Lewis Carroll

Author, mathematician, Logician, Anglican Deacon and Photographer Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) was born 27 January 1832, his most famous writings are Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass, as well asthe poems “The Hunting of the Snark” and “Jabberwocky”, all examples of the genre of literary nonsense. He is noted for his facility at word play, logic, and fantasy, and there are societies worldwide dedicated to the enjoyment and promotion of his life and works. From a young age, Dodgson wrote poetry and short stories, contributing to the family magazine Mischmasch and various other magazines. Between 1854 and 1856, his work appeared in The Comic Times, The Train, the Whitby Gazette and the Oxford Critic. Most of this output was humorous, sometimes satirical, but his standards and ambitions were exacting. sometime after 1850, he wrote puppet plays for his siblings’ entertainment, including La Guida di Bragia.

in 1856 he published  A romantic poem called “Solitude” under the pseudonym “Lewis Carroll”. This was a play on his real name; Lewis was the anglicised form of Ludovicus, which was the Latin for Lutwidge, and Carroll an Irish surname similar to the Latin name Carolus, from which comes the name Charles. The transition went as follows: “Charles Lutwidge” translated into Latin as “Carolus Ludovicus”. This was then translated back into English as “Carroll Lewis” and then reversed to make “Lewis Carroll”. In, 1856, a new dean, Henry Liddell, arrived at Christ Church, bringing with him his young family, who figured largely in Dodgson’s life and, greatly influenced his writing career. Dodgson became close friends with Liddell’s wife, Lorina, and their children, particularly the three sisters: Lorina, Edith and Alice Liddell. He was for many years widely assumed to have derived his own “Alice” from Alice Liddell although Dodgson himself repeatedly denied this and frequently dedicated his works to girls of his acquaintance, adding their names in acrostic poems at the beginning of the text. Gertrude Chataway’s name appears in this form at the beginning of The Hunting of the Snark however it is not suggested that any of the characters are based on her.

Carroll’s friendship with the Liddell family was an important part of his life in the late 1850s and he took the children on rowing trips accompanied by an adult friend.to nearby Nuneham Courtenay or Godstow.it was on one such expedition, on 4 July 1862, that Dodgson invented the outline for Alice in Wonderland after Alice Liddell persuaded him to write it down, Dodgson presented her with a handwritten, illustrated manuscript entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground in November 1864 Before this, the family of friend and mentor George MacDonald read Dodgson’s incomplete manuscript, and the enthusiasm of the MacDonald children encouraged Dodgson to seek publication. In 1863, he had taken the unfinished manuscript to Macmillan the publisher, who liked it immediately. After the possible alternative titles Alice Among the Fairies and Alice’s Golden Hour were rejected, the work was finally published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 under the Lewis Carroll pen-name, which Dodgson had first used some nine years earlier. The illustrations this time were by Sir John Tenniel; Dodgson evidently thought that a published book would need the skills of a professional artist.

The overwhelming commercial success of the first Alice book changed Dodgson’s life in many ways. The fame of his alter ego “Lewis Carroll” soon spread around the world. He was inundated with fan mail and Queen Victoria herself enjoyed Alice In Wonderland so much that she suggested he dedicate his next book to her, and was accordingly presented with his next work, a scholarly mathematical volume entitled An Elementary Treatise on Determinants. He also continued to work at Christ Church. In 1871, he published a sequel – Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. This was somewhat darker refelcting changes in Dodgson’s life. His father had recently died (1868). In 1876, Dodgson produced his last great work, The Hunting of the Snark, a fantastical “nonsense” poem, exploring the adventures of a bizarre crew of tradesmen, and one beaver, who set off to find a rare creature. The painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti reputedly became convinced the poem was about him. In 1895, Carroll published a two-volume tale of two fairy siblings which is set in two alternate worlds, one the fairytale kingdom of Elfland, the other a realm called Outland, which satirizes English society, and more specifically, the world of academia.

