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date: 08 December 2023

Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge [pseud. Lewis Carroll]free


Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge [pseud. Lewis Carroll]free

  • Morton N. Cohen

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson [Lewis Carroll] (1832–1898)

by unknown photographer, c. 1856–60

Dodgson, Charles Lutwidge [pseud. Lewis Carroll] (1832–1898), author, mathematician, and photographer, was born at Daresbury parsonage, Cheshire, on 27 January 1832, the eldest son and third of eleven children of Charles Dodgson (1800–1868), curate of the parish, later rector of Croft-on-Tees, Yorkshire, examining chaplain to the bishop of Ripon, archdeacon of Richmond, and canon of Ripon Cathedral, and his wife and first cousin, Frances Jane, née Lutwidge (1803–1851).

Early years and education

For eleven years the Dodgsons lived in 'complete seclusion from the world', during which time Charles's precocity and uncommon nature emerged: he 'invented strange diversions for himself', made pets of 'odd and unlikely animals', and implored his father to explain the meaning of logarithms (Collingwood, 11). In later years Dodgson reminisced about:

An island-farm—broad seas of corn …The happy spot where I was born.

Faces in the Fire

In 1843 Peel, the prime minister, appointed the elder Dodgson to the more lucrative living at Croft-on-Tees, and at this bustling spa and hunting centre the young Dodgson grew and blossomed. At thirteen he inaugurated a series of family magazines and produced single-handedly the first one, Useful and Instructive Poetry, containing fifteen verses, a prose piece, and numerous drawings, altogether a remarkably gifted performance, adumbrating the infectious wit and literary ingenuity that would later bring him fame. He went on to edit and compose most of the seven later family magazines. He wrote plays for a marionette theatre that the family and a local carpenter built; he dressed up in a brown wig and white gown and as Aladdin nimbly performed conjuring tricks.

Dodgson was educated at home by his parents until he was twelve; then he entered Richmond School, 10 miles from home, and two years later, Rugby, where he spent almost four unhappy years. At both schools he distinguished himself and took numerous prizes. In 1851 he matriculated at Christ Church, Oxford, where his father had taken a double first. His mother's death, a few days after he arrived at university, affected Dodgson deeply and is thought by some to have inhibited his emotional growth. He none the less did well in his studies, won a Boulter scholarship, and with his BA (1854) took first-class honours in mathematics and a second class in classics.

Oxford don and cleric

In 1852 E. B. Pusey nominated Dodgson for a studentship (life fellowship) of Christ Church and in 1855 he became mathematical lecturer there. Christ Church dons were at that time required to take clerical orders and remain unmarried. Dodgson was ordained deacon on 22 December 1861, but never took priest's orders. His lifelong stammer and a deaf right ear may have contributed to that decision, but it is more likely that he did not see eye to eye with church doctrine. Influenced by the works of S. T. Coleridge and F. D. Maurice, whom he knew and admired, Dodgson veered from his father's high-church and ritualist faith to embrace the less pretentious broad church. He was genuinely devout, relying on inner instinct perhaps more than external teachings as a basis for divine truth; he rejected eternal punishment as a doctrinal certainty; with an ecumenical outlook, he embraced the whole of humanity, even those who had never heard of Christ, as children of God; and he was convinced that all sinners could find salvation through repentance.

In spite of his infirmities, Dodgson preached from various pulpits, impressing congregations with his religious fervour. He also lectured away from his college, to children and older students, particularly at girls' schools and colleges, on mathematics and logic. He often gave private tuition to youngsters as well, and observers could not help noticing the stream of young females arriving at Christ Church and mounting Tom Quad staircase 7 to be taught and photographed by Mr Dodgson. Remarkably, Christ Church actually allowed him to break through the roof above his rooms and build a glasshouse where he could photograph his protégées in daylight.

