Today is the birthday of children’s author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson or Lewis Carroll as he is better known by his pen name. Lewis Carroll was born January 27, 1832 Daresbury Cheshire England – January 14, 1898.
As well as being an author, Carroll was also a poet, mathematician, (he was a mathematical lecturer at Oxford University) photographer and an Anglican Deacon.
One wonders how he found time for his creative writing, but I’m so glad he did, as Alice in Wonderland and Alice Adventures Through the Looking Glass are among my favorite books – still. At the time the books were viewed as children’s literature. They are now looked upon in a different light and have long fascinated authors and musicians.
Dodgson was familiar with the Pre Raphaelites and moved in their circle. Dante Gabriel Rossetti being one of his close friends. Carroll was a keen photographer and photographed many subjects including Rossetti and John Everett Millais and the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson.
A childhood illness left him deaf in one ear and he suffered from a slight stammer. But he was very comfortable at singing and story telling and wrote poetry from an early age, from which he enjoyed modest success.
He first used his pen name Lewis Carroll when he published a romantic poem called ‘Solitude’ which appeared in ‘The Train’ 1856. He came up with this pseudonym in his own original way by taking Ludovicus – Latin for Lutwidge(of which Lewis was an anglicised form) and Carroll which is an Irish surname very similar to Carolus (which Charles is derived from).
His most famous books are Alice in Wonderland and Alice Adventures Through the Looking Glass and. Alice Liddell and her family were friends of the Dodgson’s. Carroll took Alice and her two sisters on a river trip up the Thames in 1862: Alice’s Adventures was first told by Carroll to the girls on this trip. Alice asked him to write the story down, which he did, calling it ‘Alice’s Adventures Underground‘ He gave the manuscript to Alice as an early Christmas present in 1864. He published the story, on friend’s advice . Carroll rewrote the tale, adding the Mad Hatter Tea Party and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was first published in July 1865. John Tenniel illustrated it.
Through the Looking Glass was published in 1871 and at the end of the tale is a poem which spells out Alice’s name. Many films have been made about the Alice stories – the latest one 2010 by Tim Burton starring Johnny Depp.
Life is but a Dream by Lewis Carroll
Lingering onward dreamily
In an evening of July
Children three that nestle near,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Pleased a simple tale to hear
Long has paled that sunny sky;
Echoes fade and memories die;
Autumn frosts have slain July.
Still she haunts me, phantomwise,
Alice moving under skies
Never seen by waking eyes.
Children yet, the tale to hear,
Eager eye and willing ear,
Lovingly shall nestle near.
In a Wonderland they lie,
Dreaming as the days go by,
Dreaming as the summers die;
Ever drifting down the stream
Lingering in the golden gleam
Life, what is it but a dream?
Lewis Carroll image from here
Acrostic poem from here
Thanks to the Victorian Web for Tenniel images
and last but not least – a Big Thanks to AdPaylor for the wonderful Jabberwocky video!