Carroll, Lewis

views updated May 23 2018

Lewis Carroll

BORN: 1832, Daresbury, Cheshire, England

DIED: 1898, Guildford, Surrey, England


GENRE: Fiction, poetry, nonfiction

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1872)
The Hunting of the Snark (1876)
Sylvie and Bruno (1889)


Few writers of fantasy have managed to permeate their own cultures as did Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a mathematician and amateur photographer who wrote children's books under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll. Like other memorable characters who have taken on lives beyond their fictional sources, such Carroll creations as the Mad Hatter, the Red Queen, and the Cheshire Cat are known even to those who have never read his work. Among those with an enduring love of Carroll's work was Walt Disney, whose 1951 animated adaptation of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland has been perhaps even more successful at sharing Carroll's unique ideas with modern audiences than the author's own books.

Works in Biographical and Historical Context

An Excellent but Unhappy Student The man known best as Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson on January 27, 1832, in Daresbury, Cheshire, the oldest son of the Reverend Charles Dodgson and Frances Jane Lutwidge Dodgson. He was the third of eleven children, and his ability to entertain children likely began with his younger siblings, for whom he invented games. In his early childhood Dodgson was educated at home. His father became rector at another parish in 1843, prompting the family's move to Croft in Yorkshire. The following year Dodgson began attending Richmond Grammar School, and in 1846 he started studies at Rugby. He was a good student but was unhappy in the public school environment. In 1850, the year of his mother's death, he entered Christ Church, Oxford University, where he earned first-class honors in mathematics and second-class honors in classics before graduating in 1854. In the middle of his college studies he had been granted a Studentship, a research internship; it would provide a lifelong living, but to keep it Dodgson was required to take holy orders and remain celibate—neither of which he apparently found difficult.

Entrance into Academia and Religious Life In 1855 Dodgson was appointed a fellow at Christ Church and began lecturing on mathematics, the start of a long and fairly uneventful academic life. He completed his master's degree in 1857, and in 1861 he was ordained a deacon of the Church of England, making him officially the Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. His stammer may have determined his decision not to follow his father into the next step; there were likely other personal reasons as well, such as his love of the theater. Still, occasionally Dodgson was called upon to officiate at religious ceremonies such as baptisms and funerals.

A Lifelong Bachelor A lifelong bachelor, Dodgson devoted his time not spent in academic pursuits to reading, writing, and taking photographs, a hobby he took up starting in 1856. He admired many contemporary writers of the day, including Alfred, Lord Tennyson and William Makepeace Thackeray, and he often persuaded writers to be photographed. Dodgson also befriended young girls in the Oxford community, frequently making them the subjects of his photographs. He was at ease with children, joking with them and entertaining them with stories, songs, puzzles, and games. The same could not be said for Dodgson as a lecturer: His students routinely found him clear and knowledgeable, but dry if not boring. Certainly the titles of his early mathematical publications give no indication of Dodgson's wit.

It is perhaps not surprising that Dodgson went on to create the Alice books during an era of invention and expansion. As the British Empire continued expanding under the rule of Queen Victoria, scientific inventions like the lightbulb, telephone, and automobile were making their way into the commercial markets.

The Alice Books The origins of Carroll's Alice books are well known. Dodgson was particularly interested in a girl named Alice Liddell, who was nine years old when he began telling her and her sisters a fantastic story during a boat trip and picnic with Robinson Duckworth, a canon, on July 4, 1862. The children begged him to write down the extemporaneous story, and this served as the basis for his two books about the fictional Alice. Dodgson completed the manuscript of his first novel, which he had titled Alice's Adventures Under Ground in 1864; at the urging of his friend George MacDonald's children, it was published the following year as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Though many others have illustrated the Alice books, the best-known illustrations are those by John Tenniel, which appeared in their original publications.

Meeting Queen Victoria Dodgson was a quiet, religious man, always somewhat embarrassed by his fame as Lewis Carroll (even to the point of returning any mail addressed to him under that name), but he had a rich sense of humor, as shown not only in his writings but also in a story related to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. After its publication he was invited to meet Queen Victoria, who exclaimed over the book and asked Dodgson to send her his next effort. This he dutifully did, and the queen received an inscribed copy of a book on mathematical determinants. Needless to say, she was not amused.

In 1869 Dodgson published another book as Lewis Carroll, Phantasmagoria and Other Poems. It was not as successful, though, as either Alice's Adventures in Wonderland or his next Lewis Carroll book, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, which, like Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was both incredibly popular and critically acclaimed. Another Carroll work, The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits, was published in 1876. Like the Alice books, it relies heavily on interesting characters and situations and on the use of nonsense. In this long comic poem, ten figures in search of adventure hunt for a beast called a Snark. The seeming silliness of it all is part of the appeal, as is Carroll's wit.

Lectureship Resignation Leaves More Time to Write In the 1880s Dodgson became increasingly more private. In 1880 he abandoned photography, and the following year, at age forty-nine, he resigned his lectureship in mathematics to devote himself to his studies and his writing. Although he supported his six unmarried sisters and helped to pay for relatives' education, he did not need much money himself (in fact, in 1880 he had requested that his salary be lowered since he was not teaching that much), and he apparently did not enjoy lecturing. However, he then accepted an appointment as curator of the Senior Common Room at Christ Church in 1882, a position he resigned ten years later.

Dodgson's other extended effort as Lewis Carroll appeared as two related books, Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893). Readers and critics generally find these works less appealing than the Alice books and The Hunting of the Snark, probably because they are more deliberately moralistic than Carroll's earlier fantasies. While the early books had avoided the Victorian tendency to use children's literature primarily to teach values, the Sylvie and Bruno books are hurt by this tendency. In these books he uses fantasy—here the elements of fairy romance—not for their own sake but for allegorical purposes.

Death and Publication of an Illustrated Manuscript Dodgson died on January 14, 1898, of a bronchial infection while visiting some of his sisters in Guildford, Surrey. That same year Alice Liddell Hargreaves, once the girl who inspired the Alice books and to whom Dodgson had given his illustrated manuscript “Alice's Adventures Under Ground” in 1864, had the manuscript auctioned for 15,400 pounds. At the time it was the highest price ever paid for a book in an auction in Britain.

Works in Literary Context

A clergyman, mathematician, and logician, Carroll is one of the foremost writers of fantasy in literary history. Carroll was encouraged to publish by his mentor George MacDonald, a Scottish author who also wrote fairy tales and fantasy novels. Prior to publishing, Carroll's social circle included a number of influential artists including John Ruskin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, William Holman Hunt, John Everett Millais, and Arthur Hughes. Lauded as a genius who fused his eccentric personal characteristics and opinions with a genuine love of children and childhood, he helped liberate juvenile literature from its history of didacticism and overt moralizing. The Alice books have a value beyond their appeal to children. They have also been interpreted as political satire and are highly esteemed as sophisticated treatises on mathematics and logic.

The Fantastic Several qualities of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass have contributed to their longevity. First is the books's success as fantasy: Through Carroll's prodigious imagination his fantastic worlds come to life, vibrantly filled as they are with bizarre places, people, and happenings, all seen through the experience of a girl who is sensible enough to find these things silly or scary but who is young enough to take pretty much everything in stride.

Linguistic Playfulness Supporting the fantasy is Carroll's playfulness with language. Second only to Edward Lear in the creation of nonsense words and verse, in his Alice books and elsewhere Carroll manages to incorporate many delightfully nonsensical words into his stories. This succeeds in large part because, as Humpty Dumpty points out to Alice in his explication of the poem “Jabberwocky,” the words do make sense in a sort of distorted logic. Carroll's frequently twisted games with logic in the books are yet another reason why readers, young and old, have enjoyed Carroll's tales about Alice for more than a century.