Early publications

Dodgson wrote and published voluminously, mathematical and literary works and a good deal else. From his early days as lecturer he brought out mathematical broadsheets to help students meet Oxford's requirements. Opinions of him as a lecturer were divided: '“unwilling men” found him a very uninspiring lecturer', a niece of his wrote, 'dull as ditchwater' (V. Dodgson). One of his students recalled, however, that 'his methods of explaining the elements of Euclid … [were] extremely lucid, so that the least intelligent of us could grasp at any rate “the Pons Asinorum”' (Pearson). A sixth-form student at the Oxford High School for Girls remembered that he:

compelled me to that independence of thought I had never before tried to exercise. … gradually under his stimulating tuition I felt myself able … to judge for myself, to select, and … to reject. … Mr Dodgson at the same time bestowed on me another gift. … He gave me a sense of my own personal dignity. He was so punctilious, so courteous, so considerate, so scrupulous not to embarrass or offend, that he made me feel that I counted.


Dodgson worked assiduously at his mathematics. His first book appeared in 1860, when he was twenty-eight: A syllabus of plane algebraical geometry, systematically arranged, with formal definitions, postulates, and axioms, a 154-page effort to translate some of Euclid into algebraical terms and to claim for analytical geometry a greater role in developing reason and logical thinking than was generally conceded. He went on to publish major works which have earned fresh analysis and new appreciation a century and more after he died. Dodgson revered Euclid. Euclid dominated his professional work, and he devised fresh approaches to the master, refusing to tamper with his texts, since he insisted that Euclid had to be seen plain. Instead, he sought to clarify difficulties and to make Euclid more accessible to modern minds. In Euclid and his Modern Rivals (1879), engagingly built as a four-act comedy and a Platonic dialogue enhanced by Dodgson's trump card, his whimsy, he presented a forceful argument against all who had meddled with Euclid's text. From that point on esoteric work followed esoteric work, virtually always embellished by his hallmark, that characteristic Dodgsonian wit; even a century later, when professional mathematicians see a reference to some of the examples that Dodgson used to illustrate his arguments—for instance 'What the tortoise said to Achilles' or 'The barber-shop paradox'—they chuckle. Some try to imitate his method of leavening serious labours with lively jests, but they invariably lack his remarkable inspiration. In Condensation of Determinants (1866), according to one specialist, it 'is possible that Dodgson produced the first proof in print of … [a] fundamental theorem on rank' (F. Abeles, Determinants and linear systems: Charles L. Dodgson's view, British Journal for the History of Science, 19, 1986, 331–5); another writes of 'Dodgson's startling contribution to linear algebra and to the theory of determinants' (Seneta). Other important works included The Fifth Book of Euclid Treated Algebraically (1868), Euclid, Book V (1874), Euclid, Books I, II (1875), and Curiosa mathematica (3 pts, 1888–99).

From 1854 onwards, when two of his poems appeared in the Oxonian Advertiser, Dodgson produced a steady flow of creative works. Poems and prose pieces, games, and puzzles appeared in the Whitby Gazette, the Comic Times, The Train, College Rhymes, Temple Bar, Dickens's All the Year Round, Punch, Fun, Vanity Fair, the Educational Times, the Monthly Packet, Aunt Judy's Magazine, and The Lady. For his poem 'Solitude' (The Train, March 1856), he created his famous pseudonym by inverting ‘Charles’ and his metronymic, ‘Lutwidge’, translating them first into Latin and then back into English.

Alice Liddell and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Dodgson's elevation from undergraduate to don coincided with the arrival at Christ Church of a new dean, Henry George Liddell, and his family, an event that only briefly preceded Dodgson's purchase, on 18 March 1856, of a camera and lens to allow him to take up photography. It was through photography that, on 25 April 1856, he first became acquainted with the Liddells' three daughters, including the middle one, Alice Liddell [see Hargreaves, Alice Pleasance], not quite four years old, when he and a friend went over to the deanery to photograph Christ Church Cathedral. 'The three little girls were in the garden most of the time, and we became excellent friends,' Dodgson wrote; 'we tried to group them in the foreground of the picture, but they were not patient sitters' (Diaries, 83). Thus began one of the most exceptional friendships, indeed love affairs, of all time.

