Author of the Month

July 2021 – Lewis Carroll

Early Life of the Author

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson – We know him by his pen name, Lewis Carroll. He was an author of children’s literature and poetry as well as a mathematician, inventor and photographer. Born into a conservative Anglican family. A great deal of the male ancestors in the family became clergy of the Church of England, his great-grandfather, Charles Dodgson, consequently rising to the rank of Bishop of Elphin in rural Ireland (Wikipedia).

Dodgson’s father married his first cousin Frances Jane Lutwidge (Dodgson’s mother) in 1830, following in the steps of his great-grandfather to become a clergyman as well. Although his father was a brilliant mathematician and won a double first degree, he became a country parson instead and later became the Archdeacon of Richmond (Wikipedia).

Dodgson was the eldest boy of eleven children (Biography). According to Wikipedia he demonstrated an advanced intellect and was reading The Pilgrim’s Progress by the age of seven. He spoke with a stutter, a speech disorder that often hindered his social life throughout his life. He referred to this disorder as his “hesitation”(Wikipedia). Once he matriculated in 1849, Dodgson followed in his father’s footsteps to attend Christ Church college.

He was exceptionally gifted in mathematics and therefore did well academically and won many academic prizes (Biography). In 1855, his skill in mathematics won him the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship, which he held for 26 years.

Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll (Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) © National Portrait Gallery, London

Start Of Literary Career

Carroll had been writing poetry and short stories since a young age. Mostly he wrote for the family magazine, Mischmacsh, and later he sent these to other magazines. Mischmasch is known for containing an early version of the poem Jabberwocky, which is ultimately included in Through the Looking-Glass (Wikipedia). Included in his early writings is a puppet play called La Guida di Bragia.


Did you know?

Lewis Carroll is a play on the name Charles Lutwidge.

How Charles Lutwidge Dodgson got his pen name Lewis Carroll:

The pseudonym was chosen by Carroll’s editor from a list of four he submitted (Wikipedia)

While Carroll was lecturing at Christ Church, Dean Henry George Liddell arrived with his family. His daughter, Alice is widely identified as the inspiration and influence behind his successful work, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Though Lewis has repeatedly denied in later life that his “little heroine” was based on any real child, much superficial references have been found in his books (Wikipedia).

Carroll loved entertaining children and it was while rowing with Alice and her sisters that Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was formulated (British Library). The book was published in 1865. And because of the popularity gained from this, he wrote the sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871) (Biography).


Artistic & Other Works

Lewis was not only a writer of novels but wrote poetry as well. His poems were classified under the genre of literary nonsense. This genre is charaterized by elements that make sense with some that do not, which has the effect of unsettling language conventions or logic (Wikipedia).

The effect of nonsense is often caused by an excess of meaning, rather than a lack of it. Its humor is derived from its nonsensical nature, rather than wit or the “joke” of a punchline.

(Wikipedia)

An excerpt from one of Carroll’s nonsense poems:

The Walrus and the Carpenter

The way the ending pans out, it makes me wonder if this is an allegory to some event in Carroll’s era…suppose I’ll have to do some research…

Other poetry works include the following:

Did you know?

Carroll coined the word “chortle” when it was used in his nonsense poem, Jabberwocky.

The definition of chortle taken from Vocabulary, is as follows:

A chortle is a joyful, partly muffled laugh. If you have a toddler, you will recognize the sound of a delighted chortle, sort of louder and a bit more raucous than a giggle.

Vocabulary

His most notable work is that of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

Through the Looking-Glass
I believe that ideas of Carroll’s nonsense poems are presenting itself in this quote – as the effect of literary nonsense is the subdiversion of language conventions or logical reasoning. So he could literally choose any word, throw it into a sentence and choose what it should mean then.

Carroll was also an inventor. Among his inventions was an early version of what today is known as Scrabble, also a double-sided adhesive strip to fasten envelopes or mount things in books and a nyctograph – which is a writing tablet that allowed note-taking in the dark. This invention uses letter shapes which are similar to the Graffiti writing system on a Palm device. (Wikipedia).

His mathematical work centered around the fields of geometry, linear and matrix algebra, mathematical logic and recreational mathematics.


Later Years – Controversy -Death

Dodgson continued to lecture at Christ Church after the success of his Alice books. His later literature works did not receive the success that Alice did (Wikipedia).

There seems to be a lot of speculation as to whether Dodgson had inappropriate relationships with Alice Liddell and the other children he became friends with.

Much of this controversy springs from created ideas regarding his sexuality and sexual preferences. Dodgson’s photography also brought about disputes regarding close connections with children. Of the many photographs he took of children, quite a substantial number of them were of girls depicted nude or semi-nude (Smithsonian Magazine). It is important to note though that during Dodgson’s time, which was the Victorian era, they (Victorians) saw childhood as a state of grace; even nude photographs of children were considered pictures of innocence itself (Smithsonian Magazine).

I won’t go into much detail about this issue because I’d only be making assumptions, for further reading about this matter an article I found on the Smithsonian Magazine website offered a few perspectives.

Dodgson’s health severely started declining in 1880. Carroll caught a terrible case of influenza which subsequently developed into pneumonia. He died soon before his 66th birthday on January 14 1898 (Biography).


Works Cited List

“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. Simon & Schuster. 2021 Simon & Schuster, Inc. 30 June 2021 Accessed. Https://Www.simonandschuster.com/Books/Alices-Adventures-in-Wonderland/Lewis-Carroll/Aladdin-Classics/9780689847431.
Rodil, Risa. “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”. Behance.  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. 25 November 2016 Published. 30 June 2021 Accessed. https://www.behance.net/gallery/45662211/Alices-Adventures-in-Wonderland-Book-Cover
Woolf, Jenny. “Lewis Carroll’s Shifting Reputation”. Smithsonian Magazine. April 2010 Published. 30 June 2021 Accessed. https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/lewis-carrolls-shifting-reputation-9432378/ 
Lewis Carroll. Biography. A&E Television Networks, LLC. 27 April 2017 Published. 30 June 2021 Accessed. https://www.biography.com/writer/lewis-carroll
Lewis Carroll. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 28 June 2021 Published. 30 June 2021 Accessed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis_Carroll#Background_and_early_life.
Literary nonsense. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 26 March 2021 Published. 30 June 2021 Accessed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Literary_nonsense
“The Hunting of the Snark, Lewis Carroll”. Pan Macmillan South Africa. 30 June 2021 Accessed. https://www.panmacmillan.co.za/authors/lewis-carroll/the-hunting-of-the-snark/9781529006957
“Jabberwocky and Other Poems by Lewis Carroll. Goodreads. Goodreads, Inc. 30 June 2021 Accessed. https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/143466.Jabberwocky_and_Other_Poems
“chortle”. Vocabulary. Vocabulary.com, Inc, a division of IXL Learning. 30 June 2021 Accessed. https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/chortle
Tearle, Oliver. Interesting Literature. 30 June 2021 Accessed. https://interestingliterature.com/2021/03/best-lewis-carroll-books-works-stories/
“Lewis Carroll”. The British Library. 30 June 2021 Accessed. https://www.bl.uk/people/lewis-carroll
AN ANNOTATED INTERNATIONAL BIBLIOGRAPHY OF LEWIS CARROLL’S SYLVIE AND BRUNO BOOKS. Oak Knoll. Bibliopolis. 30 June 2021. https://www.oakknoll.com/pages/books/94203/byron-sewell-clare-imholtz/annotated-international-bibliography-of-lewis-carrolls-sylvie-and-bruno-books-an

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