Alice Lives On Since their publication, elements from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There have made their way into popular culture and influenced works in a variety of artistic media. While so-called “Alice imitations” were most popular at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth centuries, works like Maeve Kelly's Alice in Thunderland (1993) and Alison Haben's Dreamhouse (1995) continue to be published.

Works in Critical Context

The Alice Books Lewis Carroll's masterpieces, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, have not only endured in their own right, but have also been adapted many times on stage and screen; they have been alluded to in countless literary works, movies, television shows, and songs; and they have inspired many other works of fantasy and science fiction, directly or indirectly. Critics have noted Carroll's playful exploration of the paradoxes of thought and language; poet W. H. Auden commented: “[In the Alice books], one of the most important and powerful characters is not a person but the English language. Alice, who had hitherto supposed that words were passive objects, discovers that they have a life and will of their own. When she tries to remember poems she has learned, new lines come into her head unbidden and, when she thinks she knows what a word means, it turns out to mean something else.”


Carroll's famous contemporaries include:

Sully Prudhomme (1839–1907): Winner of the first Nobel Prize in Literature in 1901, this French poet and essayist is best-known for his idealism and ability to synthesize themes from both the sciences and the arts.

Edward Lear (1812–1888): British nonsense writer who made the limerick popular.

William Butler Yeats (1865–1939): A key figure in the Irish Literary Revival and cofounder of the Abbey Theatre, this Irish dramatist and author remains one of the most significant literary figures of the twentieth century.

Queen Victoria (1819–1901): Queen of England for sixty-three years, a period known as the Victorian era, she was partly responsible for the success of the Industrial Revolution and is known for her role in the expansion of the British Empire.

George MacDonald (1824–1905): Scottish pastor and author of popular fairy tales, such as The Princess and the Goblin.

Rudyard Kipling (1865–1936): One of the most popular authors of his day, this English writer is highly regarded for his contributions to the short story and children's literature genres; for this Kipling was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1907.

Early reviews of the Alice books concentrated on Carroll's magnificent invention and his skill as a linguist, parodist, and literary stylist. After his death, critics analyzed the stories from many points of view—political, philosophical, metaphysical, and psychoanalytic—often evaluating the tales as products of Carroll's neuroses and as reactions to Victorian culture. Because of the nightmarish qualities of Alice's adventures and their violent, even sadistic, elements, a few commentators have suggested that the Alice books are inappropriate for children; as a result, the stories are not always enjoyed by the audience for whom they were apparently intended.

However, Carroll is consistently applauded as one of the world's foremost writers of nonsense, an author who successfully combined the logical with the illogical in two timeless novels that have fascinated children and adults alike.

Responses to Literature

  1. Read one of Carroll's “nonsense” poems such as “Jabberwocky” or The Hunting of the Snark. Why are they considered nonsensical? In what ways do they, as Carroll asserted, display their own sort of logic and pattern?
  2. How does Dodgson's knowledge of mathematics come into play in the Alice books? Find specific examples of logic or mathematical principles.
  3. One notable characteristic of Carroll's Alice books is their focus on the rules of acceptable behavior in confusing and nonsensical worlds. One notable example is the tea party with the Mad Hatter. Find additional examples of this theme in either book. How do you think this reflects the rules of the Victorian society in which Carroll lived? How might these works be seen as a parallel to a child's learning the rules of the adult world?
  4. Carroll first used his famous pen name on a poem written for adults and published in 1856. Why do you think Carroll used a pen name for many of his works? How does his pen name reflect his fondness for wordplay?


One of the most notable things in the Alice books is the hallucinatory quality of the characters and plot, due to Alice's dreaming. The use of dream sequences as a plot device is common in most surreal literature; here are a few other works that may—or may not—be based simply on a dream.

Finnegans Wake (1939), a novel by James Joyce. In this notoriously difficult novel, plots and characters often change for no reason, and the title character is usually either dead or dreaming.

The Wizard of Oz (1939), a film directed by Victor Fleming. In this classic based upon L. Frank Baum's Oz books, farm girl Dorothy gets swept up in a tornado and lands in a magical land—or is she really just asleep back in Kansas?

The Mad Hatter (1978), an album by Chick Corea. Based specifically on the Alice books, this jazz fusion album features songs titled after Alice's dream and often sounds dreamy and discordant.



Auden, W. H., “Lewis Carroll.” In Forewords and Afterwords, ed. Edward Mendelson. New York: Random House, 1973, pp. 283–93.

Blake, Kathleen, Play, Games, and Sport: The Literary Works of Lewis Carroll. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1974.

Bloom, Harold, ed., Lewis Carroll: Modern Critical Views. New York and Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1987.

Cohen, Morton N., Lewis Carroll: A Biography. New York: Random House, 1995.

Green, Roger Lancelyn, Lewis Carroll. London: BodleyHead, 1960.

Jones, Jo Elwyn, and J. Francis Gladstone, The Red King's Dream. London: Jonathan Cape, 1995.

Lennon, Florence Becker, Victoria Through theLooking-Glass: The Life of Lewis Carroll. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1945.

Prickett, Stephen, “Consensus and Nonsense: Lear and Carroll.” In Victorian Fantasy. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1979, pp. 114–49.

Rackin, Donald, ed., Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: A Critical Handbook. Belmont, Calif.: Wadsworth, 1961.

Weis, Margaret, ed., Fantastic Alice. New York: Ace Books, 1995.

Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge

views updated May 29 2018


(b. Daresbury, Cheshire, England, 27 January 1832;

d. Guildford, Surrey, England, 14 January 1898), mathematics, logic, political science. For the original article on Dodgson see DSB, vol. 3.

Thanks to the increasing publication and reprinting of original material and criticism since the 1950s, Dodgson’s scientific work has become better known and more widely appreciated. In addition to his contributions as a teacher, popularizer, and puzzle-maker, these publications shed a new light on his social life and his original inventions in mathematics, political science, and logic.

Scientific Acquaintances . Since the 1950s, the progressive publication of new original material (diaries, letters, various manuscripts), the reprint of many of Dodgson’s mathematical writings, and the creation of active Carrollian societies have cast a new light on both the personality of Dodgson and his scientific achievements. This new evidence refutes the legend that he was a reclusive man who lived cloistered at Christ Church. He liked meeting the celebrities of the time (actors, scientists, royalty, poets, and painters) and took numerous photographs of them. He had many adult friends (both male and female), and more surprisingly a good deal of his so-called “child-friends” were in fact adult women. Dodgson also participated in many public debates that took place in both university and society settings, and wrote letters to journals and published pamphlets on matters as various as vaccination, teaching science at the university, child actors, and vivisection.

A look at both his published work and private writings shows that Dodgson was acquainted with the scientific players of his time and their achievements. He visited Charles Babbage, met Arthur Cayley, and corresponded with Henry J. S. Smith, Isaac Todhunter, John Venn, Charles Darwin, William Spottiswoode, Francis H. Bradley, and many others. The catalog of his private library shows that he owned the major works of his time in a wide range of scientific interests. Contrary to what Norman T. Gridgeman wrote in the original DSB entry, two purely nineteenth-century subjects (non-Euclidean geometry and symbolic logic) may illustrate Dodgson’s keeping abreast of the mathematical advances of the time in Britain, but like the majority of his contemporary British mathematicians, he ignored many advances made on the continent. For instance, Francine F. Abeles shows clearly that Dodgson knew the existence of the new non-Euclidean geometries, although he did not accept them (Abeles, 1994, p. 16). Dodgson owned copies of the main works on symbolic logic, which was a purely British subject at the time. In his Symbolic Logic, he referred to George Boole, Augustus de Morgan, William S. Jevons, John N. Keynes, Venn, and the members of Johns Hopkins University (the school of Charles Sanders Peirce). In his diaries, he mentioned Boole’s work on logic as early as 25 May 1876. But like his contemporary British colleagues he ignored the work of the German logician Gottlob Frege.