We can only imagine the exhilaration that Dodgson experienced at the coalescence of these events, all three occurring within a mere six-month period, but surely they worked together to help generate the instantaneous fulguration that we know as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. The tale flashed into Dodgson's mind on 4 July 1862, on that memorable river picnic when he responded to the girls' eager plea for 'a story'.

Dodgson's visits to the deanery became frequent, his emotional attachment to Alice grew and ripened, and for some seven years he lived the charmed life of a cherished friend and sometimes consort to the beautiful, impetuous child. In late June 1863, however, some event that he recorded on a page in his diary, but which a Dodgson heir later razored out, caused a breach in the relationship, and Dodgson was ‘sent to Coventry’. Although he and the Liddells managed again to be civil to one another, the romance was over. Dodgson kept a formal distance from his 'ideal child friend' (Letters, 561), and Alice went on to marry a suitor her parents judged more acceptable, Reginald Hargreaves. She lived out her life in a large, dull country house in the New Forest, where she sought to emulate her mother's social success at the Christ Church deanery. She named her third son Caryl.

Child friends

For his part, Dodgson had other strings to his bow. As a don, cleric, and successful photographer in the age when everyone sought to be photographed, he had access to the best homes and to troops of attractive children, particularly the female of the species. He doted on them, took them on outings, bought them gifts, fed them, clothed them, carried them off on railway journeys, gave them inscribed copies of his books, wrote poems for and to them, told them stories, paid for their French and art lessons, took them to the theatre and to the seaside, sat them on his knees, hugged them, kissed them, and, of course, photographed them, in all manner of poses, in a variety of dress and costume, and even 'sans habillement', as he put it (unpublished diary, 21 May 1867, BL, Add. MSS 54340–54348)—all this with their parents' approval in that unsuspicious pre-Freudian heyday of Victorian innocence. Only after Dodgson's death, when psychoanalysts began to pry into what they imagined to have been Dodgson's subconscious, did serious suspicions arise about his motives. But if Dodgson did harbour deep unconventional desires he certainly reined them in, severely, never violating Victorian propriety, because, as a deeply, genuinely religious man, he knew that he could not endure any transgressions. Unremitting self-recriminations and dire pleas to God for help in self-improvement and control appear frequently in his diaries, signifying a troubled conscience, particularly when they occur in conjunction with his meetings with child friends. One of his poems in particular, 'Stolen Waters' (1862), an allegory written in the first person, tells the tale of a sinning youth who, in the end, manages through repentance to find salvation.

Dodgson's repressed nature took its toll; matched with his quick mind and his genius, it made him sharp and fractious at times. But many who knew him attested to his magnanimity and to his winning, spontaneous wit. Even in carrying out the humdrum tasks of curator of senior common room (which tedious job he held for almost ten years), he introduced wit into his frequent memoranda and three reports (Twelve Months in a Curatorship, 1884: 'at once financial, carbonaceous, aesthetic, chalybeate, literary and alcoholic'; Three Years in a Curatorship, 1886: 'Airs, glares and chairs'; and Curiosissima curatoria, 1892: 'A curatorial parting gift').

