Lewis Carroll was the pen name of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson,
an English author. Carroll wrote two of the most famous
books inEnglish literature --"Alice's Adventures in
Wonderland" and its continuation "Through the Looking-Glass
and What Alice Found There." Carroll wrote both books to
give pleasure to children, but adults also enjoy the humor,
fantastic characters, and adventures in the stories.
Carroll was born in 1832, in Darsbury, England. He
graduated from the Christ Church College of Oxford
University in 1854. He began teaching mathematics at Christ
Church in 1855 and spent most of his life at the school. He
became a deacon in the Church of England in 1861. He was
also an inventor and a noted children's photographer..
Dodgson eventually sought to publish the first book on the
advice of friends who had read and loved the little
handwritten manuscript he had given to Alice Liddell. He
expanded the story considerably and engaged the services of
John Tenniel, one of the best known artists in England, to
provide illustrations. "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"
and its sequel "Through The Looking Glass" were
enthusiastically received in their own time, and have since
become landmarks in childrens' literature.
Aside from the immediate appeal of the characters, their
colourful language, and the sometimes hilarious verse
("Twas brillig, and the slithy toves/did gyre and gimble in
the wabe:") gives the narrative works appeal on many
levels. There is logical structure, in the relationship of
Alice's journey to a game of chess. There are problems of
relativity, as in her exchange with the Cheshire Cat:
"Would you tell me please, which way I ought to go from
here?" "That depends a good deal on where you want to get
to." There is plenty of fodder for psychoanalysts, Freudian
or otherwise, who have had a field day analyzing the
significance of the myriad dream creatures and Alice's
strange transformations. There is even Zen: "And she tried
to fancy what the flame of a candle looks like after the
candle is blown out..."
Still, why would a rigorous logical thinker like Dodgson, a
disciple of mathematics, wish children to wander in an
unpredictable land of the absurd? Maybe he felt that
everybody, including himself, needed an occasional holiday
from dry mental exercises. But he was no doubt also aware
that nonsense can be instructive all the same. As Alice and
the children who follow her adventures recognize illogical
events, they are acknowledging their capacity for logic, in
the form of what should normally happen. "You're a serpent;
[says the Pigeon] and there's no use denying it. I suppose
you'll be telling me next that you never tasted an egg!" "I
have tasted eggs, certainly," said Alice... "But little
girls eat eggs quite as much as serpents do, you know."
Ethel Rowell, to whom Dodgson taught logic when she was
young, wrote that she was grateful that he had encouraged
her to "that arduous business of thinking." While Lewis
Carroll's Alice books compel us to laugh and to wonder, we
are also easily led, almost in spite of ourselves, to think
Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through
the Looking-Glass, with an introduction by Morton N. Cohen,
Lewis Carroll: The Wasp in a Wig, A "Suppressed Episode of
Through the Looking-Glass, Notes by Martin Gardner,
Macmillan London Ltd, 1977.
Anne Clark: The Real Alice, Michael Joseph Ltd, 1981.
Raymond Smullyan: Alice in Puzzleland, William Morrow and