Scientific Achievements . Dodgson’s work is fully recognized in at least two areas of the mathematical sciences: the theory of determinants and the theory of voting. On the former, he invented a new rule for the evaluation of determinants by condensation in a paper that was first delivered to the Royal Society on 17 May 1866. On the latter, he published several pamphlets dealing with the issues of proportional representation, choice theory and elections, betting and rationality in tennis tournaments. Mathematicians and historians of mathematics evoke with respect Dodgson’s work in logic and geometry, but in the early 2000s there was an ongoing dispute about its importance.

As a geometer, Dodgson is essentially remembered for his defense of Euclid against the new teaching methods, which flourished at the time. Euclid’s rivals aimed to replace his Elements as a textbook for teaching geometry with other modern manuals. In Euclid and His Modern Rivals(first published in 1879 and then enlarged in 1885), Dodgson collected the main rival manuals, discussed them, and then claimed the superiority of Euclid’s

textbook. On this matter he shared the view of some of Britain’s leading mathematicians, including Cayley and de Morgan. Dodgson was, however, not completely against change: he introduced some minor modifications to Euclid in his numerous textbooks on geometry. More interesting is his New Theory of Parallels (1888), where he presented a new Euclidean parallels axiom.

Although he is generally considered a traditionalist logician merely concerned with recreational issues, Dodgson’s writings on logic contain many original inventions that reveal a high understanding of the logical advances of his time. Dodgson signed with his pseudonym (Lewis Carroll) his two books on the subject: The Game of Logic(1886) and Symbolic Logic, Part 1 (1896). These works present his new diagrammatic scheme for the representation of logical classes and propositions, which despite its numerous advantages in comparison to Venn diagrams, has been seldom used since. In 1977, William W. Bartley III published large fragments from the lost second part of Dodgson’s Symbolic Logic, which notably included an original method for solving elimination problems with the use of logical trees. More influential are Dodgson’s two contributions to the philosophical journal Mind: “A Logical Paradox” (1894) and particularly “What the Tortoise Said to Achilles” (1895). These two problems, dealing with hypotheticals, have been widely reprinted; they were commented on and discussed by leading logicians of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, including Venn, Hugh McColl, Bertrand Russell, Gilbert Ryle, and Willard V. Quine.

There are some other mathematical areas where Dodgson made contributions worth noting: his Pillow Problems (1893) included twelve interesting probability problems together with a thirteenth, controversial joke-problem in “transcendental probabilities.” He also invented five cipher systems, and published numerous arithmetic methods and problems in the Educational Times and the journal Nature. Better known are Dodgson’s contributions to recreational mathematics. His popular books and pamphlets; his numerous contributions to newspapers and journals; his private diaries, letters, and manuscripts; and even his literary works contain a rich collection of games, mathematical puzzles, and word plays. In the 1890s Dodgson planned to publish a book of original games and puzzles, but he never finished it. However, many posthumous compilations appeared and give a good idea of the richness of his work. Dodgson’s fictional works have also been widely quoted, and their main characters (Alice, the Cheshire cat, the Red Queen, the Snark, Humpty Dumpty, Tweedledee and Tweedledum) became recurrent symbols in scientific literature.



Abeles, Francine F., ed. The Mathematical Pamphlets of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Related Pieces. New York: Lewis Carroll Society of North America, 1994.

———. The Political Pamphlets and Letters of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson and Related Pieces: A Mathematical Approach. New York: Lewis Carroll Society of North America, 2001.

Bartley, William Warren, III, ed. Lewis Carroll’s Symbolic Logic. New York: Potter, 1986. A commented edition of the first and (presumed lost) second parts of Dodgson’s Symbolic Logic.

Cohen, Morton N., and Roger Lancelyn Green, eds. The Letters of Lewis Carroll. 2 vols. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979. A voluminous collection that however contains little in the way of letters of scientific content.

Dodgson, Charles L., ed. Euclid. Books I, II. London: Macmillan, 1882.

———. Euclid and His Modern Rivals. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1885. Reprinted by Dover in 1973 and 2004.

———. Curiosa Mathematica. Part I: A New Theory of Parallels. 3rd ed. London: Macmillan, 1890.

Gardner, Martin, ed. The Annotated Alice: The Definitive Edition. New York: Norton, 2000. A good annotated edition of Dodgson’s Alice tales, including “The Wasp in a Wig,” a suppressed episode discovered in 1974.

Lovett, Charles C. Lewis Carroll and the Press. New Castle, DE: Oak Knoll Press, 1999. A descriptive bibliography of Dodgson’s contributions to periodicals.

———. Lewis Carroll among His Books: A Descriptive Catalogue of the Private Library of Charles L. Dodgson. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2005.

Wakeling, Edward, ed. Lewis Carroll’s Diaries: The Private Journals of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. 9 vols. Luton, U.K.: The Lewis Carroll Society, 1993–2005. The complete version of Dodgson’s surviving diaries. Richly annotated.

———, ed. The Oxford Pamphlets, Leaflets, and Circulars of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. Charlottesville, VA: Lewis Carroll Society of North America, 1993.

Williams, Sidney Herbert, Falconer Madan, Roger Lancelyn Green, et al. The Lewis Carroll Handbook. Folkestone, Kent, U.K.: Dawson, 1979. The standard (but incomplete) bibliography of Dodgson’s works. To be used with caution.


Abeles, Francine F. “Determinants and Linear Systems: Charles L. Dodgson’s View.” The British Journal for the History of Science 19 (November 1986): 331–335.

———. “Lewis Carroll’s Formal Logic.” History and Philosophy of Logic 26 (February 2005): 33–46.

———. “Lewis Carroll’s Ciphers: The Literary Connections.” Advances in Applied Mathematics 34 (May 2005): 697–708. See the Erratum in Advances in Applied Mathematics 37 (July 2006): 1. The best overview to date of Dodgson’s work in cryptology.

———. “Lewis Carroll’s Visual Logic.” History and Philosophy of Logic28 (February 2007): 1–17.

Bartley, William Warren, III. “Lewis Carroll’s Lost Book on Logic.” Scientific American 227 (July 1972): 39–46.

Cohen, Morton N. Lewis Carroll: A Biography. New York: Knopf, 1995. The best biography to date.

Englebresten, George. “Two Important Logical Insights by Lewis Carroll.” In Reflections on Lewis Carroll, edited by Fernando J. Soto and Dayna McCausland. The Lewis Carroll Society of Canada, 2000.

Gardner, Martin. The Universe in a Handkerchief: Lewis Carroll’s Mathematical Recreations, Games, Puzzles, and Word Plays. New York: Copernicus, 1996. A good overview of Dodgson’s recreational work.

Jabberwocky. The journal of the Lewis Carroll Society since 1969. It became The Carrollian in 1998. Available from

Knight Letter. The magazine of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America since 1974. Available from

Leach, Karoline. In the Shadow of the Dreamchild: A New Understanding of Lewis Carroll. London: Peter Owen, 1999. A very controversial book with a brilliant discussion of the Carroll myth and a much disputed new assessment of his personal and social life.