Artist and photographer

Dodgson harboured artistic aspirations from his youth; he enjoyed drawing, later from live models, particularly nudes. The Dodgson family magazines contain a varied sampling of his early efforts. He illustrated the story of Alice's Adventures under Ground, the original version of Alice's Adventures, which he gave Alice Liddell as a Christmas gift in 1864. Many of his letters contain sketches, and a number of stray drawings survive. The art critic John Ruskin told him, however, that his talents as an artist were severely limited (Collingwood, 102), and he knew enough to seek out professionals to illustrate his books. Still, he continued to enjoy sketching sessions, and he moved freely among artists. He was acquainted with many, including Arthur Hughes, Holman Hunt, J. E. Millais, Alexander Munro, V. Princep, D. G. Rossetti, J. Sant, C. A. Swinburne, Mrs E. M. Ward, and G. F. Watts. He lionized them and got most of them to sit for his camera. Others who sat for him included Frederick, crown prince of Denmark; Prince Leopold, youngest son of Queen Victoria; George MacDonald and his family; F. D. Maurice; Tom Taylor, the editor of Punch; Tennyson and his family; Henry Taylor and his family; the famous Terry family; Charlotte M. Yonge and her mother; and Mrs Humphry Ward as bride with her sister bridesmaids.

What Dodgson could not achieve in sketching, he did achieve in photography in those early days of the art, when sittings had to last some 45 seconds and the process of taking and developing the glass negatives was extremely difficult. He had an eye for the beauty around him and a good sense of composition, qualities amply evident in his photographs, many of which he proudly inscribed 'from the Artist'. When he first began to experiment with photography he took pictures of adults (his family, friends, and Oxford colleagues), and tried some architectural photographs, some landscapes, and still life. But in time he focused on his child friends, dressing them up in costumes—often genuine stage costumes that he had collected and kept in a wardrobe, and sometimes costumes he borrowed from Oxford museums, including the Ashmolean. His greatest achievement with his camera was in photographing the young. Helmut Gernsheim, the historian, called his 'photographic achievements … truly astonishing' and proclaimed him 'the most outstanding photographer of children in the nineteenth century' (Gernsheim, 28). Edmund Wilson wrote in the New Yorker that 'in the posing, the arrangement of background, and the instinct for facial expression … [Dodgson's photographs] show a strong sense of personality'. He finds 'a liveliness and humor in these pictures that sometimes suggest Max Beerbohm' and says that they anticipate Beerbohm's volume of drawings Rossetti and his Circle. 'As for the pictures of children,' Wilson continues, 'they, too, are extremely varied and provide a … revelation of Lewis Carroll's special genius for depicting little English girls that is as brilliant in its way as Alice' (E. Wilson, New Yorker, 13 May 1950).

Dodgson as author

Dodgson's writing meant a great deal to him; writing was the main course by which he could do something for others, to fulfil a deep religious desire to contribute something to humanity—it was his offering to God. After resigning his mathematical lectureship in 1881, at the age of forty-nine (he retained his studentship and resident privileges at Christ Church to the end), he devoted himself primarily to his writing. Often standing at his upright desk (he calculated that he could stand and write for ten hours a day), he turned out a myriad of works. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was followed in late 1871 by its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There, and in 1876 by that longest and most revered nonsense poem in English, The Hunting of the Snark. While these are the works that have made Lewis Carroll a household name, his bibliography contains over 300 varied items, many of them highly specialized, even arcane, the mass characterized by facility and punctilious care.

Dodgson sought always to provide his readers with books of the finest quality, and because of an unusual relationship with his publisher, Macmillan, he achieved exceptional results. Macmillan arranged for printing and distribution of his books in exchange for a 10 per cent commission, but Dodgson paid all costs of printing, illustrating, and advertising, retaining control and making all decisions. He was, consequently, able to suppress the first edition of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in 1865 because his artist, John Tenniel, was not satisfied with the printing of the illustrations; and, dissatisfied himself for one reason or another, he disposed of an inferior edition of The Game of Logic in 1886; in 1889 he condemned the entire first run of 10,000 copies of The Nursery ‘Alice’, and in 1893 scuttled the sixtieth thousand run of Looking-Glass.

Dodgson collected his poems in three anthologies: Phantasmagoria and other Poems (1869), Rhyme? and Reason? (1883), and Three Sunsets and other Poems (1898). His verse falls into one of three categories: the nonsense poetry for which he is world famous; his narrative verse, which is undervalued; and, least memorable, his serious poems. These last were strongly influenced by Romantic conventions and Victorian sentimentality, but are none the less important for an understanding of him because here, in fact and in symbol, he reveals his emotional travails.

