: January 27, 1832
Born In: Daresbury, Cheshire, England
Died On: January 14, 1898
Career: Author, Mathematician, Anglican clergyman, Photographer
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, known to the world as Lewis Carroll, was not just an author and poet, but an exceptionally talented photographer and a mathematician and logician. Amidst his assorted talents, he remains etched in our memory primarily because of his creation of an unforgettable character in the history of children’s literature named Alice. His books “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” and its sequel “Through the Looking Glass” have continued to mesmerize readers of all class till date. His extreme creative bent of mind, coupled with an artistic play of words and fantasy, has formed a delightful concoction and raised Carroll to a high pedestal in the world of literature.
Lewis Carroll was the third of a total of eleven children born to Reverend Charles Dodgson and his wife Frances Jane Lutwidge. He had seven sisters and three brothers. Carroll’s father was an active and highly orthodox clergyman of the Anglican Church, who was influentially involved in heated religious disputes, which were dividing the Anglican Church as a whole. He was an admirer of the Newman and the Tractarian movement and went on to inculcate the same views in his children. Carroll, however, developed an ambiguous relationship with his father’s values and eventually with the Anglican Church.
When Carroll was eleven years old, his father was given the living of Croft-on-Tees in North Yorkshire and the entire family moved to the spacious Rectory, wherein they resided for the next twenty-five years of their life. Since it was a remote countryside, the children had to discover their own source of entertainment. Carroll was extremely creative in the art of creating games and entertaining his family. He began writing a personal periodical at the age of 12, called the “Rectory magazine”, which was meant for the children’s education as well as enjoyment.
Lewis Carroll was educated at home until he was twelve years old. Then, he was sent to a private school near his home in Richmond shire. After a year, in 1846, he moved to Rugby school, where he excelled academically throughout, especially in mathematics. Literature always found a special place in his heart and young Carroll took keen interest in authors like William Shakespeare, John Ruskin, Charles Dickens and Lord Alfred Tennyson. Carroll was never a hard working child but attained success due to his exceptionally sharp intellect.
Carroll left school in the year 1849 and after a gap of two years he got enrolled into Christ Church, Oxford, in 1851. His mother’s sudden death due to stroke, however, made him return immediately. Later, Lewis’s pursuit of education was challenged from time to time, which not only affected his consistency, but his physical and mental strength as well. However, being exceptionally talented, he never succumbed to any of these circumstantial obstacles. In 1852, he was awarded a first Honor Moderations and soon after, he was nominated to a studentship. Honored with a first class in mathematics and second in classics, he graduated in the year in 1854 and received his post-graduation degree in 1857. He also won the Mathematical Lectureship at Oxford in 1856, where he worked till 1881.
During his years at Oxford, Carroll metthe new Dean, Henry Liddell and his family who came at Christ Church in the year 1856. Carroll became friends with Lorina, Liddell's wife, and was especially attached to the children, Harry, Edith and Alice. He would often amuse them with his self created jokes and short stories. In 1862, while he was picnicking with the three children by the River Thames, he created the story "Alice's Adventures Under Ground". Alice, one of the three children present and on whom the story was based, was delighted enough to beg Carroll to pen down the story for her. Carroll obliged and wrote her a longer version of the story titled ‘Alice's Adventures Under Ground’. A novelist named Henry Kingsley, while on a visit to Alice's family, happened to read the story. He loved it instantly and begged the family to convince Carroll enough to have the piece published. This was when Carroll began working upon the story religiously. He meticulously edited the version and finally in 1865, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was published. With the awe-inspiring success of the book, Carroll went on to publish a sequel ‘Through the Looking Glass and what Alice found there” in 1872.
Before Carroll’s famous venture of “Alice in Wonderland”, he had published a handful of humorous items in verse and prose. His one of the earliest poems appeared as early as 1856, known as “Solitude”, using the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. This name was later used for all his works as an author as well as poet. Later in life when Carroll attempted to revitalize the Alice magic, he ended up producing “Sylvie and Bruno” (1889) and its second volume, “Sylvie and Bruno Concluded” (1893). However, both the books were discarded by critics. The two novels when taken together are actually the study of man as a whole. Most of his poems and verses were collected in 1869 and published under the title “Phantasmagoria and Other Poems” and later with few additions as “Rhyme and Reason” in the year 1883. “Three Sunsets and Other Poems” was published posthumously in 1898.
Lewis Carroll was considered to be a fine photographer of children as well as adults. Portraits of actress Ellen Terry, Alfred Lord Tennyson, poet-painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti and several others have been restored and reproduced from time to time. In the year 1880, however, Carroll gave up photography altogether feeling that it was consuming too much of his waking hours which could be more strategically utilized elsewhere.
According to the prevailing social norms of the time, anyone studying at Christ Church had to take up priesthood. So was the case with Carroll who was there at Christ Church for four long years. However, he earnestly requested the dean, Liddell, to hold the orders showing reasons why he could not take up priesthood, and Liddell, in turn, exempted Carroll for unknown reasons. It was later revealed in one of Carroll’s diaries that he considered himself unworthy of priesthood. Scholars, however, have serious doubts about it and opinionate that he had vested interests, which did not allow him to take the holy orders.
In the year 1881, Carroll gave up teaching at Christ Church, but remained to stay in his residence until his death. He was down with pneumonia, which later complicated into severe influenza and caused his death on January 14, 1898. His body remains buried in Guildford at the Mount Cemetery.
1832: Charles Lutwidge Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll was born on January 27.
1843: His family moved to the Croft Rectory in Richmond shire, North Yorkshire.
1846: Moved to Rugby School.
1849: Left the school after three years.
1851: Enrolled into Christ Church, Oxford.
1852: Was awarded a first Honor Moderations.
1854: Earned his B.A. degree with a first class honors in math.
1856: Received Mathematical Lectureship at Oxford;His first work, a romantic poem: ‘Solitude’ was published under his pseudonym, He first took up photography.
1857: He graduated with an M.A.
1865: The book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” was published.
1872: A sequel of the book was published as “Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There”.
1880: Abandoned photography.
1881: Lewis left teaching at Christ Church.
1889: He wrote his last novel ‘Sylvie and Bruno’.
1898: Lewis Carroll died on January 14.