McLean, Iain, Alistair McMillan, and Burt L Monroe, eds. A Mathematical Approach to Proportional Representation: Duncan Black on Lewis Carroll. Boston: Kluwer, 1996.

Moktefi, Amirouche. “How Did Lewis Carroll Become a Logician?” Proceedings of the Canadian Society for the History and Philosophy of Mathematics 18 (2005): 136–144.

Seneta, Eugene. “Lewis Carroll as a Probabilist and Mathematician.” The Mathematical Scientist 9 (1984): 79–94.

Wilson, Robin. “Alice in Numberland: An Informal Dramatic Presentation in 8 Fits.” The College Mathematics Journal33 (November 2002): 354–377. A good overview for the general reader.

Amirouche Moktefi

Carroll, Lewis (1832–1898)

views updated May 17 2018


Lewis Carroll is the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. The eldest son of a large clerical family, he was born at Daresbury, Cheshire, was educated at Rugby School, and entered Christ Church, Oxford, in 1850. On obtaining first-class honors in mathematics in 1854, he was appointed student and mathematical lecturer of the college, and remained on its foundation until his death. In many ways an archetype of the pernickety bachelor don, Dodgson had a wholly uneventful academic career. Hampered by a stammer, he shone neither as lecturer nor as preacher (he took deacon's orders in 1861). He embroiled himselfoften amusingly, although usually without effectin academic politics, was for a time curator of the college common room, and visited Russia in 1867. His leisure was spent in gallery-going and theatergoing; in photography, at which he was an expert; in the writing of light verse; and in the patronage of an interminable succession of small girls. The last peculiarity has endeared him to psychoanalytical biographers, who would seem, however, to have enriched the literature of nonsense on the subject more often than they have been able to explain it.

Dodgson the mathematician published a number of books and pamphlets, none of any lasting importance. The best known is Euclid and His Modern Rivals (London, 1879); the most useful, probably his edition of Euclid I & II (London, 1882); and the most original, his contributions to the mathematical theory of voting, to which attention was drawn by D. Black in his Theory of Committees (Cambridge, U.K., 1958). Dodgson's mathematical outlook was, in general, conservative and provincial, aiming no higher than the improvement of elementary teaching or routine calculation. His talent found greater scope in the construction of puzzles contained in A Tangled Tale (London, 1885) and Pillow Problems (London, 1893), which at times show depth as well as ingenuity. The same can be said of his dabblings in symbolic logic, which otherwise make little advance on the work of Augustus De Morgan and John Venn. His Game of Logic (London, 1887) and Symbolic Logic, Part I (London, 1893) present logic merely as a mental recreation devoted to the solution of syllogistic problems by means of a square diagram and colored counters. His logical output was completed by nine papers on elementary logic and by two short pieces in Mind (n.s., 3, 1894 and n.s., 4, 1895). His influence is to be seen mainly in the attempts of later logicians to imitate the elegant absurdity of his examples. Their failure merely emphasizes the rarity of his own peculiar gift.

Needless to say, that gift finds its happiest exercise in his writings for children. Alice in Wonderland (London, 1865), Through the Looking-Glass (London, 1871), and The Hunting of the Snark (London, 1876) and, to a lesser extent, the two parts of Sylvie and Bruno (London, 1889 and 1893), are the only works that keep his name aliveor deserve to do so. Apart from Pickwick, and perhaps Waverley, they seem also to be the only works of fiction generally known to philosophers, and have been constantly pillaged for quotations. All five are dream narratives or have episodes depicting dreams, whose aberrant logic is responsible for much of their philosophic interest and fun. Alice in Wonderland exploits the idea of sudden variations in the size of the heroine; its sequel, the conception of a world in which time, space, and causality are liable to operate in reverse. The charactersa bizarre medley of nursery and proverbial figures, animals (fabulous or otherwise), plants, playing cards, and chessmenare all much addicted to argument; and their humor, where it does not rely upon puns, is largely a matter of pursuing logical principles to the point of sophistry or absurdity. The frog, who supposes that an unanswered door must have been asking something, is a simple case in point. The King of Hearts and the White King, who both take "nobody" for a person, are victims of the same error and have often been cited as a warning to less venial, because less nonexistent, hypostatizers of the null class.

These books are further remarkable for their echoesand pre-echoesof philosophic controversy. Tweedledum and Tweedledee are Berkeleian metaphysicians, and the latter has notions of logic that bespeak the influence of Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz. Alice herself, on the road to their house, is a step ahead of Gottlob Frege in discovering the difference between Sinn and Bedeutung. Humpty Dumpty has been taken, on anatomical grounds, for a Hegelian; but his ascription of fixed meaning to proper names and denial of it to general terms, plus his confident philology and shaky mathematics, proclaim him beyond doubt an early, if eccentric, linguistic analyst. The White Knight's reactionary views on the mind-body question give no hint of the metalinguistic virtuosity he later displays in the announcement of his song. The distinctions there enunciated have been formalized by Ernest Nagel in "Haddocks' Eyes" (in J. R. Newman, The World of Mathematics, New York, 1956, Vol. III, pp. 18861890). They would not have troubled the Duchess, another adroit logician, although her primary interest is in morals. Her cat, on the other hand, although adept enough at defying the principle that an attribute must inhere in a substance, offers a regrettably invalid proof of its own madness, as does the pigeon of Alice's serpentinity. The Hatter, March Hare, and Dormouse are sounder reasoners; whatever their troubles with time, they know a fallacy of conversion when they see one, and it is no great wonder that Messrs. Bertrand Russell, George Edward Moore, and John McTaggart, who were supposed to resemble them, should have been known at one time as the "Mad Tea Party of Trinity."

Not even Nobody, in his senses, would venture to identify that other and more formidable trio, the Queen of Hearts and her chessboard cousins. The former's principle of government by decapitation scarcely ranks as a political theory; but the White Queen is respected by philosophers both for her abilities in believing the impossible and for her success in proving, for the special case of jam at least, that the future will resemble the past, if not the present. The Red Queen is no less celebrated, among physicists, for her anticipations of the theory of relativity. In this, however, she meets competition from the Bellman in the Snark, who has been acclaimed, on the strength of his map, as the first general relativist and is, in any case, the undisputed inventor of an interesting three-ply version of the semantic theory of truth (p. p. p "p" is true). Of his crew members, the Baker, with his lost identity and Heideggerian premonitions of impending Vernichtung, has been plausibly represented as a protoexistentialist; but the other protagonists still abide the conjecture of commentators, as do the quest and the quarry itself. The Snark has been taken for everything from the Tichborne inheritance to the North Pole, and from a business depression to the atom bomb. F. C. S. Schiller's interpretation of it in Mind! (1901, pp. 87101) as the Absolute is elaborately argued, and doubtless finds an echo in the Oxford Dictionary 's definition of the creature as a "chimerical animal of ill-defined characteristics and potentialities"; but its fondness for bathing machines is not really explained thereby, and the theory founders completely on the Bellman's explicit assertion, confirmed by the Baker's uncle, that Snarks are Many and not One. Nobody, it is true, has been more successful than Schiller on this point, and his views have been generally accepted; but the opinions of nonentities have no place in a grave work of learning such as the present, so neither use nor mention of them is appropriate here.

See also Berkeley, George; De Morgan, Augustus; Frege, Gottlob; Heidegger, Martin; Leibniz, Gottfried Wilhelm; Logic, History of; McTaggart, John McTaggart Ellis; Moore, George Edward; Nagel, Ernest; Russell, Bertrand Arthur William; Schiller, Ferdinand Canning Scott; Venn, John.


