Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson,
the author of Alice in Wonderland. The oldest son in a line of
Charles Dodgsons was born January 27, 1832, in the little
parsonage of Daresbury in Cheshire. When his father became
minister at Croft-on-Tees in northern Yorkshire, the family of 11
children moved into the spacious rectory there.
A bright, articulate boy, Charles was educated at home. By the
age of 7, he was reading The Pilgrim's Progress. At 12, he was
sent to a small private school in nearby Richmond.
In 1845 he went to Rugby School, where he was very unhappy,
perhaps because of some form of sexual abuse. His math master
said of him, "I have not had a more promising boy his age since I
came to Rugby."
He left at the end of 1849, and two years later went to Christ
Church college at Oxford. Despite being easily bored and
distracted, he was a brilliant student, excelling in math. He
received a first and a fellowship, which qualified him to teach.
Most of his students were older, richer and less interested than he
Dodgson was six feet tall, slender and handsome with brown,
curly hair and blue eyes. He enjoyed attention, admiration and a
rich inner life. He loved to entertain people by telling stories. His
poetry and short stories, mostly humorous, even satirical,
appeared in national magazines. But he was ambitious for greater
In 1856, he took up photography, which was then in its infancy.
He used photography, the theater and writing to express his sense
of the divinity of beauty, freedom and innocence, in conflict with
Victorian morality and his family's High Church beliefs.
That same year, he began writing under the name that made him
famous. He became friends of the family of Henry Liddell, the
new Dean of Christ Church, becoming particularly close to his
young wife and daughters Ina, Alice and Edith.
On an picnic on the river with them in 1862, he told the story that
became his greatest commercial success, the first Alice book.
He wrote it down at the insistence of Alice Liddell, and it was
published by Macmillan. In it he subverts Victorian convention by
presenting a world skewed through the eyes of a seven-year-old.
As opposed to the Victorian Age, which was marked by
practicality, prudishness and repression, the Alice books are
imaginative, wild and free.
And at a time when only boys received a formal education, the
Alice books center on an independent and resourceful girl. Alice
is proud of her education, which after the Victorian fashion
consisted mostly of memorized platitudes.
Rather than emphasizing adult responsibility, the Alice stories bring
out childlike dreams and fears.
Lewis Carroll (above) and Alice
Louisa Liddell (left) and four of her children, with Lewis Carroll.