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    Lewis Carroll

    English author, mathematician, and photographer
    17 Favorites on Read Print


    Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (January 27, 1832 – January 14, 1898), better known by the pen name Lewis Carroll, was an English author, mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon and photographer. His most famous writings are Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass as well as the poems "The Hunting of the Snark" and "Jabberwocky," all considered to be within the genre of literary nonsense. His facility at word play, logic, and fantasy has delighted audiences ranging from children to the literary elite, and beyond this his work has become deeply embedded in modern culture, directly influencing many artists. More ...

    Books by Lewis Carroll

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    Quotes by Lewis Carroll

    • Everything has got a moral if you can only find it.
    • If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there.
    • It's a poor sort of memory that only works backward.
    • 'But I don't want to go among mad people,' Alice remarked. 'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.'
      Alice in Wonderland
    • Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
      Alice in Wonderland
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    Biography of Lewis Carroll

    Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) was born at Daresbury in Chesire into a wealthy family. He attended a Yorkshire grammar school and Rugby. At Christ Church, Oxford, he studied mathematics and worked from 1855 to 1881 as a lecturer (tutor). Carroll's career in education was troubled by a bad stammer. He lectured and taught with difficulty and he also preached only occasionally after his ordination in 1861. According to stories, Carroll was shy and he even hid his hands continually within a pair of gray-and-black gloves. Carroll also wrote humorous verse, such as The Hunting of the Snark and mathematical works. And he was a rather exceptional student of Aristotelian logic.

    In spite of his stammer, Carroll spoke easily with children, whom he often photographed. He had seven sisters and his attraction to young girls was perhaps more innocent than has been imagined - he also had long friendships with mature women. This side of his life has remained little examined. However, Karoline Leach has criticized in her book In the Shadow of the Dreamchild (1999) the Freudian mythology and the "strange incestuous kind of immortality" created around the author and the real-life Alice.

    During one picnic - on July 4, 1862 - Carroll started to tell a long story to Alice Liddell (died in 1934), who was the daughter of Henry George Liddell, the head of his Oxford college. The Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was born from these tales. The friendship with the Liddell family ended abruptly in June 1863, two years before Wonderland was published, and Carroll turned his attention to other young friends. Originally the book appeared under the title Alice's Adventures Under Ground. The story centers on the seven-year-old Alice, who falls asleep in a meadow, and dreams that she plunges down a rabbit hole. She finds herself first too large and then too small. She meets such strange characters as Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter, the March Hare, and the King and Queen of Hearts, and experiences wondrous, often bizarre adventures, trying to reason in numerous discussions that do not follow the usual paths of logic. Finally she totally rejects the dream world and wakes up.

    The sequel Through the Looking Class, appeared in 1871. It is perhaps more often quoted than the first, featuring the poems Jabberwocky and The Walrus and the Carpenter. The artist John Tenniel refused to illustrate one chapter in Through the Looking Class because he thought that it was ridiculous. The chapter was published later in 1872 as The Wasp in a Wig. Carroll himself always wished to be an artist and as a boy he illustrated all the manuscript magazines, which he made for his younger brothers and sisters. Carroll's original drawings for Alice's Adventures Underground were published in 1961.

    The author's life and work has become a constant area for speculation and his exploring of the boundaries of sense and nonsense has inspired a number of psychological studies and novels - and perhaps also the famous English philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. The humor of Joseph Heller's famous war novel Catch-22 (1961) is much in debt to Lewis. In Catch-22 the story centers on the USAF regulation, which suggests that willingness to fly dangerous combat missions must be considered insane, but if the airmen seek to be relieved on grounds of mental reasons, the request proves their sanity. The same laws dominate the Wonderland: "'Oh, you can't help that,' said the Cat: 'we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad.' 'How do you know I'm mad?' said Alice. 'You must be,' said the Cat, 'or you wouldn't have come here.'"

    According to Carl Jung, "a typical infantile motif is the dream of growing infinitely small or infinitely big, or being transformed from one to the other - as you find, for instance, in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland." (in Man and His Symbols, 1964) Modern physicist have often compared the world of Lewis Carroll with the incredible phenomena of quantum reality - such as cats that are both alive and dead at the same time ('SchrA¶dinger's cat') or with particles that change their identities for no apparent reason. They are against Alice's common sense: 'I can't believe that!' said Alice. '... one can't believe impossible things. But the White Queen has her own principles: "Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.' (from Through the Looking Glass)

    "The time has come," the Walrus said,
    "To talk of many things:
    Of shoes - and ships - and sealing wax -
    Of cabbages - and kings -
    And why the sea is boiling hot -
    And whether pigs have wings."

    (from 'The Walrus and the Carpenter')

    At the time of their publication, Alice's adventures were considered children's literature, but now his stories are generally viewed in a different light. Carroll's work has fascinated such critics as Edmund Wilson and W.H. Auden, and logicians and scientist such as Alfred North Whitehead and Bertrand Russell. Virginia Woolf remarked, "the two Alices are not books for children; they are the only books in which we become children". In the 1960s hippies were attracted to their surrealistic world, and Carroll's characters gave inspiration to such songs as Jefferson Airplane's 'White Rabbit' and The Beatles's 'I am a Walrus'. Fredric Brown used Carroll's characters and lyrics in his novel Night of the Jabberwock (1950). In the 1990s Jeff Noon continued Alice's adventures in Automated Alice, in which she is transported to the modern world.

    We hope you enjoyed reading this Lewis Carroll biography. If you think we left out some details about Carroll's life, email us!
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