Apart from the standard Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll by his nephew, S. D. Collingwood (London: T.F. Unwin, 1899), the soberest accounts of Carroll's life are Derek Hudson, Lewis Carroll (London: Constable, 1954), and Roger Lancelyn Green, Story of Lewis Carroll (New York: Henry Schuman, 1950) and Lewis Carroll (London: Bodley Head, 1960).

The least incomplete version of Lewis Carroll's works is The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll (London and New York, 1939). The most philosophical editions are The Annotated Alice (New York: C.N. Potter, 1960) and The Annotated Snark (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962), edited by Martin Gardner.

The pioneer work of logical investigation in this field is P. E. B. Jourdain, The Philosophy of Mr B*rtr*nd R*ss*ll (Chicago: Open Court, 1918). Further light on the subject may be obtained, inter alia, from R. B. Braithwaite, "Lewis Carroll as Logician," in Mathematical Gazette 16 (1932): 174178; P. Alexander, "Logic and the Humour of Lewis Carroll," in Proceedings of the Leeds Philosophical and Literary Society 6, Part 8 (1951): 551566; and, despite some inaccuracies, from W. Weaver, "Lewis Carroll, Mathematician," in Scientific American 194 (4) (1956): 116128; and R. W. Holmes, "The Philosopher's Alice in Wonderland, " in Antioch Review 19 (2) (1959): 133149.

P. L. Heath (1967)

Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge

views updated Jun 11 2018

Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge

(b. Daresbury, Cheshire. England, 27 January 1832; d. Guildford. Surrey, England, 14 January 1898)

mathematics, logic.

Dodgson was the thirdborn of the eleven offspring of Charles Dodgson, a clergyman, and his wife and cousin, the former Frances Jane Lutwidge. All the children stuttered, and Charles Lutwidge himself is said to have spoken without impediment only to the countless nymphets whom, over decades of adulthood, he befriended, wrote wonderful letters to, entertained, and photographed (often nude) with considerable artistry. The obvious inference from this attraction to young girls seems invalid, for he was strongly undersexed. (Even in the Victorian milieu his puritanism was barely credible: for instance, he nursed a project to bowdlerize Bowdler’s Shakespeare, and he demanded assurance from one of his illustrators that none of the work would be done on Sundays.) He was never wholly at ease in the company of grown-ups. Friendship with the three small daughters of Dean Liddell resulted in the celebrated Alice books, published under a pseudonym that he had first used in 1856 as a writer of light verse—Lewis Carroll. Alice brought him fame, money, and the posthumous honor of becoming the most-quoted litterateur in English discursive scientific writing of the twentieth century.

In our concern here with Dodgson’s professional achievements, we must bear in mind that his vocational mathematics and his avocational nonsense commingle in a vein of logic that was his salient characteristic as a thinker. For years it was fashionable to point to the gap between mathematics and ingenious nonsense (and the other nineteenth-century master of nonsense, Edward Lear, was most unmathematical); but today we are aware that, at least in some places, the gap is not that wide. The modern view, that Dodgson was all of a piece, is simpler to sustain. His analytical mind is reflected everywhere in his writings, whose quaintness by no means damages clarity. The pity is that his talents were inhibited by ignorance and introversion, for he made no attempt to keep abreast of contemporary advances in mathematics and logic or to discuss his ideas with other academics.

Dodgson’s pedestrian career unfolded without hitch. Graduated from Oxford in 1854, he became master of arts there three years later. Meanwhile, in 1855, he had been appointed lecturer in mathematics at his alma mater, Christ Church College, Oxford. In 1861 he was ordained in the Church of England, although he was never to perform any ecclesiastic duties. As a young man he made a trip to Russia, but later journeyings were restricted to London and quiet seaside vacations. Marriage was unthought of, and Dodgson entered into no close friendships. (Perhaps his acquaintanceship with Ellen Terry, the great actress, most nearly qualified for “close friendship.”) He took some part in the administration of his college and was proud of his finicky management of its wine cellars. A part-time inventor of trivia, he devised several aids to writing in the dark—to assuage his chronic insomnia and to help dispel the nameless “unholy thoughts” that occasionally pestered him. But generally speaking his placidity was so well rooted that he was able to make the extraordinary statement, “My life is free from all trial and trouble.”

As a lecturer Dodgson was drear; and when he gave up the chore, he noted ruefully that his first lecture had been attended by nine students and his last (twenty-five years later) by two. Away from the classroom he wrote assiduously; and his publications, in book form or pamphlet (a favorite medium), are respectably numerous. His scholarly output falls into four main groups; determinants, geometry, the mathematics of tournaments and elections, and recreational logic. He was modest enough to describe his activities as being “chiefly in the lower branches of Mathematics.”

Dodgson’s work on determinants opened with a paper in the Proceedings of the Royal Society for 1866, and this was expanded into a book that appeared the following year. An Elementary Treatise on Determinants is good exposition, but favorable reception was prevented by the author’s extensive use of ad hoc terms and symbols.

Dodgson’s writings on geometry became well known; it was a subject about which he was almost passionate. His initial contribution was A Syllabus of Plane Algebraic Geometry (1860), a textbook whose purpose was to develop analytic geometry along rigorous Euclidean lines. He also published pamphlets on this and related themes, in one of which he introduced an original but not particularly meritorious notation for the trigonometric ratios. His most interesting effort in this genre was a five-act comedy entitled Euclid and His Modern Rivals, about a mathematics lecturer, Minos, in whose dreams Euclid debates his original Elements with such modernizers as Legendre and J. M. Wilson and, naturally, routs the opposition. The book is an attack on the changing method of teaching classical geometry and not, as is sometimes assumed, on non-Euclidean geometry. Indeed, Dodgson showed himself keenly aware of the infirmity of the fifth postulate (on parallels), and he has his oneiric Euclid admit that “some mysterious flaw lies at the root of the subject.” The interesting point here is that Riemann’s revolutionary geometry was well established during Dodgson’s lifetime, and an English translation of the key paper was available. This is yet another instance of Dodgson’s being out of touch with the mathematical research of his day. The Euclid drama (which is most engagingly written) apparently was used as ancillary reading in English schools for a number of years.

Least known but quite praiseworthy is Dodgson’s work on tournaments and voting theory. His interest stemmed from two sources: the organization of tennis tournaments and the mechanism of arriving at fair decisions by administrative committees. He decided that both matters needed rethinking. As usual, he did not bother to check the literature and so was unaware that the topic had come in for learned discussion in France before and during the Revolution. However, Dodgson unwittingly improved on existing ideas. His initial publication (a pamphlet, in 1873) reviews different methods of arriving at a fair majority opinion, and he sensibly advocates the use of degrees of preference in voting schedules. His whole approach is fresh and thoughtful, and he was the first to use matrix notation in the handling of multiple decisions.

In contrast with his mathematics, Dodgson’s work on logic was written entirely under his pseudonym, which clearly testifies to his view that the subject was essentially recreational. Traditional formal logic had long been a barren and overrated discipline; but during his lifetime a renaissance in technique and significance was taking place, and most of the pioneers were his countrymen. Although he was not ignorant of the new trends, their importance either escaped him or was discountenanced. Dodgson was attracted by the contemporary interest in the diagrammatization of the logic of classes, and he had read and appreciated Venn’s seminal contributions. In fact, he modified Venn diagrams by making their boundaries linear and by introducing colored counters that could be moved around to signify class contents—a very simple and effective device. On these foundations Dodgson published a game of logic that featured various forms (some very amusing) of the syllogism. His casual realization of the connections between symbolic logic and mathematics might have become vivid and fruitful had he been properly acquainted with what had already been done in the area. But he did not do the necessary reading—there is, for instance, no indication that he had read Boole’s Laws of Thought, although he owned a copy! Finally, Dodgson was a prolific composer of innocent-looking problems in logic and paradox, some of which were to engage the attention of professional logicians until well into the twentieth century.


