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Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) - pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson


English logician, mathematician, and novelist, best-known for his classic fantasy novels Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel Though the Looking-Glass (1871). Unlike other children's books of the time, written in the atmosphere of rigid morality of the Victorian era, the Alice books did not try to teach a moral message.

--"I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir," said Alice, "because I'm not myself, you see."
--"I don't see," said the Caterpillar.
--"I'm afraid I can't put it more clearly," Alice replied very politely, "for I can't understand it myself top begin with; and being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing."
--"It isn't," said the Caterpillar.
(in Alice in Wonderland)

Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson at Daresbury in Chesire. His father, the Reverend Charles Dodgson, was at that time Curate of the parish. In 1827 he had married his first cousin Frances Jane Lutwidge, Charles was their third child. Dodgson attended a Yorkshire grammar school and Rugby. At Christ Church, Oxford, he studied mathematics and worked from 1855 to 1881 as a lecturer (tutor). Dodgson's career in education was troubled by a bad stammer. He lectured and taught with difficulty and he also preached only occasionally after his ordination in 1861. "The hesitation, from which I have suffered all my life," Dodgson wrote in a letter, "is always worse in reading (when I can see difficult words before they come) than in speaking."

Dodgson hardly ever spoke of his own childhood (see The Mystery of Lewis Carroll by Jenny Woolf, 2010, p. 11); his nephew Stuart Dodgson Collingwood mentions his uncle was exceptionally sensitive and shy. Whatever the season, he hid his hands within a pair of gray-and-black cotton gloves. In 1867 he travelled with his friend and colleague Henry Parry Liddon to Russia, where they visited churches, museums and other places of interest. After this journey, he never again left Britain. Dodgson died on January 14, 1898. He was buried in Guilford Cemetery.

In spite of his stammer, Dodgson could converse easily with children, whom he often photographed, first with their clothes on. From July 1866, Dodgson began to take nude photographs, always with the permission of parents. During the next thirteen years, Dodgson took many nude studies, but before he died, he destroyed most the negatives and prints. Dodgson was careful not to show them to anybody, stating in a letter that "there is really no friend to whom I should wish to give photographs which so entirely defy conventional rules."

Dodgson had seven sisters. Although his attraction to young girls was well-known, he followed in their company the strict Victorian rules of behavior and morals, even if his feelings were more intense than he acknowledged in his diaries. He also had long friendships with mature women, but remained a bachelor. This side of his life has remained little examined. However, Karoline Leach has criticized in her book In the Shadow of the Dreamchild (1999) the Freudian mythology and the "strange incestuous kind of immortality" created around the author and the real-life Alice.

According to a popular story, Dodgson began to tell a long story to Alice Liddell – on July 4, 1862, on a blazing summer afternoon – and spontaneously improvised the tale of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Possibly the trip never took place on that day; it was cool, overcast and rainy. In reality the book, ased on tales told during several outings, was a laborious process that took years. (See also other adventures inside the Earth, Giacomo Casanova's Icosameron, 1788; Jules Verne's Journey to the Centre of the Earth.)

Alice (died in 1934), Dodgson's ideal child friend, was the daughter of Henry George Liddell, the head of his Oxford college. The friendship with the Liddell family ended abruptly in June 1863, two years before Wonderland was published, and Dodgson turned his attention to other young friends. It was rumored that Dodgson had proposed marriage to Alice, aged eleven; for females the legal age to marry was twelve. However, the cause of the break between Dodgson and the Liddells is a mystery. Dodgson's relationship with the family remained formal, but in 1870 Mrs. Liddell brough Alice and her sister Ina to Dodgson's studio to be photographed. When Alice married Reginald Gervis Hargreaves in 1870, he gave the couple a watercolor of Tom Quad, one of the quadrangles of Christ Church in Oxford. Alice was absent from his funeral, no Liddells appeared.

Originally the book appeared under the title Alice's Adventures Under Ground. The story centers on the seven-year-old Alice, who falls asleep in a meadow, and dreams that she plunges down a rabbit hole, where finds herself first too large and then too small. She meets such strange characters as Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the King and Queen of Hearts, and experiences wondrous, often bizarre adventures, trying to reason in numerous discussions that do not follow the usual paths of logic. Finally she totally rejects the dream world and wakes up.

