Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll, was a leading mathematician, philosopher, photographer and inventor, who loved writing in his spare time. With her book, Alice in the Wonderland, she left aside the classic didactic and moralistic literature to make way for a vast universe where the dreamlike, the imagination and the joy gave shape to an unforgettable work.
That literary mastery he showed with this novel and, later, also with Alicia through the mirror or even with his fantastic poems (meaningless), like Jabberwocky, marked a style never seen before. Halfway between Dadaism and Surrealism, Carroll was an innovator. Someone who opened a direct door to the most delirious and suggestive fantasy.
Imbued his writing of a dream universe where to play with dimensions, shapes and distances, thanks to the inspiration in his knowledge of mathematics and logic. The use of their language was also something extraordinary. Nobody has used so many scientific paradoxes, nobody has invented so many words, nor played so much with synonyms, homonyms, and pseudonyms…
Thus, in the wake of fantasy and genius that has accompanied Lewis Carroll, is also a less golden reverse. Publications like The man who loved girls reveal not only the story of Alice Liddell (the little one she was inspired to create her mythical character), but also that obsession that she reflected in her letters for photographing girls and trying to capture its purity
Now, we have data that the families of those girls gave their permission. Even the descendant of Alice Liddell explains that there was never any sexual connotation in the behavior of Lewis Carroll. Be that as it may, we will always have mysteries to solve about the creator of Alice in Wonderland.
“Imagination is the only weapon in the war against reality.”
-Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland-
Biography of a mathematician with a wonderful inventiveness
Charles Lutwige Dodgson was born in 1832 in Daresbury, Cheshire, United Kingdom. He was the third of eleven brothers in a family in which his father, Charles Dodgson, served as Reverend. From very early on, he showed great ability for games and literature.
At the age of 12, he created what he himself called Journals of the rectory. They were sets of poems, funny stories and also short with which to entertain their own. Now, it should be noted that his childhood and adolescence was not easy. He was very shy, he faced many diseases (he was deaf in one ear) and, in addition, he suffered stuttering. In spite of everything, he managed to enroll in the University of Christ Church, in Oxford to study mathematics.
His mind was prodigious for science, so he always achieved the most prestigious scholarships to graduate with honors. In 1857, he obtained a position as professor of mathematics at Christ Church, a task that he combined with his training as a deacon.
However, it should be noted that although it showed great potential for mathematical sciences, its character was clueless, not very energetic and dreamer. It did not fit too much into that university scenario where, in addition, he often suffered from the teasing of students and classmates for his stuttering and epileptic seizures.
It was in 1856 when the young Dogson’s life underwent a change. A new dean came to the university, Henry Liddell, who would later become vice chancellor of the University of Oxford and chaplain at Christ Church in Oxford. With him were also his young wife and daughters: Lorina, Alice and Edith.
Dogson soon establishes friendship with the family. Soon, he becomes that young deacon who is always willing to take the little ones on a picnic, to the river or to an excursion to the city. Doing so was common, in fact it was also done with the children of the writer George Macdonald or those of the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson. However, the small Liddell always occupied a special place in his life.
Alicia Liddell and Lewis Carroll
It was July 4, 1862, when Dodgson and his friend Robinson Duckworth, a member of Trinity, took the girls on a boat ride on the Thames from Oxford to Godstow. That little adventure was used to write the beginning of a story where Alice was the protagonist. The girl was so delighted with that, that she asked for more.
Dodgson obeyed. Week after week, it offered girls new and exciting adventures about Alice. And that task became little by little, in an extensive novel illustrated by himself. When he finished it, his friend George Macdonald, author of some of the best children’s stories of the time, was so fascinated that he proposed his publication.
Lewis Carroll could never imagine what would happen next.
The publication of Alice in Wonderland and the birth of Lewis Carroll
Charles Dogson shuffled different titles for his book. Thus, and after evaluating ideas like Alice among the fairies, Alice’s golden hour, she opted for The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland. He also chose to sign it under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. The publication was made in 1865, and although at first it went unnoticed, the following year I was already thinking about giving it a continuation.
In this way, the book, Through the Looking Glass and what Alicia found there, reached the public in 1872. Many critics claimed that this work was much better than the first. So much so that it soon became the most popular children’s book in the United Kingdom. Later it would be of the whole world. However, it should be noted that success was not something that Lewis Carroll felt comfortable with.
Lewis Carroll, the photographer
Thus, in addition to writing (he also published several books on creative mathematics) Lewis Carroll dedicated his life to another of his great passions: photography. He made portraits of actresses of the time such as Ellen Terry, the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti. He also photographed children, his series of disguises being famous, as well as the controversial nudes.
On the other hand, it is impossible not to mention Lewis Carroll without naming his Nictógrafo. It was a card that he took out from under the pillow, to record what his head dictated or part of what his dreams reveal to him. He could carry it out without having to show his hands to the cold of the room. To make this possible, he first invented an alphabet using the corner points and the side lines.
In this way, everything originated in that oneiric universe could be turned over to his books; a technique that would improve later another renowned onironauta: Salvador Dalí.