I. Original Works. The authoritative conspectus of Dodgson’s writings, which included sixteen books (six for children) and hundreds of other items, is S. H. Williams and F. Madan, A Handbook of the Literature of the Rev. C. L. Dodgson (Lewis Carroll) (London, 1931; supp., 1935). Two outstanding books are An Elementary Treatise on Determinants (London, 1867) and Euclid and His Modern Rivals (London, 1879). His initial publication on election theory, A Discussion of the Various Procedures in Conducting Elections (Oxford, 1873), is a rare pamphlet, only one copy being known; it is at Princeton. The Morris L. Parrish Collection of Victorian Novelists, in Princeton University library, contains the biggest mass of Dodgsoniana, much of it MS. Warren Weaver, in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, 98 (1954), 377–381, tells the history of this collection and gives some examples of its mathematical items. Dodgson’s two books on recreational mathematics are now available in a 1-vol. paperback: Pillow Problems and a Tangled Tale (New York, 1958). Similarly, his two books on logic are bound together in the paperback Symbolic Logic, and the Game of Logic (New York, 1958).

II. Secondary Literature. Dodgson’s nephew, S. D. Collingwood, published the first biography, in the same year as his subject’s death: The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll (London, 1898). It remains a primary source book. Among many subsequent biographies and evaluations, Florence Becker Lennon’s Victoria Through the Looking Glass (New York, 1945), esp. ch. 15, is notable for its perceptive treatment of Dodgson’s serious side. R. L. Green, The Diaries of Lewis Carroll (London, 1953), is important, although many of the entries on logic and mathematics have been excised or glossed over. Two papers prepared for the centenary of Dodgson’s birth are essential reading: R. B. Braithwaite, “Lewis Carroll as Logician,” in Mathematical Gazette, 16 (1932), 174–178; and D. B. Eperson, “Lewis Carroll—Mathematician,” ibid., 17 (1933). 92–100. His work on tournaments and elections is examined in Duncan Black’s The Theory of Committees and Elections (Cambridge, 1958). Martin Gardner’s New Mathematical Diversions (New York, 1966), ch. 4, deals with Dodgson’s work on games and puzzles. The same author’s earlier books, The Annotated Alice (New York, 1960) and The Annotated Snark (New York, 1962), provide remarkable insights into the logico-mathematical undercurrents in Dodgson’s fantasia.

Norman T. Gridgeman

Carroll, Lewis (1832–1898)

views updated May 18 2018

Carroll, Lewis (18321898)

The English writer, mathematician, Oxford don, and photographer Charles Lutwidge Dodgson is best known by his pen name Lewis Carroll. The eldest son of the Anglican minister Charles Dodgson and Frances Lutwidge, Dodgson spent his early childhood in Cheshire and later in Yorkshire. Educated as a boy away from home at Richmond School and at Rugby, he matriculated in 1851 at Christ Church College, Oxford, which would prove to be his home for the remaining forty-seven years of his life. Dodgson excelled in mathematics and gained a studentship (equivalent to a fellowship at other colleges), which he kept for life, fulfilling the double requirements of remaining unmarried and taking orders in the Church of England, although he proceeded to ordination only as a deacon. He served as a mathematical lecturer at Christ Church from 1855 to 1881 and published mathematical works as C. L. Dodgson. He was also a distinguished photographer. Dodgson achieved fame as Lewis Carroll upon the publication of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 and its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, six years later. After his two Alice books, Dodgson, as Lewis Carroll, wrote several more books for children, including The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits (1876), Sylvie and Bruno (1889), and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded


Although Dodgson has been described often as a retiring Oxford don who only liked the company of children, Dodgson's surviving diaries and letters attest to the strong adult, as well as child, friendships that he cultivated. His adult life followed a steady routine. Dodgson spent term times at Christ Church, where he kept busy with college and mathematical affairs. During holidays he visited the family home, and he spent summers at the seaside. Dodgson made several trips to London every year. While there, he led a busy social life, avidly attending the theatre and art exhibitions and visiting with friends. He also traveled widely around England, again visiting friends and acquaintances. In 1856 Dodgson took up photography, still a nascent technology, and for the next twenty-four years of his life, until he stopped taking pictures in 1880, it played a major role in his social activities. He specialized in portraiture, taking pictures of any adult and child acquaintances whom he could persuade to sit for his camera.

Dodgson was one of a number of Victorian men, such as John Ruskin and George MacDonald, who turned to girl-hood for creative inspiration and for emotional solace. Some scholars have suggested that Dodgson's fascination with girlhood stemmed from feelings of nostalgia for his domestic childhood home after being sent away to the masculine environment of school. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, shifting ideas concerning the relationship between childhood and sexuality have led scholars to debate whether or not Dodgson was in fact sexually interested in young girls. This speculation is fueled, in part, by the uncertain number of photographs he took later in his life of children in the nude. As he grew older, however, Dodgson's "child-friends," as he often termed them, tended more and more to be young women in their teens and twenties.

The Alice Books

The Alice books are seminal to the history of children's literature, for they liberated the genre from the didactic and moral children's books fashionable at the time. Replete with wit, humor, nonsense verse, and parodies of the illogical conventions of everyday life, the books were immediately popular upon publication, amusing and delighting both children and adults. They have never gone out of print, have been translated into many languages, and have been dramatized and filmed countless times since their first appearance on the London stage in 1886.

The character of Alice originated in Dodgson's close friendship with Lorina, Alice, and Edith Liddell, the eldest daughters of Henry George Liddell, the dean of Christ Church. Dodgson first narrated the adventures of his heroine Alice during a boating trip with the Liddells. Following the trip, Dodgson wrote and illustrated the manuscript Alice's Adventures Under Ground, which he gave to Alice Liddell as a Christmas gift. The book chronicles seven-year-old Alice's dream of entering a world populated with bizarre characters, from the March Hare and the Mad Hatter, to the Queen of Hearts and the White Rabbit. Alice went against the grain of previous literary child heroes and heroines. In her, Dodgson created a modern child. She is "curiouser and curiouser" and, throughout her adventures, progresses through many moods, sometimes cheerful, sometimes peevish, as she attempts to make sense of the nonsensical world in which she finds herself.

Dodgson's portraits of children also hold a place in the history of childhood. Rooted in the sentimental bonds of friendship between Dodgson and particular children he knew and entertained, such as the Liddells, both his children's books and his photography depict childhood as playful, informal, intimate, and, above all, separate from adult experience. Dodgson's model has proved relevant throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first.

See also: Photographs of Children .


Cohen, Morton N., ed., with the assistance of Roger Lancelyn Green. 1979. The Letters of Lewis Carroll, 2 vols. New York: Oxford University Press.

Cohen, Morton N. 1995. Lewis Carroll: A Biography. New York: A. A. Knopf.

Kincaid, James R. 1992. Child-Loving: The Erotic Child and Victorian Culture. New York: Routledge.

Knoepflmacher, U. C. 1998. Ventures into Childland: Victorians, Fairy Tales, and Femininity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Leach, Karoline. 1999. In the Shadow of the Dreamchild: A New Understanding of Lewis Carroll. London: Peter Owen.