The sequel, Through the Looking Class (1871),  is perhaps more often quoted than the first, featuring the poems Jabberwocky and The Walrus and the Carpenter. The artist John Tenniel refused to illustrate one chapter in Through the Looking Class because he thought that it was ridiculous. This chapter was published later in 1872 as The Wasp in a Wig. Dodgson himself always wished to be an artist and as a boy he illustrated all the manuscript magazines, which he made for his younger brothers and sisters. Dodgson's original drawings for Alice's Adventures Underground were published in 1961.

The author's life and work has become a constant area for speculation and his exploring of the boundaries of sense and nonsense has inspired a number of psychological studies and novels – and perhaps also the famous English philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. The humor of Joseph Heller's famous war novel Catch-22 (1961) is much in debt to Dodgson. In Catch-22 the story centers on the USAF regulation, which suggests that willingness to fly dangerous combat missions must be considered insane, but if the airmen seek to be relieved on grounds of mental reasons, the request proves their sanity. The same laws dominate the Wonderland: "'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.'"

According to Carl Jung, "a typical infantile motif is the dream of growing infinitely small or infinitely big, or being transformed from one to the other – as you find, for instance, in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland." (in Man and His Symbols, 1964) Modern physicist have often compared the world of Lewis Carroll with the incredible phenomena of quantum reality – such as cats that are both alive and dead at the same time ('Schrödinger's cat') or with particles that change their identities for no apparent reason. They are against Alice's common sense: 'I can't believe that!' said Alice. '... one can't believe impossible things. But the White Queen has her own principles: "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.' (in Through the Looking Glass)

"The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things:
Of shoes  and ships  and sealing wax -
Of cabbages  and kings 
And why the sea is boiling hot 
And whether pigs have wings."
(in 'The Walrus and the Carpenter')

At the time of their publication, Alice's adventures were considered children's literature, but now Dodgson's stories are generally viewed in a different light. His work has fascinated such critics as Edmund Wilson and W.H. Auden, and logicians and scientist such as Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell. Virginia Woolf remarked, "the two Alices are not books for children; they are the only books in which we become children". In the 1960s rock musicians and hippies were attracted to the surrealistic world Wonderland, which inspired such songs as Jefferson Airplane's 'White Rabbit' and The Beatles's 'I am a Walrus'. Fredric Brown used Lewis Carroll's characters and lyrics in his novel Night of the Jabberwock (1950). In the 1990s Jeff Noon continued Alice's adventures in Automated Alice, in which she is transported to the modern world.

Dodgson also wrote mathematical works, of which Condensation of Determinants (1866) and An Elementary Treatise On Determinants (1867) established his fame as a significant mathematical theorist. Moreover, Dodgson was a rather exceptional student of Aristotelian logic, and he delighted his friends with games, puzzles and riddles. Dodgson's mock-heroic poem, The Hunting of the Snark (1876), ending with the line "For the Snark was a Bojuum, you see", received mixed reviews when it came out. The meaning of the poem, which tells of the journey to capture the mythical Snark, has fascinated generations of readers. Many believe that there is a puzzle to be solved. "I'm very much afraid I didn't mean anything but nonsense!" Dodgson later said. In the Oxford-set crime drama Inspector Lewis, Detective Sergeant James Hathaway argued in the episode 'The Soul of Genius' (2012),  that "It’s a profoundly theological piece of work."