Dodgson invented and published a cascade of puzzles and games, some in verse, for what he imagined to be a world of child friends, even though many of these high-spirited exercises elude solution by mature and experienced minds. Among these efforts are: Castle-Croquet (1866), Doublets (1879), Lanrick (1880), Mischmasch (1881), A Tangled Tale (1885), The Game of Logic (1886), Circular Billiards (1890), Syzygies (1891), and Arithmetical Croquet (first published 1953).

As gadgeteer and inventor

Dodgson was an inveterate gadgeteer, collecting all manner of contrivances and trinkets, and he invented a good many himself. His own inventions included an 'in statu quo chessboard' (Diaries, 249) with holes into which the chess pieces could be secured when travelling; any number of card games; an early form of what was later to be known as Scrabble; a rule for finding the day of the week for any date; a means of justifying the right margins on the typewriter; a steering device for a tricycle; a new sort of postal money order; rules for reckoning postage; rules for a win in betting; rules for dividing numbers by various divisors; a cardboard scale for Christ Church common room, which, held next to a glass, insured the right amount of liquor for the price paid; a substitute for gum, 'for fastening envelopes …, mounting small things in books, etc.—viz: paper with gum on both sides' (Diaries, 526); a device for helping a bedridden invalid to read from a book placed sideways; and at least two ciphers.

Three other inventions are remarkable. In 1877 Dodgson produced his Memoria technica, a significant improvement on Dr Richard Grey's system (1730) for memorizing dates and events, with which Dodgson must have struggled as a schoolboy. Dodgson's method assigns two consonants to each number from 0 to 9, fills in vowels to make words, and sets the words in rhymed couplets that help one remember not just dates but other facts as well. The rhymes turn the process into a game. Here is how he prods the reader to remember 1492:

Columbus sailed the world aroundUntil America was FOUND.

The consonants F N D represent 492; the prefix 1 is always assumed.

In 1888 he designed, and later published, The Wonderland Postage-Stamp Case, with slots for different denominations of postage stamps and containing a miniature pamphlet, Eight or Nine Wise Words about Letter-Writing, an entertaining, tongue-in-cheek set of prescriptions and proscriptions for how to write letters.

In 1891 he invented the 'nyctograph', a description of which he published in The Lady (29 October), offering it freely to the general public. It is a small device that he used for composing and recording in the dark, while lying awake, 'a few lines, or even a few pages, without even putting the hands outside the bed-clothes'.

Proportional representation and lawn tennis

Dodgson's concern with fair voting practices at a time when the franchise was being extended more and more drove him to contribute significantly to the theory of parliamentary elections. In 1873 he published his first pamphlet, Discussion of Procedure in Elections, intended to alter voting methods at Christ Church. He sought to replace majority principles by a system of awarding marks or points. Always keenly interested in British politics, he took his arguments beyond the university into the public forum with a number of other publications, including his pamphlet The Principles of Parliamentary Representation (1884). His work on voting theory and redistribution remained significant throughout the twentieth century. It 'presents the longest connected chain of reasoning in Political Science', wrote the mathematician F. Abeles in 1970. 'Dodgson showed a grasp of ideas on the intuitive level that were not formalized until 1928'. In 1996 it was noted that 'few … [voting theorists were] capable of expressing their principles clearly and only two [succeed]—G. C. Andrae, a Danish mathematician … and C. L. Dodgson—trained in axiomatic reasoning' (McLean and Urken, introduction). Another twentieth-century critic deeply regretted that:

Dodgson never completed the book that he planned to write [on voting theory]. … Such were his lucidity of exposition and his mastery of the topic that it seems possible that, had he ever published it, the political history of Britain would have been significantly different.

