Lewis Carroll

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Introduction

(Nineteenth-Century Literary Criticism)

Lewis Carroll 1832-1898

(Born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) English novelist, poet, satirist, and mathematician. See also Lewis Carroll Poetry Criticism and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There Criticism.

Dodgson produced several essays on mathematics and symbolic logic as an Oxford lecturer in mathematics, but it was under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll that he published his most famous works, the fantasy novels Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1872). Originally intended for the amusement of children, the Alice stories, as well as Carroll's highly imaginative poetry, have been subjected to intense scrutiny and widely varying interpretations by scholars around the world since their publication.

Biographical Information

The third child and the eldest son of eleven children, Carroll was born in the parsonage in Daresbury, Cheshire on January 27, 1832. In 1843, his father, a country clergyman, accepted a more lucrative position in Croft, Yorkshire, a post that also provided a larger parsonage for the family of thirteen. Carroll's childhood was apparently a happy one, and he spent hours entertaining and caring for his many siblings, particularly his sisters. He began writing at an early age, producing poems and stories for the amusement of his siblings as well as a series of illustrated magazines for his family. Carroll's formal education began at the Richmond Grammar School, where he spent a year and a half; this was followed by three years at Rugby, after which he attended Christ Church, Oxford, where he took a first in mathematics, earned a bachelor's and a master's degree, and remained for the rest of his life, first as a lecturer in mathematics and later as curator of the Senior Common Room. He produced a number of scholarly works on mathematics and symbolic logic and tutored countless students, including young women denied admission to the all-male university, in both subjects. In 1861, he became a deacon in the Church of England but decided not to take holy orders. After the death of his father in 1868, Carroll assumed responsibility for his unmarried sisters, establishing a home for them in Guildford in Surrey.

Carroll never married and had no children of his own, but he was devoted to a succession of little girls he had befriended. The most famous of these was Alice Liddell, the daughter of the Dean of Christ Church, who provided the model for the fictional Alice and for whom Carroll wrote Alice's Adventures Under Ground, which he illustrated himself and never published, presenting it instead as a gift to Alice Liddell. It provided the basis for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. Both works were published under the name Lewis Carroll, a pseudonym Carroll adopted in 1856. He published all of his poetry and fiction under that name, although he continued to produce scholarly texts under his own name. At the same time, he became fascinated with the emerging field of photography and earned a considerable reputation as one of the first art photographers and the nineteenth-century's most celebrated photographer of children. Carroll died at the age of sixty-five in Guildford.

Major Works

Carroll's best-known works, all produced under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll, were his fantasy novels, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Famously innovative for their unconventional use of language, the stories were also among the first non-didactic, non-moralizing texts aimed at children. Carroll's nonsense verse, most notably The Hunting of the Snark (1876) and “Jabberwocky” (from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) are usually considered related to his prose works by virtue of the similarity of language. His serious verse, published in several collections, is considered uninspired and is largely forgotten today. The later novels Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893) were his only fictional works aimed at...

(The entire section is 141,393 words.)