In 1856, Dodgson took up photography, under the influence of his uncleSkeffington Lutwidge, and his Oxford friend Reginald Southey. He became a well-known gentleman-photographer and made many studies of men, women, male children, landscapes, skeletons, dolls, dogs, statues, paintings, and trees. His pictures of children were taken with a parent in attendance and many of the pictures were taken in the Liddell garden, because natural sunlight was required for good exposures. He Photographed many famous people including John Everett Millais, Ellen Terry, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Julia Margaret Cameron, Michael Faraday, Lord Salisbury, andAlfred, Lord Tennyson. Between 1856 and 1880 he completely mastered the medium, set up his own studio on the roof of Tom Quad, and created around 3,000 images. However Fewer than 1,000 have survived time and deliberate destruction. He reported that he stopped taking photographs because keeping his studio working was difficult and time consuming (he used the wet collodion process) whereas commercial photographers used the less time consuming dry-plate process.

Dodgson also worked in mathematics, in the fields of geometry, linear and matrix algebra,mathematical logic and recreational mathematics, producing nearly a dozen books under his real name. Dodgson also developed new ideas in linear algebra (e.g. the first printed proof of the Kronecker-Capelli theorem),probability, and the study of elections (e.g.,Dodgson’s method) and committees; some of this work was not published until well after his death. He worked as the Mathematical Lecturer at Christ Church, an occupation that gave him some financial security. His mathematical work attracted renewed interest in the late 20th century. Martin Gardner’s book on logic machines and diagrams, and William Warren Bartley’s posthumous publication of the second part of Carroll’s symbolic logic book have sparked a reevaluation of Carroll’s contributions to symbolic logic. Robbins’ and Rumsey’s investigation of Dodgson condensation, a method of evaluating determinants, led them to the Alternating Sign Matrix conjecture, now a theorem. The discovery in the 1990s of additional ciphers that Carroll had constructed, in addition to his “Memoria Technica”, showed that he had employed sophisticated mathematical ideas to their creation

Dodgson invented many things including the Wonderland Postage-Stamp Case in 1889 – a folder with twelve slots, two for penny stamps, and one each for the other current denominations to one shilling. The folder was then put into a slip case decorated with a picture of Alice on the front and the Cheshire Cat on the back. All could be conveniently carried in a pocket or purse. It also included a copy of Carroll’s lecture, Eight or Nine Wise Words About Letter-Writing. Another invention is a writing tablet called the nyctograph to enable note-taking in the dark if one wakes with an idea. He also divised a number of word games, including an early version of what today is known as Scrabble. He also popularised, the “doublet” a form of brain-teaser which involves changing one word into another by altering one letter at a time, each successive change always resulting in a genuine word. For instance, CAT is transformed into DOG by the following steps: CAT, COT, DOT, DOG. Other items include a rule for finding the day of the week for any date; a means for justifying right margins on a typewriter; a steering device for a velociam (a type of tricycle); new systems of parliamentary representation; better elimination rules for tennis tournaments; a new sort of postal money order; rules for reckoning postage; rules for a win in betting; rules for dividing a number by various divisors; a cardboard scale for the college common room which ensured the right amount of liqueur for the price paid; a double-sided adhesive strip for things like the fastening of envelopes or mounting things in books; a device for helping a bedridden invalid to read from a book placed sideways; and at least two ciphers for cryptography.

He continued to teach at Christ Church until 1881, where he remained resident until his death. The two volumes of his last novel, Sylvie and Bruno, were published in 1889 and 1893, but the intricacy of this work was lost on contemporary readers; it achieved nothing like the success of the Alice books, with disappointing reviews and sales of only 13,000 copies. In 1867 Carroll travelled to Russia as an ecclesiastical together with the Reverend Henry Liddon. He recounts the travel in his “Russian Journal”. On his way to Russia and back he also saw different cities in Belgium, Germany, Poland, and France. He died on 14 January 1898 two weeks prior to his sixty-sixth birthday at his sisters’ home, “The Chestnuts” in Guildford, of pneumonia following influenza. He is buried in Guildford at the Mount Cemetery.


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