Lewis Carroll

Carroll, Lewis, pseud. of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1832–98, English writer, mathematician, and amateur photographer, b. near Daresbury, Cheshire (now in Halton). Educated at Christ Church College, Oxford, he was nominated to a studentship (life fellowship) in 1852, and he remained at Oxford for the rest of his life. Although his fellowship was clerical, Carroll never proceeded higher than his ordination as a deacon in 1861. Shy and afflicted with a stammer, he felt himself unsuited to the demanding life of a minister. He did, however, lecture in mathematics at Christ Church from 1855 until 1881. Among his mathematical works, now almost forgotten, is Euclid and His Modern Rivals (1879).

Carroll is chiefly remembered as the author of the famous children's books Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass (1872), both published under his pseudonym and both illustrated by Sir John Tenniel. He developed these stories from tales he told to the children of H. G. Liddell, the dean of Christ Church College, one of whom was named Alice. Many of his characters—the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, the White Rabbit, the Red Queen, and the White Queen—have become familiar figures in literature and conversation. Although numerous satiric and symbolic meanings have been read into Alice's adventures, the works can be read and valued as simple exercises in fantasy. Carroll himself said that in the books he meant only nonsense. He also wrote humorous verses, the most popular of them being The Hunting of the Snark (1876). His later stories for children, Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893), though containing interesting experiments in construction, are widely regarded as failures.

Carroll remained a bachelor all his life. Partly because of his stammer he found association with adults difficult and was most at ease in the company of children, especially little girls, with whom he was clearly obsessed. Early in 1856 he took up photography as a hobby; his photographs of children are still considered remarkable.

Bibliography

See his complete works (ed. by A. Woolcott, 1939) and many recent editions; M. Gardner, ed., The Annotated Alice (1960, repr. 1970); S. Collingwood, Life and Letters (1898, repr. 1968); E. Wakeling, Lewis Carroll, Photographer (2002); biography by M. N. Cohen (1995), mathematical biography by R. Wilson (2008); studies by B. Clark (1988), R. Kelly (1990), and J. Wullschläger (1995); critical essays ed. by H. Bloom (1987).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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