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Author Spotlight: Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll penned childhood favorites such as Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Other than being the man who brought the Mad Hatter to life, Lewis Carroll led a life just as colorful and kooky as the magical worlds he created.

Lewis Carroll, whose real name is Charles L. Dodgson, was an Englishman, the eldest of 11 children. Being the member of such a large family, Charles found ways to entertain himself. This translated into him excelling at many things. As a child, he was good at mathematics and won many academic accolades. He received a scholarship to Christ Church College in Oxford at 20 and studied mathematics. He graduated at the top of his class and remained in the school to teach.

Charles’s greatest contribution to mathematics is the Dodgson condensation, a method of computing the determinants of square matrices. But inside this scholarly academician lay an artist.

Charles applied his art through photography and literature. He started writing short stories and poetry at a young age. His work was published in various magazines such as The Comic Times, The Train, the Whitby Gazette, and the Oxford Critic. He used the pseudonym Lewis Carroll for the first time for his poem called “Solitude,” which was published in The Train.

Charles was inspired to write what is now his most successful story after meeting the family of Dean Henry Lidell. In 1862, Charles created the outline and presented it to Alice Lidell. The youngest Lidell pleaded Charles to complete the story, to which he obliged. He eventually showed the manuscript to the rest of the family, who encouraged him to publish it. Macmillan, the book’s first publisher, liked the story even before it was completed. In 1865, it was published as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

The book achieved commercial success almost immediately. Lewis Carroll became famous worldwide, so much so that he received a lot of fan mail. Queen Victoria herself allegedly enjoyed the story. In 1871, a sequel to Alice was published, titled Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.

Despite the commercial success, Charles decided to remain teaching at Christ Church. He remained there until his death in 1898.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland received many adaptations in the form of film, television, and radio. One of the most popular and most enduring is the Disney animated film, Alice in Wonderland. In 2010, Disney remade the film into live action, which was directed by Tim Burton.

Many references from Alice in Wonderland have made their way into popular culture. To this day, terms such as “off with their head,” “down the rabbit hole,” “mad as a hatter,” and “Cheshire grin” have endured. Lewis Carroll’s sanity might have been questioned because of his work, but his legacy remains to this day.

 

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