Dummett, 5

Dodgson devised a new system for conducting lawn tennis competitions to improve upon the rules in use, which he deemed inherently unjust: he did not think it fair that players should be knocked out of competition after only one loss. In 1883 he published four letters on the subject in the St James's Gazette and a pamphlet, Lawn Tennis Tournaments: the True Method of Assigning Prizes. His system, while complex, is still considered more equitable to players than current practice.

Dodgson: the man

Contrary to some myths, Dodgson was anything but a shy recluse sequestered behind college walls. He travelled frequently throughout Britain, sometimes with his cumbersome camera in tow; he was often to be seen in London theatres and art galleries, and even in corridors of power; and he hobnobbed with artists, writers, and actors. He left Britain once, accompanying his friend H. P. Liddon across Europe on a mission to Russia, where Liddon explored the possibilities of rapprochement between the Eastern church and the West. He went regularly to Guildford in Surrey, where his unmarried sisters and brothers lived after their father's death in 1868, and he spent summers at the seaside, usually Eastbourne, on writing holidays.

Dodgson was about 6 feet tall, slender, had either grey or blue eyes, wore his hair long, and 'carried himself upright, almost more than upright, as if he had swallowed a poker'. He dressed customarily in clerical black and wore a tall silk hat, but when he took Alice and her sisters out on the river, he wore white flannel trousers and a hard white straw hat (A. and C. Hargreaves, Alice's recollections). He ate frugally when he ate at all, disliked tea but enjoyed a glass of wine. He had a pleasant speaking voice, but left no recording of it, and a tolerably good singing voice which he did not mind using. He sometimes talked to himself.

Dodgson was interested in many branches of science, particularly medicine, and was a member of the Society for Psychical Research. Art and music were two of his delights; he was fond of quotations. He disliked physical sports but was known to play croquet. He went on long walks, sometimes covering 23 miles in a day. He was orderly in all things and kept extensive records. While many attested to his kind, considerate, courteous nature, he could be rude and was known suddenly to walk out of tea parties. Certainly he stomped out of theatres when he found anything on the stage irreligious or otherwise offensive. He once reprimanded the bishop of Ripon for including in a Bampton lecture an anecdote that elicited laughter. He planned but never completed a volume of Shakespeare plays especially for girls, out-Bowdlerizing Bowdler. He so resented Shakespeare's lines at the end of The Merchant of Venice requiring Shylock to abandon his faith and become a Christian that he wrote to Ellen Terry, after seeing her and Henry Irving perform the play, asking her to delete the lines from future performances: 'it is … entirely horrible and revolting to … all who believe in the Gospel of Love' (Letters, 365). He was an anti-vivisectionist and denounced blood sports. He valued his privacy and hated the limelight, jealously concealing the true identity of Lewis Carroll from strangers. He was by many accounts unselfish and generous. He helped to support his sisters and brothers, other relatives, friends, and even strangers. He was always willing to take on new students, and he was ready, though in all humility, to try to help young and old with spiritual problems. He claimed generally to be happy, but at least one observer guessed that he was a 'lonely spirit and prone to sadness' (Rowell). When he realized that his children's books would yield a modest income for the rest of his life, he asked his dean to reduce his lecturing responsibilities and his salary accordingly.

Dodgson was constantly involved in extramural (if not worldly) affairs. Essentially conservative—and in politics definitely so—he none the less fought for reforms that won for him and his fellow Christ Church dons a voice in college matters. He inundated members of his college and university with frequent broadsheets and pamphlets, in prose and verse, on a multiplicity of subjects that ranged from opposing cricket pitches in University Parks to a spoof, dripping with irony, of the wooden cube that Dean Liddell had erected atop Tom Quad's Great Hall staircase to house bells removed from the cathedral. He also sent off, from his Christ Church eyrie, letters and articles to a string of periodicals, including The Times, the Pall Mall Gazette, Aunt Judy's Magazine, the Fortnightly Review, the St James's Gazette, The Observer, and Mind, on widely varying subjects ranging from Gladstone and cloture to vivisection and hydrophobia, and from education for the stage and an Oxford scandal to a logical paradox and the spirit of reverence on the stage.

