"Curiouser and Curiouser!": Exploring Wonderland with Alice

Charles Dodgson (better known as Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) was the eldest son and the third of eleven children in the Dodgson family. A skilled storyteller from a young age, he amused himself and his siblings with a series of family magazines featuring comical poems and parodies of standard Victorian texts, illustrated by his own whimsical drawings.

Carroll graduated from Oxford in 1854 with first-class honors in mathematics and second-class honors in classics. The following year he was appointed a Christ Church fellow and began his professional career lecturing on mathematics, while pursuing his masters degree (1857) and ordination as a deacon of the Church of England (1861). Not long after becoming a Lecturer at Christ Church College, Oxford, Carroll befriended the family of Henry George Liddell, the new Dean of Christ Church. Carroll frequently entertained the Liddell children with stories while they served as models for his amateur photography. He also accompanied them on periodic river excursions, and a tale he invented on one such expedition was destined to make literary history.

On July 4th, 1862, Carroll and Robinson Duckworth (immortalized as the Dodo and the Duck of the Caucus Race) rowed upriver with Lorina (the Lorry), Alice (Alice), and Edith (the Eaglet) Liddell. Accounts of the day differ in minor details: Was it sunny or rainy? Was the tale told in the boat or under a haystack? Was the whole story told that day, or only the beginning? The group took many boat trips and Carroll told many tales, but on this particular afternoon, Alice Liddell begged to have his story in writing. Beginning that night and concluding in its publication in December of 1865, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland metamorphized into written form and became the beloved classic known today. 

Alice's Adventures Underground 1.jpg

Lewis Carroll, illustrated by himself
Alice’s Adventures Under Ground
Guildford: Genesis Publications Limited, 1979.
Facsimile of Carroll’s original manuscript from 1864

In Conversation with Earlier Genres