The Mathematician, the White Rabbit, and the Looking Glass January 30 2015, 0 Comments
by Bethany Wagner
In 1852, a young man was rising to prominence in the academic world of Oxford. A student at Christ Church College, he had earned his degree in mathematics with first-class honors, standing first on the list, eventually becoming an Oxford teacher.
And yet, despite this success, this was not what the world knows Charles Lutwidge Dodgson for today. In fact, we know him by a different name—Lewis Carroll, creator of the magical realm of Wonderland, where we meet a young girl named Alice, the Cheshire Cat, the Queen of Hearts, and the mysterious Jabberwocky.
Ever since he was young, Carroll reached into his imagination to create poems and short stories, reaching publication success in magazine and at publishing houses over the years. But his famous tales of Wonderland did not come into being until 1856 when Henry Liddell became dean of Christ Church, bringing along with him his three children: Harry, Lorina, Edith…and Alice.
Carroll befriended the family and took the children on rowing outings. It was on one such expedition, in July 1862, that he began telling the first stories of Wonderland. Alice Liddell in particular was captivated by the stories, and Carroll gave her a handwritten, illustrated manuscript entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground in 1864. After receiving further encouragement from the children of famed Scottish author George MacDonald, Carroll published Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
It took the world by storm, and Carroll was catapulted into stardom, receiving fan mail and attention from around the world. In 1871, he published a sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There. Both works became known for their fantastic stories, clever word play, and whimsical, strange settings.
Carroll continued teaching at Christ Church until his death in 1898. He also published a number of mathematical books, took up photography, invented several writing tools and games, and wrote another fiction work, Sylvia and Bruno.
But none of this outshone his stories of a little girl named Alice and her adventures in the mysterious Wonderland. These continue to captivate generations of readers, and have sparked multiple film adaptations, the famous Disney film, television shows, books, art, plays, and even theme park rides. Children, adults, and literary scholars alike return to these stories again and again with fascination, jumping down the rabbit hole with Alice to discover what Wonderland might hold for them.