Authors: Lewis Carroll

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Last reviewed: June 2018

English novelist, poet, photographer, mathematician, and logician.

January 27, 1832

Daresbury, Cheshire, England

January 14, 1898

Guildford, Surrey, England


Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll came to be known to millions as the author of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was the son of the rector of Daresbury, the Reverend Charles Dodgson, and Frances Jane Lutwidge. He was the eldest of a family of eleven children, with seven sisters and three brothers. After a pleasant and for the most part solitary childhood he attended Richmond School and then Rugby for three extremely unhappy years. In 1851, the year he formally went into residence as a student at Christ Church College, Oxford, his mother died. He was deeply affected by her death, and his later verses show the affection he felt for his gentle mother. In his nonsense stories some critics have claimed to find signs of a childhood love for his mother that never matured.

Lewis Carroll

(Library of Congress)

Dodgson spent the rest of his life at Oxford. In 1856, two years after receiving a bachelor of arts degree, and after serving as a tutor in mathematics, he was made a regular member of the teaching faculty at Christ Church. It was in the previous year, 1855, that he wrote the first lines of his famous "Jabberwocky" poem: "Twas bryllyg, and the slythy toves/ Did gyre and gymble in the wabe . . ." This was a scholar’s jest, an attempt to parody Anglo-Saxon poetry.

As a teacher and mathematician, Dodgson was conscientious, precise, and reputedly dull. His students reported finding his lectures very tiresome. Dodgson wrote many articles and several books in mathematics and logic, but he would not have been famous if his fame had relied on them or on his reputation as a teacher.

The pseudonym Lewis Carroll was devised in 1856 to accompany a poem that was published in the magazine The Train. It appears to have been derived from the names Lutwidge and Charles.

Dodgson had considerable skill as a humorous artist, but his drawings—which some have regarded as comparable to the nonsense drawings of Edward Lear—were rejected when he submitted them to the Comic Times. Discouraged, he turned to photography, becoming an excellent photographer of children and one of the notable amateurs in nineteenth century photography.

In 1856 he met the children of Dean Liddell of Christ Church and took a particular interest in Alice Liddell, then four years old. A year after his ordination (for taking Holy Orders was a condition of his staying at Christ Church as a mathematics lecturer), while on a picnic with another young clergyman and three of the Liddell girls—Alice, then ten years old, among them—Dodgson began an extemporaneous account of "Alice’s Adventures Underground." He wrote the story, after expanding it considerably, and presented the manuscript to Alice. An even longer version was prepared for publication and was illustrated by John Tenniel, whose drawings have become as famous as the story. The book was published by Macmillan in 1865 with the title Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This extremely popular story, full of nonsense and logical fancy, was followed by Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits, perhaps the most fascinating of his nonsense poems, became a great favorite with adults and, like the Alice books, continues to be popular. The author’s own favorite work, however, was his long and involved Sylvie and Bruno, which appeared in two parts, the first in 1889 and the second in 1893. Unfortunately, the public never fully shared the author’s love, and compared to the other books it was a failure.

Dodgson’s playful temperament, seldom in evidence in the classroom and often made wicked when he turned to criticism of his colleagues at the college, found an outlet in games of logic and mathematics, many of which he invented. He was always fascinated with girls; he liked to read to them, to make up stories for them, to draw them, and to photograph them—sometimes in the nude. As these young girls matured, they abandoned him for other interests. Dodgson was to remain unmarried until his death. Although some later critics have viewed his interest in young girls as potentially of a sexual nature, others have countered that none of his associations were out of the ordinary for the Victorian era

Throughout his writings he revealed a powerful fear of disorder and death, a dread which he successfully combated with his sparkling humor, wit, and nonsense. This solitary deacon, dull teacher, clever logician, and inspired teller of nonsense tales died of influenza and bronchial complications in 1898.