For further reading: The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll by Stuart Dodgson Collingwood (1898); Lewis Carroll by Walter de la Mare (1930); The Story of Lewis Carroll by Roger Lancelyn Green (1949); Lewis Carroll by Derek Hudson (1954, rev. 1976); The Annotated Alice (1960); The Annotated Snark (1962); Aspects of Alice, ed. by Robert Phillips (1971); The Philosopher's Alice by Peter Heath (1974); Lewis Carroll and His World by John Pudney (1976); Beyond the Looking Class by Colin Gordon (1982); Play, Games and Sport by Kathleen Blake (1984); The Alice Concordance by Daryl Colquhoun (1986); Lewis Carroll by Richard Michael Kelly (1990); The Red King's Dream by Jo Elwyn Jones and J. Francis Gladstone (1995); Lewis Carroll: A Biography by Morton N. Cohen (1995); Automated Alice by Jeff Noon (1996); In the Shadow of the Dreamchild by Karoline Leach (1999); Alice in Sunderland by Bryan Talbot (2007); The Mystery of Lewis Carroll: Discovering the Whimsical, Thoughtful, and Sometimes Lonely Man Who Created "Alice in Wonderland" by Jenny Woolf (2010).  Other writers connected with Oxford in the nineteenth and early twentieth century: Mathew Arnold, Max Beerbohm, Hilaire Belloc, Vera Brittain, Rhoda Broughton, John Buchan,Richard Burton, James Elroy Fleeker, J.A. Froude, John Galsworthy, Robert Graves, Winifred Holtby, Gerald Manley Hopkins, Thomas Hughes, Henry James, Francis Kilvert, Andrew Lang, T.E. Lawrence, C.S. Lewis, Rose Macaulay, Compton Mackenzie, William Morris, J.H. Newman, Walter Pater, Arthur Quiller-Couch, Thomas De Quincey, Charles Reade, John Ruskin, Dorothy Sayers, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Algernon Swinburne, J.R.R. Tolkien, Oscar Wilde. Suom.: Carrollilta on myös käännetty teos Kirjeitä lapsiystäville ja muita kirjoituksia, suom. Markus Lång (1997). For further information: Lewis Carroll Home page Great Science-Fiction and Fantasy Works. See also David Marans: eLogic Gallery, Complete and Open-Access   

Selected bibliography:

  • The Fifth Book of Euclid Treated Algebraically, 1858/1868
  • A Syllabus of Plane Algebraical Geometry, Systematically Arranged, with Formal Definitions, Postulates, and Axioms, 1860
  • Notes on the First Two Books of Euclid, Designed for Candidates for Responsions, 1860
  • The Formulae of Plane Trigonometry Printed with Symbols (Instead of Words) to Express the "Goniometrical Ratios", 1861
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 1865 - Liisan seikkailut ihmemaailmassa (suom. Anni Swan, 1905) / Liisan seikkailut ihmemaassa (suom. Kirsi Kunnas ja Eeva-Liisa Manner, 1972) / Alicen seikkailut ihmemaassa (suom. Alice Martin, 1995) / Liisa Ihmemaassa (suom. Tuomas Nevanlinna, 2000) - several movie versions: animated Disney feature in 1951; Alice (1951) Dennis Potter's first interpretation concerning the relationship between Carroll/Dodgson and Alice Liddell; Alice (Neco z Alenky), Swiss/UK/West German live-action/stop-motion-animated movie in 1988, dir. by Jan Svankmajer, and others, also soft porn versions in 1976
  • Condensation of Determinants, Being a New and Brief Method for Computing Their Arithmetic Values, 1866
  • An Elementary Treatise On Determinants with Their Application to Simultaneous Linear Equations and Algebraical Geometry, 1867
  • Bruno's Revenge, 1867
  • Phantasmagoria and Other Poems, 1869 - Fantasmagoria ja muita runoja (suom. Ville-Juhani Sutinen, 2008)
  • Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, 1871 - Liisan seikkailut peilimaailmassa (suom. Kirsi Kunnas ja Eeva-Liisa Manner, 1974) / Alice peilintakamaassa (suom. Alice Martin, 2010) - TV film 1960, performed as stage musical in 1960, dir. Alan Handley, based loosely on the two Alice books and L. Frank Baum's The Wonderful Wizard of Oz
  • The Hunting of the Snark, 1876
  • The Wasp in a Wig: The "Suppressed" Episode of Through the Looking Class, 1877
  • Rhyme? and Reason?, 1883
  • Sylvie and Bruno, 1889
  • The Nursery "Alice", 1889
  • Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, 1893
  • Three Sunsets and Other Poems, 1898
  • For the Train: Five Poems and a Tale, 1932
  • The Rectory Umbrella and Mischmasch, 1932
  • The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll, 1939
  • The Poems of Lewis Carroll, 1973
  • Lewis Carroll's Diaries, 1993-1997 (4 vols., ed. Edward Wakeling)

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