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Lewis Carroll - Biography & Selected Products

Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson on the 27th January 1832 at Daresbury, Cheshire, the eldest boy and the third child.  Another eight followed.  

 When Dodgson was 11, his cleric father moved his family to Croft-on-Tees in the North Riding of Yorkshire.  Although his father was active and highly conservative his son was ambivalent with those values and with the Church as a whole.

In his early years Dodgson was educated at home and by age 7 he was reading the likes of ‘The Pilgrim's Progress’.  He also spoke with a stammer which he called his ‘hesitation’.

At 12 he was dispatched to Richmond Grammar School in North Yorkshire and then on to Rugby.  He sailed through the curriculum.  He was accepted at Christ Church, Oxford but two days after arriving he was summoned home: his mother had died of ‘inflammation of the brain’ at only 47.

Dodgson was exceptionally gifted and, when not distracted, achievement came easily to him.  He remained at Christ Church studying and teaching in various capacities until his death.

In March 1856, he published the romantic poem ‘Solitude’ as by ‘Lewis Carroll’.

That same year he took up the new art of photography.  He soon excelled and became a well-known gentleman-photographer, and even toyed with the idea of making a living out of it.  When he ceased photography in 1880, he had his own studio and had created around 3,000 images.

He enjoyed moderate success with his early poems and short stories but had an array of other interests in the pre-Raphaelite circle, Psychical Research and even ordained in the Church of England in 1861.

In July 1862 he told a young Alice Liddell the story that would become his first and greatest success.  Alice begged him to write it down, and eventually he did and later presented her with a handwritten and illustrated ‘Alice's Adventures Under Ground’.  The publisher Macmillan agreed to publish it as ‘Alice's Adventures in Wonderland’ by Lewis Carroll.

It was a huge and sensational life-changing success.  Royalties quickly accumulated as did fan mail.

In 1871, the darker themed sequel ‘Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There’ was published.  A half decade later came ‘The Hunting of the Snark’, a fantastical nonsense poem, as nine tradesmen and a beaver set off to find the snark.  It was another enormous success.

He also loved to invent such delights as a writing tablet ‘the nyctograph’ that allowed note-taking in the dark as well as many word games, such as the precursor to ‘Scrabble’, and alternative systems of parliamentary voting.  Within the discipline of mathematics, he worked in geometry, linear and matrix algebra, mathematical logic, recreational mathematics and wrote nearly a dozen books on the subject.  

Lewis Carroll died of pneumonia following influenza on 14th January 1898 in Guildford, Surrey.  He was 65.