Mavor, Carol. 1995. Pleasures Taken: Performances of Sexuality and Loss in Victorian Photographs. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Robson, Catherine. 2000. Men in Wonderland: The Lost Girlhood of the Victorian Gentleman. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Smith, Lindsay. 1999. The Politics of Focus: Women, Children, and Nineteenth-Century Photography. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press.

Taylor, Roger, and Edward Wakeling. 2002. Lewis Carroll: Photographer. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Waggoner, Diane. 2002. "Photographing Childhood: Lewis Carroll and Alice." In Picturing Children, ed. Marilyn R. Brown. Aldershot, UK, and Burlington, VT: Ashgate.

Wakeling, Edward. 19932000. Lewis Carroll's Diaries, the Private Journals of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 6 vols. Luton, UK: Lewis Carroll Society.

Diane Waggoner

Carroll, Lewis

views updated May 17 2018

Lewis Carroll

Born: January 27, 1832
Daresbury, Cheshire, England
Died: January 14, 1898
Guildford, Surrey, England

English church official, author, and mathematician

The English church official Lewis Carroll was the author of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, famous adventure stories for children that adults also enjoy. He was also a noted mathematician and photographer.

Early life and education

Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson on January 27, 1832, the eldest son and third of eleven children born to Frances Jane Lutwidge and the Reverend Charles Dodgson. Carroll had a happy childhood. His mother was patient and gentle, and his father, despite his religious duties, tutored all of his children and raised them to be good people. Carroll frequently made up games and wrote stories and poems, some of which were similar to his later published works, for his seven sisters and three brothers.

Although his years at Rugby School (184649) were unhappy, he was recognized as a good student, and in 1850 he was admitted to further study at Christ Church, Oxford, England. He graduated in 1854, and in 1855 he became mathematical lecturer (more like a tutor) at the college. This permanent appointment, which not only recognized his academic skills but also paid him a decent sum, required Carroll to take holy orders in the Anglican Church and to remain unmarried. He agreed to these requirements and was made a deacon in 1861.

Photography and early publication

Among adults Carroll was reserved, but he did not avoid their company as some reports have stated. He attended the theater frequently and was absorbed by photography and writing. After taking up photography in 1856, he soon found that his favorite subjects were children and famous people, including English poet Alfred Lord Tennyson (18091892), Italian painter and poet D. G. Rossetti (18281882), and English painter John Millais (18291896). Helmut Gernsheim wrote of Carroll's photographs of children, "He achieves an excellence which in its way can find no peer." Though photography was mostly a hobby, Carroll spent a great deal of time on it until 1880.

In the mid-1850s Carroll also began writing both humorous and mathematical works. In 1856 he created the pseudonym (assumed writing name) "Lewis Carroll" by translating his first and middle names into Latin, reversing their order, then translating them back into English. His mathematical writing, however, appeared under his real name.

Alice books

In 1856 Carroll met Alice Liddell, the four-year-old daughter of the head of Christ Church. During the next few years Carroll often made up stories for Alice and her sisters. In July 1862, while on a picnic with the Liddell girls, Carroll recounted the adventures of a little girl who fell into a rabbit hole. Alice asked him to write the story out for her. He did so, calling it Alice's Adventures underGround. After some changes, this work was published in 1865 as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with illustrations by John Tenniel.

Encouraged by the book's success, Carroll wrote a second volume, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1872). Based on the chess games Carroll played with the Liddell children, it included material he had written before he knew them. The first section of "Jabberwocky," for example, was written in 1855. More of Carroll's famous Wonderland characterssuch as Humpty Dumpty, the White Knight, and Tweedledum and Tweedledeeappear in this work than in Alice in Wonderland.

Unlike most of the children's books of the day, Alice and Through the Looking Glass did not attempt to convey obvious moral lessons. Nor did they contain what critics have tried to insist are therehidden meanings relating to religion or politics. They are delightful adventure stories in which a normal, healthy, clearheaded little girl reacts to the "reality" of the adult world. Their appeal to adults as well as to children lies in Alice's intelligent response to ridiculous language and action.

Later publications

Carroll published several other nonsense works, including The Hunting of the Snark (1876), Sylvie and Bruno (1889), and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893). He also wrote a number of pamphlets poking fun at university affairs, which appeared under a fake name or without any name at all, and he composed several works on mathematics under his true name. In 1881 Carroll gave up his lecturing to devote all of his time to writing. From 1882 to 1892, however, he was curator of the common room (manager of the staff club) at Christ Church. After a short illness, he died on January 14, 1898.

Assessment of the man

The Reverend C. L. Dodgson was a reserved, fussy bachelor who refused to get wrapped up in the political and religious storms that troubled England during his lifetime. Lewis Carroll, however, was a delightful, lovable companion to the children for whom he created his nonsense stories and poems. Biographers and historians have long been confused that one man could have two completely different sides.

One solution is that he had two personalities: "Lewis Carroll" and "the Reverend Mr. Dodgson," with the problems that go along with having a split personality. There were peculiar things about himhe stammered ever since he was a child, he was extremely fussy about his possessions, and he walked as much as twenty miles a day. But another solution seems more nearly correct: "Dodgson" and "Carroll" were parts of one personality. This personality, because of happiness in childhood and unhappiness in the years thereafter, could blossom only in a world that resembled the happy one he knew while growing up.

For More Information

Cohen, Morton N. Lewis Carroll: A Biography. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1995.

Greene, Carol. Lewis Carroll, Author of Alice in Wonderland. Chicago: Children's Press, 1992.

Stoffel, Stephanie Lovett. Lewis Carroll in Wonderland: The Life and Times of Alice and Her Creator. New York: H. N. Abrams, 1997.

Thomas, Donald S. Lewis Carroll: A Biography. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1999.

Wood, James P. The Snark Was a Boojum: A Life of Lewis Carroll. New York: Pantheon Books, 1966.

Lewis Carroll

views updated May 23 2018

Lewis Carroll

The English cleric Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), who wrote under the name Lewis Carroll, was the author of Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. He was also a noted mathematician and photographer.

Born on Jan. 27, 1832, Lewis Carroll passed a happy childhood in the rectories of his father, the Reverend Charles Dodgson. For his nine sisters and two brothers he frequently made up games and wrote stories and poems, some of which foreshadow the delights of Alice. Although his school years at Rugby (1846-1849) were unhappy, he was recognized as a good scholar, and in 1850 he was admitted to Christ Church, Oxford. He graduated in 1854, and in 1855 he became mathematical lecturer at the college. This permanent appointment, which not only recognized his academic superiority but also made him financially secure, carried the stipulations that Carroll take orders in the Anglican Church and remain unmarried. He complied with these requirements and was ordained a deacon in 1861.

Photography and Early Publication

Among adults Carroll was reserved, but he was not a recluse. He attended the theater frequently and was absorbed by photography and writing. Beginning photography in 1856, he soon found that his favorite subjects were children and famous people; among the latter he photographed Alfred Lord Tennyson, D. G. Rossetti, and John Millais. Of Carroll's photographs of children Helmut Gernsheim wrote, "He achievers an excellence which in its way can find no peer." Though photography was a recreation, Carroll practiced it almost obsessively until 1880.

In the mid-1850s Carroll also began to write both humorous and mathematical works. In 1856 he created the pseudonym "Lewis Carroll" by translating his first and middle names into Latin, reversing their order, and translating them back into English. His mathematical writing, however, appeared under his real name.