As letter writer

Dodgson's private letters, usually written in purple ink, were more than occasionally works of art; when addressed to his young friends, they were fanciful creations, self-contained microcosms of Wonderlands. In them he created puzzles, puns, and pranks; he teased, feigned, fantasized. He sent letters in verse, sometimes set down as prose to see if his correspondent would detect the hidden metres and rhymes; letters written backwards so that one has to hold them up to a looking-glass; acrostic letters, rebus letters, letters written from back to front. By his own confession, he wrote 'wheelbarrows full almost' (Letters, 355); 'one third of my life seems to go in receiving letters', he wrote, 'and the other two-thirds in answering them' (ibid., 336); and 'I'm beginning to think that the proper definition of “Man” is “an animal that writes letters”' (ibid., 663). A letter register he kept for the last thirty-seven years of his life recorded that he sent and received 98,721 letters over that period.

Late works

Late in life Dodgson published Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893), two long, complicated novels depicting three realms of being. Essentially love stories, they contain some imaginative flights that sparkle, but, where Dodgson in the Alice books eschewed any moral lesson, here he set himself a mission to edify and instruct, suggesting 'some thoughts that may prove … not wholly out of harmony with the graver cadences of Life' (L. Carroll, Preface, Sylvie and Bruno, 1889, xiii); his Victorian sentimentality and heavy messages become burdens.

Dodgson's most exacting efforts of the 1890s went into a three-layered work on symbolic logic, beginning with elementary concepts and reaching ethereal, theoretical heights. He published Symbolic Logic: Part I, Elementary in 1896, and when he died in 1898 he had much of the other two volumes fleshed out and almost all of the second volume set in type. His family, compelled to clear his Christ Church rooms soon after his death, disposed as best they could of the enormous quantity of his possessions, burning many seemingly unimportant papers. No doubt parts of the two advanced logic books went up in flames. But, miraculously, much of the second volume survived, along with bits of the third, and in the mid-1960s a proof of the second volume was found at All Souls, Oxford, Dodgson having sent it to another don for comment. Its publication brought Dodgson fresh professional attention and regard.

Dodgson in retrospect

Had Dodgson never written the Alice books, he would have earned a nod or a paragraph in various specialized histories: mathematics and logic, photography, parliamentary voting systems, and games and puzzles. But the Alice books have earned him a place in the firmament of the great, for they are not only acts of imaginative genius but they also revolutionized writing for children. Children's books after Carroll grew less serious, more entertaining, and sounded less like sermons and more like the voices of friends than earlier prototypes. It follows that the influence of the Alice books upon children as they mature has been considerable, and it is difficult to think of a great writer in recent times who has not declared or demonstrated that influence.

Although the wheels of an Alice ‘industry’ did not begin to whirr fiercely until well into the twentieth century, Dodgson reaped some satisfaction at their modest record in his lifetime. Six years before he died, he was able to write to Alice herself that 'your adventures have had a marvellous success. I have now sold well over 100,000 copies' (Letters, 561). Translations into foreign languages had already proliferated, and the Alice characters were even then inspiring art and commercial enterprises. Imitations and parodies burgeoned, sequels appeared, and Dodgson gave his blessing to the manufacture of a Looking-Glass biscuit tin. Poems that he never wrote were attributed to him. He did not garner a fortune by any means, and left under £5000, but he must have gleaned considerable satisfaction from the popularity of these books.

The Alice books and The Hunting of the Snark have had an impact upon the English language as well, and after Shakespeare and the Bible are the most frequently quoted round the world. These works grow more popular with time even as the fascination with the life of their begetter increases. Dodgson died, unmarried and celibate, on 14 January 1898, of pneumonia, in his family home, The Chestnuts, Guildford, and was buried in Guildford old cemetery, The Mount, on 19 January.


