Alice in Wonderland
Who is Charles Dodgson, you ask? Well, he is better known as Lewis Carroll, the author of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", published in 1865. Alice Liddell was the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church. The Reverend CL Dodgson lived near the Liddells, loved children and often spent hours telling them stories and photographing them. He was unmarried (Oxford dons -- tutors -- were not allowed to marry until the 1880's) Alice was his favorite. Dodgson had a gift with words and often played word games with the children. He was able to weave stories using the names and circumstances of the children, which made their lives, seem like amazing adventures. The children often went on boat trips and picnics with Dodgsen, and it was on such a boat trip when Alice's Adventures were created. It was July 4, 1862 when Dodgsen, Reverend Robinson Duckworth, Edith and Lorina (Alice's sisters) and the infamous Alice went on a trip to down the Thames to Godstow.
Dodgsen began weaving Alice's stories and as Alice recalled later, "owing to the frequent interruptions, fresh and undreamed-of possibilities opened up". When the 'golden afternoon' was over, and Alice stood on the Deanery doorstep, she said, "Oh Mr. Dodgsen, I wish you would write out Alice's adventures for me". He sat up all night writing everything he could remember, but it took two years before he was able to present Alice with the finished version of "Alice's Adventures Under Ground". Everyone who saw the manuscript he was creating thought it out to be published. In the beginning of the story Alice asks her sister, "What is the use of a book without pictures?” Dodgsen was hoping that with some instruction he would be able to illustrate the book himself. Instead he selected John Tenniel, whose line drawings were perfect for the story. The first printed copy of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" was sent to Alice on July 4th, 1865.
The sequel to "Alice", "Through the Looking Glass" was published in 1871, and is largely based on a trip the children took to their grandmother's house. Dodgsen spent time with the family there.
The stories incorporated real people and real events. The Red Queen was the girl's governess. The monkey in "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" is a reference to the evolution debate in Oxford in 1860 between Thomas Huxley and Bishop Wilberforce. Here Huxley told Wilberforce that he'd rather be descended from a monkey than a bishop.
Charles Dodgson, as a Mathematics don, did not wish to be known for writing children's stories, which is why he chose a pseudonym. Lewis Carroll is derived from his mother's maiden name, Lutwidge (German for Lewis) and Carolus (the Latin for Charles). Charles wrote his stories, not for money or for fame, but so children could enjoy them. He shrank from the publicity, and even returned to the Post Office any letters addressed to Lewis Carroll as "unknown".
I intend on reading these books again, but now with a renewed sense of wonder... Now that I have been there, I will see the pictures of Oxford in the illustrations and better understand the absurdity of it all.
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