Alice Books

In 1856 Carroll met Alice Liddell, the 4-year-old daughter of the dean of Christ Church. During the next few years Carroll frequently made up stories for Alice and her sisters. On July 4, 1862, while picnicking with the Liddell girls, Carroll recounted the adventures of a little girl who fell into a rabbit hole. Alice asked that he write the tale for her. He did so, calling it Alice's Adventures under Ground. After revisions, this work was published in 1865 as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland with illustrations by John Tenniel.

Encouraged by its success, Carroll wrote a sequel, Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (1872). Based on the chess games Carroll played with the Liddell children, it included material he had written before he knew them. The first stanza of "Jabberwocky," for example, was written in 1855. More of Carroll's famous Wonderland characters, such as Humpty Dumpty, the White Knight, and Tweedledum and Tweedledee, appear in this work than in Alice in Wonderland.

Unlike most of the children's books of the day, Alice and its sequel do not contain obvious moralizing. Nor are they what critics have tried to make them—allegories of religion or politics. They are delightful adventure stories in which a normal, healthy, clearheaded little girl reacts to the "reality" of the adult world. Their appeal to adults as well as to children lies in Alice's intelligent response to absurdities of language and action.

Later Publications

Carroll published several other nonsense works, including The Hunting of the Snark (1876), Sylvie and Bruno (1889), and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893). He also wrote a number of pamphlets satirizing university affairs, which appeared anonymously or under other pseudonyms, and several works on mathematics under his true name.

In 1881 Carroll gave up his lectureship to devote all his time to writing. However, from 1882 to 1892 he was curator of the common room (manager of the faculty club) at Christ Church. After a short illness, he died on Jan. 14, 1898.

Assessment of the Man

The Reverend C. L. Dodgson was a reserved, fussy, conservative bachelor who remained aloof from the economic, political, and religious storms that troubled Victorian England. Lewis Carroll, however, was a delightful, lovable companion to the children for whom he created his engrossing nonsense stories and poems. That both men were one has long puzzled biographers and psychologists.

One solution is that he was two personalities, "Lewis Carroll" and "the Reverend Mr. Dodgson," with the psychological difficulties that accompany a split personality. He did have peculiarities—he stammered from childhood, was extremely fussy about his possessions, and walked as much as 20 miles a day. But another solution seems more nearly correct: "Dodgson" and "Carroll" were facets of one personality. This personality, because of happiness in childhood and unhappiness in the formative years thereafter, could act in the adult world only within the limits of formality and could blossom only in a world that resembled the one he knew as a child.

Further Reading

Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll (1898), and The Diaries of Lewis Carroll, edited by Roger Lancelyn Green (2 vols., 1954), are dull but necessary. The sanest and most informative book on Carroll is James P. Wood, The Snark Was a Boojum: A Life of Lewis Carroll (1966), written for young people. Florence Becker Lennon, The Life of Lewis Carroll (1945; new ed. 1962), is contentious. Phyllis Greenacre, Swift and Carroll: A Psychoanalytic Study of Two Lives (1955), is too psychologically oriented. Alexander Taylor, The White Knight (1952), goes into too many explanations. Roger Lancelyn Green, The Story of Lewis Carroll (1950) and Lewis Carroll (1960), concentrates too heavily on Carroll's revisions and other bibliographical matters. Besides Wood, only Derek Hudson in Lewis Carroll (1954) maintains the steadiness and clarity of vision necessary when writing of Carroll. Helmut Gernsheim, Lewis Carroll, Photographer (1949), is an exciting demonstration of Carroll's ability with a camera. □


views updated May 21 2018

CARROLL, Lewis [1832–98]. Pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. English mathematician and writer, born at Daresbury, Cheshire, and educated at Rugby and Christ Church, Oxford, where he spent the rest of his life. His most famous book, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865), developed from a story he told one afternoon to the three daughters of the Greek scholar H. G. Liddell, Dean of Christ Church. Alice, named after one of them, continued her adventures in Through the Looking-Glass (1871). Carroll wrote other books for children, including a long poem ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ (1876). He published several mathematical works, but was not distinguished academically. He never married, and found pleasure in the company of little girls, with whom he lost his shyness. He was also an inventor of puzzles, games, ciphers, and mnemonics, and an amateur pioneer in photography. Carroll was a master of fantasy and his stories have their own logic. Young readers seem untroubled by such tensions and anxieties as forgetting one's name and calls for beheading offenders, while the adult reader enjoys the commentary on human absurdities and the manipulation of language. Carroll used the PUN and coined NEOLOGISMS, including what he called ‘portmanteau words’ like chortle (combining chuckle and snort). See BLEND. He played games with idioms, using such expressions as ‘beating time’ (to music) in a literal sense. He reshaped such animals of fable or rhetoric as the Gryphon, March Hare, and Cheshire Cat, and invented such new ones as the Bandersnatch and the Boojum. As a parodist, he made NONSENSE poems out of well-known moral verses. His success as a children's author was aided by the illustrations of John Tenniel. Analysts of his works have made theological and psychoanalytical interpretations of his fantasies; students of language may find his genius more evident in Humpty-Dumpty's comment on people and words: ‘The question is, which is to be master–that's all.’ See BLEND, DOUBLET, HUMOUR, JOKE, NONSENSE.

Carroll, Lewis

views updated May 18 2018

Carroll, Lewis

British Mathematician, Writer, and Photographer 18321898

Lewis Carroll is the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who was born in Darebury, England, in 1832 and died in Guildford, England, in 1898. He taught mathematics at Christ Church College of Oxford University for most of his life and wrote a number of mathematics texts. His fame, however, rests in being the author of children's stories and poems, including Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking Glass (1872).

Dodgson's father was an Anglican minister who had excelled in mathematics at Christ Church College. As a child, Dodgson invented games and stories to entertain his ten brothers and sisters. He attended Richmond School and Rugby School before entering Christ Church College in 1851. He did particularly well in mathematics and classics and, after graduating in 1854 with first honors in mathematics, immediately became an instructor in mathematics at Christ Church, remaining in that position until 1881.

Dodgson was the author of a number of mathematics articles and books, including Notes on the First Two Books of Euclid (1860); Euclid and His Modern Rivals (1879); A Syllabus of Plane Algebraic Geometry (1860); Curiosa Mathematica, Part I (1888) and Part II (1894); and Symbolic Logic, Part I (1896) and Part II (unpublished until 1977).

Dodgson, or Carroll, is best remembered for the children's books that resulted from his efforts to entertain the children of the Dean of Christ Church, Henry George Liddell. One of Liddell's daughters, Alice, is immortalized as the heroine of one of the most popular children's books ever to be written.

J. William Moncrief


Narins, Brigham, ed. World of Mathematics. Detroit: Gale Group, 2001.

Internet Resources

"Charles Lutwidge Dodgson." The MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive. University of St Andrews. <>.

Lewis Carroll, Logician and Mathematician. <>.

Carroll, Lewis

views updated May 23 2018

Carroll, Lewis, pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832–98). Author and mathematician. Brought up in a country parsonage, excelling in mathematical and classical studies at Oxford, Dodgson was appointed lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church (1855–81), and ordained deacon (1861) according to the terms of his fellowship endowment; feeling unsuited to parish work, he remained unpriested, hence unmarried. Shyness and a stammer were forgotten in the company of children, whom he amused with stories, puzzles, and riddles; some of these, invented for Dean Liddell's daughters, were recast and immortalized in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass (1871), which continue to delight children of all ages. The pseudonym derived from retranslation of the Latin form of his first names (Carolus Ludovicus) reversed. Dodgson, ingenious and extremely methodical, also published mathematical works, verse, and pamphlets on university affairs, all combining logic and humour, and was a fine photographer.

A. S. Hargreaves

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