  • The works of Lewis Carroll, ed. R. L. Green (1965)
  • The diaries of Lewis Carroll, ed. R. L. Green, 2 vols. (1953)
  • C. L. Dodgson, diaries, 9 vols., BL
  • The letters of Lewis Carroll, ed. M. N. Cohen and R. L. Green, 2 vols. (1979)
  • S. D. Collingwood, The life and letters of Lewis Carroll (Rev. C. L. Dodgson) (1898)
  • S. H. Williams and F. Madan, A handbook of the literature of the Rev. C. L. Dodgson, ed. D. Crutch, rev. edn (1979)
  • Jabberwocky (1969) [journal of the Lewis Carroll Society]
  • M. N. Cohen, Lewis Carroll: a biography (1995)
  • M. N. Cohen, ed., Lewis Carroll: interviews and recollections (1989)
  • M. N. Cohen and A. Gandolfo, eds., Lewis Carroll and the house of Macmillan (1987)
  • A. Clark, The real Alice (1981)
  • H. Gernsheim, Lewis Carroll: photographer, 2nd edn (1969)
  • M. N. Cohen, Reflections in a looking glass (1998)
  • M. Gardner, The annotated Alice (1960)
  • M. Gardner, More annotated Alice (1990)
  • [A. Hargreaves and C. Hargreaves], ‘The Lewis Carroll that Alice recalls’, New York Times (1 May 1932)
  • C. Hargreaves, ‘Alice's recollections of Carrollian days, as told to her son’, Cornhill Magazine, [3rd] ser., 73 (1932), 1–12
  • V. Dodgson, ‘Lewis Carroll—as I knew him’, London Calling (28 June 1951)
  • J. H. Pearson, letter, The Times (22 Dec 1931)
  • E. M. Rowell, ‘To me he was Mr Dodgson’, Harper's Magazine, 186 (1943), 320–23
  • E. Wilson, New Yorker (13 May 1950)
  • F. Abeles, ‘Evaluating Lewis Carroll's theory of parliamentary representation’, Jabberwocky (summer 1970)
  • I. McLean and A. B. Urken, eds., Classics of social choice (1996)
  • M. Dummett, Voting procedures (1984)
  • E. Seneta, ‘Lewis Carroll's “Pillow problems”: on the 1993 centenary’, Statistical Science, 8 (1993), 180–86
  • private information (2004)


  • BL, diaries, Add. MSS 54340–54348
  • Castle Arch Museum, Guildford
  • Christ Church Oxf., corresp. and literary papers
  • Harvard U., Houghton L., letters and drawings
  • Hunt. L., letters and literary MSS
  • Indiana University, Bloomington, Lilly Library, corresp. and writings
  • National Museum of Photography, Film, and TV, Bradford
  • New York University, Fales Library
  • Princeton University Library, corresp. and mathematical papers
  • Rosenbach Museum, Philadelphia
  • Surrey HC, corresp. and papers
  • University of British Columbia Library


  • photograph, 1856–1860, NPG [see illus.]
  • O. G. Rejlander, photograph, 1863, U. Texas, Gernsheim collection
  • C. L. Dodgson, self-portraits, photographs
  • H. Furniss, double portrait, pen-and-ink caricature sketch (with Harry Furniss), NPG
  • H. Furniss, pen-and-ink caricatures, NPG
  • H. von Herkomer, oils, Christ Church Oxf.
  • Hills & Saunders, photograph, NPG
  • S. Lutwidge, photograph, NPG
  • E. G. Thomson, sketch, Rosenbach Museum, Philadelphia
  • photographs, Castle Arch Museum, Guildford, Surrey

Wealth at Death

£4596 7s. 7d.: resworn probate, Dec 1898, CGPLA Eng. & Wales

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