Childhood & Early Years
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born on 27 January 1832 in Cheshire, England and was the oldest boy of his parents. His father Charles Dodgson was a conservative clergyman of the Anglican Church and a supporter of Anglo-Catholicism. In 1843, their family moved to the Croft Rectory in Richmond shire, North Yorkshire. Young Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was educated at home until the age of twelve, when he was sent to a private school nearby Richmond.
In 1846, he moved to Rugby School where he excelled in academy throughout, especially in mathematics. As a child, Lewis took keen interest in literature and read such authors as William Shakespeare John Ruskin, Charles Dickens and Lord Alfred Tennyson. He began writing short stories for his family magazine at a very young age. Though he never was a hard worker, success came to him easily because of his exceptional sharpness and intellect.
He left the school after three years in 1849 and after a gap of few years, enrolled into Christ Church, Oxford in 1851. However, he had to return immediately, after his mother died of what was believed to be a stroke, at the age of forty seven. Lewis’s pursuit of education would often be challenged by many other disruption and diversions in the coming times too, which would not only affect his consistency but also his physical and mental health.
Exceptionally gifted he was, he followed in his father’s footprints and won many prizes for excellence in math. In 1852, he was awarded a first Honor Moderations and soon after he was nominated to a studentship. Lewis earned his B.A. degree in 1854 with a first class honors in math, and second in classics. In 1857, he graduated with an M.A. His determination to succeed and talent as a mathematician won him the Mathematical Lectureship at Oxford in 1856 where he worked till 1881.
Lewis as an Author
Lewis, as a child, wrote many short stories and poems that often were humorous and mocking in nature. Initially he wrote them out of passion and as a contribution to his family magazine Mischmasch, but later he began sending them for publications in various magazines. After initial moderate success, his work began to mark their place in the national publications such as The Comic Times and The Train. In 1856, his first work, a romantic poem- Solitude was published under his name which became his first landmark success.
While at Oxford, Lewis became acquaintance with the new dean Henry Liddell’s wife Lorina and their family who came at Christ Church in the year 1856. The couple became great friends with Lewis, who had grown attached to their children Harry, Lorina, Edith and Alice and often entertained them with his jokes and stories. Dodgson, who clearly had affection for small children, took them on expeditions very often, and pictured them in his painting and photographs.
The couple’s daughter Alice grew closer to him in particular; to whom he had first cited the story of what later became a famous book Alice’s adventures in Wonderland. Alice Liddell urged him to pen down the story and he eventually presented her with a handwritten manuscript of the book in 1864. The book was finally published under his authorship in 1865 and became the milestone success in his writing career.
The awe-inspiring success of the book made him a much sought after author around the world with a large number of fans. There are many who believe that Alice of his real life appears as the main character of the book, however, Lewis never encouraged this conjecture. In 1872, a sequel of the book was published as Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. His father’s death in 1868 left him depressed in the depth of despair.
Lewis Dodgson as Photographer
Photography was one of his great interests which he first took up in 1856 under the influence of his uncle and later a friend Reginald Southey became his mentor. His work mainly consist nude photographs of small children, most of them illustrating young girls. His studies of nude children have inflamed countless rumors and controversies that keep surfacing till this day. Dodgson also studied other such subjects as men, dolls, dogs, statues, paintings, trees and old men and made portraits of eminent persons such as Julia Margret Cameron, Michael Faraday Millais and Alfred, Lord Tennyson. He was considered one of the best photographers in his times that influenced and set exemplary for the modern art photographers. Dodgson abandoned photography in 1880 for unknown reasons.
Controversies about the Priesthood
By the social standards of that time, it was necessary for Lewis to take priesthood (holy orders) to stay at the Christ Church within four years of completing his M.A. However, he requested the dean Liddell to hold the orders citing his inability to accept the priesthood. In normal conditions, it might have taken away his job, but Liddell exempted him from this obligation for unknown reasons. Later it was found in his diaries that Lewis considered himself unworthy of the priesthood, however, scholars have raise doubts at this as a reason, in whose opinion, Lewis had some personal interests that forbid him to take the holy orders.
Later Years and Death
Lewis left teaching at Christ Church in year 1881; however, he remained in the residence until his death. He wrote a novel Sylvie and Bruno in 1889, which became his last novel. However, the reception of the book was lukewarm. Lewis Carroll caught a pneumonia which turned out to be severe influenza, and died on 14 January 1898. His body is buried in Guildford at the Mount Cemetery.