastical “nonsense” poem, and Sylvie and Bruno, a fairy tale which satirized English society. Neither had the astounding success of the Alice stories. He also wrote several treatises  on mathematics, which he published under his real name, Charles Dodgson. His writings included works of geometry, linear and matrix algebra, mathematical logic and recreational mathematics. Yes, complicated stuff!

Carroll/ Dodgson’s mathematical contributions are noteworthy. Apparently, he was exploring The Matrix long before Keanu Reeves.

matrix

At Oxford he developed a theory known as the “Dodgson Condensation”, a method of evaluating mathematical determinants and patterns within equations. His work attracted renewed interest in the late 20th century when mathematicians Martin Gardner and William Warren Bartley reevaluated his  contributions to symbolic logic. This led them to the “Alternating Sign Matrix” conjecture, now a theorem. The discovery  of additional ciphers that Carroll had constructed showed that he had employed sophisticated mathematical ideas in their creation.  Perhaps he understood that through mathematics and chemistry, humankind may eventually reach the kind of alternate worlds he created for Alice.

alice matrix

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

Lewis Carroll died of pneumonia on 14 January 1898 at the age of 65.

Some Fun Facts:

  • He was one of eleven children, the oldest son
  • As a young child, he suffered a fever which left him deaf in one ear
  • He was six feet tall — really tall by Victorian standards.
  • A self- deprecating guy, he often referred to himself as “the dodo” and is said to have modeled the Dodo in Alice after himself!
  • In actuality he was hardly a dodo, more like a near genius.
  • He invented the earliest version of Scrabble — a type of word ladder in which the words were changed by adding one letter.
  • He was an ordained deacon of the Anglican Church.
  • Don’t let the stoic pictures fool you. Although he never married, his letters and diary entries indicate he had relationships with several women, both married and single, which would have been considered “scandalous” by Victorian standards.

 

Happy Birthday Lewis!

alice-vogue

 

 

 

 

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47 comments on “Happy Birthday Lewis Carroll

  1. I also loved Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. I read them over and over again!
    🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. madmanifesto says:

    Sadly, and based on a lot of recent investigation as well as naked photographs of pre
    Pubescent children it would be safe to say he was also most likely a pedophile.

    Like

    • I have heard that theory, but I do not buy it. There were some differences in the artistic perceptions of the Victorians and our modern standards. Julia Margaret Cameron and others also photographed nudes of children. It was seen then as symbolic purity. I do not believe he was a pedophile. Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Like

      • madmanifesto says:

        Aside from artistic perceptions a lot of the current research illustrates an ‘intense’ relationship with the Liddell girls and other children that seemed obsessive. Either way he does fit the profile of a perpetrator.
        In the end it’s a great book and many pedophiles and their work are in fact glorified. Pedophilia has always been taboo and we could argue art was perceived differently back then eg. naked children or accept that historically abuse and infatuation of children is not transparent and never has been and people are more comfortable liking art then accepting the art they like ‘could’ have been created by a pedophile. Let’s look at Woody Allen?
        Just being devils Advocate!

        Like

      • Yeah, I still disagree. It was Cohen who came out with that theory first, based on 20th century sensibilities. Many historians disagree and have debunked him. I think there is simply not enough evidence to prove it. I do not think Woody Allen is one either — for various reasons. However, I DO think pedophilia is a HUGE problem in the world, especially in the US, much bigger than most people are even willing to face. Hopefully the FBI and the DOJ will get on it and go after TRUE culprits.

        Like

      • madmanifesto says:

        Let’s agree to disagree.
        In regards to W.A I agree that until a court of law has heard the case regarding his daughter Dylan’s allegation of sexual abuse one must have the presumption of innocence (regardless of how difficult it is to prove a victims allegation and the leaning towards extremely low conviction rates) I would pretty much think that adopting a child, not a late teenager, bathing, dressing, being a father and role model to that child for the majority of their life, and then bam! I’ll suddenly develop romantic feelings for you and commence a relationship and later get married could possibly go down the road of questionable but hey! perhaps you also disagree with my take that eventually marrying a child you adopted is cool bananas.

        Aside from the famous which really isn’t an indication of real life, having worked at DoCs and as a sexual assault counsellor it astounds me who people want to believe the true culprits are and who I fact are the true culprits. It’s easier to believe someone with diminished capacity, mentally unwell, cognitively impaired, under the influence partake I these behaviours but sadly the average no blo is the true culprit. White, working class, thirties usually when they perpetrate the most statistically, tradesperson is the profile of a pedophile. Just like domestic violence. The friendly charming happy go lucky guy that’ll do anything to help out is in fact an obsessive sadist that could use some medication is the one bullying, beating up on women and kids. All it takes it challenging these psychos and they show their true colours. No remorse, no self insight, no self development.