Author Works Long Fiction: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865 Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, 1871 Alice's Adventures Under Ground, Being a Facsimile of the Original MS. Book Afterwards Developed into "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland," 1886 The Wasp in a Wig: The "Supressed" Episode of "Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There," 1977 Poetry: Phantasmagoria, and Other Poems, 1869 The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits, 1876 Rhyme? and Reason?, 1883 Three Sunsets, and Other Poems, 1898 The Collected Verse of Lewis Carroll, 1932, 1960 (as The Humorous Verse of Lewis Carroll) For "The Train": Five Poems and a Tale, 1932 Nonfiction: The Fifth Book of Euclid, Treated Algebraically, So Far as It Relates to Commensurable Magnitude, With Notes, 1858 The Formulae of Plane Trigonometry, Printed with Symbols (Instead of Words) to Express the Goniometrical Ratios, 1861 The Enunciations of the Propositions and Corollaries Together with Questions on the Definitions, Postulates, Axioms, &c. in Euclid, Books I and II, 1863 A Guide to the Mathematical Student in Reading, Reviewing, and Working Examples, 1864 An Elementary Treatise on Determinants, with Their Application to Simultaneous Linear Equations and Algebraical Geometry, 1867 Euclid and His Modern Rivals, 1879 The Principles of Parliamentary Representation, 1884 The Game of Logic, 1887 Curiosa Mathematica, Part I: A New Theory of Parallels, 1888 Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter-Writing, 1890 Curiosa Mathematica, Part II: Pillow Problems Thought During Wakeful Hours, 1893 A Fascinating Mental Recreation for the Young. Symbolic Logic, 1895 Symbolic Logic, Part I: Elementary, 1896 The Lewis Carroll Picture Book: A Selection from the Unpublished Writings and Drawings of Lewis Carroll Together with Reprints from Scarce and Unacknowledged Work, 1899 Feeding the Mind, 1907 The Diaries of Lewis Carroll, 1954 The Unknown Lewis Carroll, 1961 The Magic of Lewis Carroll, 1973 The Letters of Lewis Carroll, 1979 The Oxford Pamphlets, Leaflets, and Circulars of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, Vol. 1, 1993 The Mathematical Pamphlets of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Related Pieces, 1994 Children’s/Young Adult Literature: Christmas Greetings from a Fairy to a Child, 1884 A Tangled Tale, 1885 The Nursery Alice, 1889 Sylvie and Bruno, 1889 Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, 1893 "The Rectory Umbrella" and "Mischmasch," 1932 The Pig-Tale, 1975 Bibliography Blake, Kathleen. Play, Games, and Sport: The Literary Works of Lewis Carroll. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1974. Very insightful study of Carroll’s work focuses primarily on the Alice books, Sylvie and Bruno, and The Hunting of the Snark. Emphasis is placed on systems of logic and language constructions. Supplemented by an index. Bloom, Harold, ed. Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. New York: Chelsea House, 2006. Collection of essays about the novel includes analysis of Alice’s identity, elements of folklore and fairy tales in the work, and its treatment of love and death. Includes bibliography and index. Bloom, Harold, ed. Modern Critical Views on Lewis Carroll. New York: Chelsea House, 1987. Part of a standard series of literary essays, the selections are good but contain specialized studies that may not help the beginner. Bloom’s brief introduction is a good starting point in critically assessing Carroll. Carroll, Lewis. The Annotated Alice. Introduction and notes by Martin Gardner. 1960. Definitive ed. New York: W. W. Norton, 2000. Features abundant marginal notes that explain references in the Alice tales and The Hunting of the Snark, linking them to Carroll’s life, events and controversies in Victorian England, and mathematics. Also includes reproductions of the works’ original illustrations. Carroll, Lewis. The Annotated Snark. Introduction and notes by Martin Gardner. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962. These two books have abundant marginal notes that explain references in the Alice tales and The Hunting of the Snark to Carroll’s life, events and controversies in Victorian England, and mathematics. They also reproduce the original illustrations. Clark, Anne. Lewis Carroll: A Biography. London: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1979. A critical biography that includes more than thirty plates. Includes detailed analysis of the Alice books and Sylvie and Bruno, as well as other works, and a wealth of biographical material. One of the most comprehensive works on Carroll. Includes extensive references, a select bibliography, and an index. Cohen, Morton N. Lewis Carroll: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1995. Detailed work by an author who devoted more than three decades to Carroll scholarship. Using Carroll’s letters and diaries, Cohen has provided what many regard as a definitive biography. Illustrated with more than one hundred of Carroll’s photographs and drawings. Collingwood, Stuart Dodgson. The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll. New York: Century, 1899. As Carroll’s nephew, Collingwood had firsthand knowledge of his uncle’s life, and this biographical work is accordingly full of anecdotes. The letters quoted in the text often exemplify Carroll’s dexterity with humor. De la Mare, Walter. Lewis Carroll. London: Faber & Faber, 1932. Well-written volume places Carroll in historical context and analyzes the different genres he utilized. Contains a detailed discussion of the two Alice books and a brief treatment of other works. Supplemented by an index and a bibliography. Fordyce, Rachel, ed. Lewis Carroll: A Reference Guide. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1988. An exhaustive annotated bibliography of primary and secondary material on Carroll. Gray, Donald J., ed. Alice in Wonderland. New York: W. W. Norton, 1992. Provides an ideal starting point for those interested in examining Carroll’s novel. In addition to extensive background and critical essays, includes helpful annotations on the two Alice novels. Many of the best essays from other collections are reprinted here, making this a reference work of first resort. Guiliano, Edward. Lewis Carroll: An Annotated International Bibliography, 1960-1977. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1980. This excellent research source contains more than fifteen hundred entries and is divided into four sections: "Primary Works," "Reference and Bibliographic Works," "Biography and Criticism," and "Miscellaneous." Supplemented by an index. Guiliano, Edward. Lewis Carroll Observed. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1976. This handsome, large-format book contains many drawings and photographs by Carroll, illustrations of his tales, and clips from early films. The text comprises fifteen essays about the children’s books, photography, Carroll’s style of humor and reputation, logic, and film versions of the Alice stories. Hudson, Derek. Lewis Carroll: An Illustrated Biography. New York: New American Library, 1978. One of the best biographies available, offering a much-needed corrective to the spate of amateur psychological studies of Carroll’s life. Jones, Jo Elwyn, and J. Francis Gladstone. The Alice Companion: A Guide to Lewis Carroll’s Alice Books. New York: New York University Press, 1998. Full of information and commentary on the people and places that make up Carroll’s and Alice Liddell’s world in mid-nineteenth century Oxford. Also an excellent source of information regarding the extensive literature on this period in Carroll’s life. Jones, Jo Elwyn, and J. Francis Gladstone. The Red King’s Dream: Or, Lewis Carroll in Wonderland. London: Jonathan Cape, 1995. Places Carroll within his life and times through the discussion of his literary milieu, friends, and influences. Includes bibliographical references and index. Leach, Karoline. In the Shadow of the Dreamchild: A New Understanding of Lewis Carroll. Chester Springs, Pa.: Peter Owen, 1999. Uses findings from new research to argue that many of the long-standing assumptions about Carroll—concerning his exclusively child-centered and unworldly life, his legendary obsession with Alice Liddell, and his supposedly unnatural sexuality—are nothing more than myths. Pudney, John. Lewis Carroll and His World. London: Thames and Hudson, 1976. Historical study of Carroll and his culture is both insightful and broad in scope. Features more than one hundred illustrations as well as a chronology, a select bibliography, and an index. Thomas, Donald. Lewis Carroll: A Portrait with Background. London: John Murray, 1996. Thomas surmises the formative influences on Carroll’s personality and intellect as he describes Victorian England. An invaluable guide for readers who want to understand how manners and ideas changed during Carroll’s lifetime. Williams, Sidney H., and Falconer Madan. The Lewis Carroll Handbook. London: Oxford University Press, 1962. An extensive, definitive bibliographic study of Lewis Carroll’s works. Supplemented by illustrations, a chronology, an appendix, and an index.

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