        Anyway! Perhaps I have deflected my cranky monthly mood today here at WordPress!

        I like your writing but really I just had to have a tease about Caroll.

        Like

      • Thanks for your comments! Regarding W.A. I think you might be confusing Soon Yi and Dylan. He never adopted Soon Yi (the one he married.) Soon Yi was Mia’s child. W.A. developed a relationship with her when she was 21. He married her and they have been married for 20 years. So to clarify, Soon Yi has been an adult all through this. Regarding Dylan, she claimed abuse that has not been proven, nor has she even pressed charges. It is also my understanding that pedos are usually serial abusers, so the fact that no one else has made claims against W.A. indicates that he may not be guilty. That all being said, I do think Woody is a little weird and probably throws around his power. But those are two very different things…

        I have no doubt that a lot of seemingly normal people are abusers. I could tell you stories of my Catholic childhood — believe me, I am no stranger to these situations! However, regarding Lewis Carroll, I still maintain that there is simply not enough evidence to prove pedophilia. It is perhaps interesting for some to speculate on it, (and biographers can sell a lot of books!) but as I said before, Victorian artistic sensibilities were much different.

        Anyway, we can agree to disagree 🙂 I love all feedback here, and am so glad you like the blog!

        Like

      • madmanifesto says:

        There rarely is ever enough evidence or the forensic evidence required, hence many perpetrators are not convicted.

        I’m not confusing them. You’re right. I just looked it up and he wasn’t the technical adoptee parent. My bad. But he did in fact parent her for 12 years if her mum and his relationship. Don’t you think that’s like creeparama? They only broke up as he had an affair with her. I just don’t think it’s normal to be a parent figure for someone else’s child for a good chunk of time and then hey get into them. It’s grooming to me.

        But we can disagree. Democracy is fab isn’t it?

        ☺️

        Liked by 1 person

      • I am sure it is true about forensic evidence. And yes, like I said, I do think Woody is a bit strange and the situation is one of “the very rich”. Also possibly (not proven) sour grapes on the part of Mia (who I love as an actress btw.)

        Yes, Democracy is great!

        Like

      • madmanifesto says:

        Pretty sure there’s a PhD in there somewhere.
        She is a brilliant actress. Or was. Does she still act? Perhaps only in her relationships with dirty old men.
        Rosemarys baby was a classic.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I guess she has not been in anything recently. LOVED her in Rosemary’s Baby. And, as I always tell people, SHE IS Daisy Buchanan (of The Great Gatsby).

        Like

      • madmanifesto says:

        She’ll probs pop her bead back out with the Woody and Dylan story being revisited since the #metoo film industry saga has its sights on Woody again.
        I know that book well. High school book. I had two of names in it so it grabbed my attention. Me me me.
        I’m trying to think of the version you’re referring to where she plays Daisy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Really? Which two names? I love The Great Gatsby. The film I am referring to was made in 1974. Mia as Daisy and Robert Redford as Gatsby, a great one.

        Like

      • madmanifesto says:

        I like Robert reddy. I prefer his directing and writing to his acting but all are good.

        Buchanan and Jordan

        My mother’s favourite book

        ✌🏽👍🏽✌🏽

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ah, great names! It is also one of my favorites.

        Liked by 1 person

      • madmanifesto says:

        P.s. sorry you endured that catholic childhood. I know of it well through dear friends.

        Keep writing 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • I was not the one who suffered the abuse. Priest liked little boys, so we the girls lucked out. BUT I knew even back then the priest was a creepo, super uncomfortable to be in the confessional booth with him yech!! And I know the damage it did to the boys.

        I shall always keep writing 🙂

        Like

      • madmanifesto says:

        Gross. Yes the friends i love have not got over his brush with a priest. He is drinking himself to dead sadly.
        I have always wanted to go in a confessional box just for fun. Perhaps that is why I blog? ☺️
        I was denied religion by my priest and nun hating parents. I’m sensing a pattern here.

        Good. Writing saves. Sounds like a catch phrase.
        Bed.

        Take it easy.

        Liked by 1 person

      • You will be happy to know that our pedo priest WAS convicted. He hung himself in jail. So sometimes justice does serve! 🙂

        Like

      • madmanifesto says:

        Suicide is too easy for that kind. But I am very glad to hear he was convicted especially for the validation of his victims

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, they did nail a lot of those people. I am sure there will be more to come.

        Like

      • madmanifesto says:

        Most likely. I can only listen so much. My last few jobs burnt me out…hmm maybe I burnt myself out? Chicken or the egg…anyway I self care around that subject now. Saturation point

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, it is hard to take. I have a good friend who worked in sex crime investigations, but she asked to be transferred after a few years of it. Really awful stuff,

        Like

  3. Adnama72.wordpress.com says:

    Ooh one of my Favourite stories growing up. Happy Birthday Lewis Carroll. 🌒🌠

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Great post, Christine! Lots of great facts. Also, that Cheshire cat 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dangerspouse says:

    “Recreational mathematics”? That…that doesn’t make sense!

    Or I’m an idiot 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, well ‘Recreational Math’ is math that is carried out for entertainment and fun. (Think Soduku. Some genius had to dream that up!) Carroll was a great lover of puzzles and games, such as the chess board in Alice. Everything to him was a mathematical calculation, but he had fun with it. Apparently, it was also part of University studies. (And rightly so!)

      Thanks for reading! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Dangerspouse says:

        “…math that is carried out for entertainment and fun.”

        Hmmmmm.

        Uh………….

        Nope. Still doesn’t make sense. Something about the words “math” and “fun” appearing together in the same sentence just doesn’t seem right. It’s like seeing someone write “I was rockin’ out to Enya!”. There are just some things my brain will not accept as being possible.

        But I really, really enjoyed reading your post anyway. Even if there WAS that one glaring error 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • Lol! It took me a long time to make peace with Math, and to realize that it can be fun. Here is a NYT article on the importance of Recreational Math (they do acknowledge that it may be an”oxymoron” to some!)

        Like

      • Dangerspouse says:

        My god, there’s something I agree with President Trump on: the New York Times prints fake news!!

        Lol…ok, I read the article and other than the horribly presumptive statement that Sudoku “gets easier over time” (I’m still on my first one, 11 year later), it was very interesting. I don’t agree, but it was interesting.

        I bet if I’d had Mr. Gardner as my math teacher in grammar school, presenting math as a series of games, rather than the penguins at Our Lady of the Valley who tried to beat it into us with their rulers, I might have thought otherwise.

        Ok, enough idle chit-chat. I gotta get back to that stupid Sudoku!

        🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Ruler beating is always a bad idea! But seriously, there is a lot of beauty in math. And it cam be fun — as long as it does not get too deep an complicated, and as long as we have enough time to do it… Let me know how the Suduko comes out! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Dangerspouse says:

        Will do! Drop me a line in 11 years and let me know where I can reach you 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. toutparmoi says:

    I love that photo of the grown-up Alice, which I hadn’t seen before. She looks like an independent-minded young woman.

    I agree with you re the pedophile theory. Some of those Victorian photographs of little girls may look disturbing to us, but the Victorians would be equally disturbed by the sexualised clothing some retailers stock for little girls today.

    Though – now we’re talking agreement/disagreement – I don’t think Carroll would have looked unusually tall at Oxford among the students or other dons, most of whom would have come from families who could afford to feed their children well.

    One of the most noticeable features of the population of Victorian England would have been the marked discrepancy in height between the more affluent members of the community and the malnourished poor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No doubt that the Victorian poor were much shorter than the wealthy. However, even today in the U.K. the average height for men is listed as 5′ 9″. Presumably the Victorians would have been shorter. (I think of all those museums where their clothes just look tiny!)

      I did find a chart of military recruits 1724 – 1862, and the tallest of the tall peak out at 5’8″. Here is the link: http://www.nber.org/chapters/c7429.pdf
      So it is a bit of an unscientific theory. I’ll see if I can find anything on university students… the well fed might be taller, but in general I think they were just short.

      I too love that picture of the grown up Alice. She always paid tribute and had high regards for Carroll in her adult life.

      Liked by 1 person

      • toutparmoi says:

        The height thing has always fascinated me, though I’ve never made a detailed study of it!

        It does seem to be pretty well-established (by measuring skeletons) that in Elizabethan England the average male height was 5’7″, and I do remember reading that it was higher in the medieval times. I suspect it had dropped a bit more by the 19th century.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Height fascinates me too. It is interesting that people were taller in the middle ages — I imagine their diets may have been purer, before industry took hold…

        I learned recently that the British government was forced to look into diets of the commoners when the men started to become unfit for war. This was during the Victorian age when they actually were not getting enough caloric content. It is a horrible thought!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Really interesting! Thank you

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Vicky V says:

    Awesome article. I especially loved the fun facts! I’m really interested in his mathematical stuff. I’ll have to do some reading 🙂 Those photos of Alice are incredible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • He has always been one of my favorites. I actually have those Alice photos in an art book of Victorian prints. They are lovely! I only understand his math stuff to a point — but I believe he might have been getting at quantum physics, way before its time 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  9. […] white to red in Alice in Wonderland? You guessed it! This was  not just some silly whim of author Lewis Carroll,  but actually based upon the rival Houses of Lancaster and York.  (“Off with their […]

    Liked by 1 person

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