Lewis Carroll, of course, wrote Alice in Wonderland. That book is quite a read. And, I have seen the play a few times, and then the movies. But he is one of the people I named my dog after. Lew. Lou. If Little Lou is dabbling in bad manners, he is called Lewis. Louis.
But back to Mr. Carroll. Today is his birthday, hence this attention. His real name isn’t Lewis at all. It is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. I think Lutwidge would have been a good name for a dog. It sounds like a fastener, that we might find underneath the hoods of our cars. “It’s right over there, right next to the Lutwidge.”
Anyway, that was his name. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. His family was from Northern England. And they were very religious people. Very conservative and high church Anglican. Most of Dodgson’s male ancestors were army officers or Church of England clergy. I don’t know how many generations there were before him, but starting from his great, great grandfather down, they were all named Charles Lutwidge Dodson.
Our Charles, was one of eleven children. The third born, and the oldest boy. And religion ruled their homestead and their lives. I could go on about all those connections, but I won’t. They were tremendously steeped in the Holy.
I am not sure how things worked in England back then, but Charles married his first cousin in 1830. Yes, his first. Her name was Frances Jane Lutwidge. At that same time, he became a country parson (a priest of a Parish Church).
He had health problems as a child. Illnesses. He was deaf in one ear too. And he stammered. And somewhere in there, he had knee troubles, or some such thing. Poor Charles, limping around, stuttering, always asking people to “Speak up.” Blessing them.
Anyway, he was brilliant in a lot of ways. He was, of course a gifted writer. But he was also an incredible mathematician. Also, a very talented photographer. I say, “Good for the world, Charles, that you wrote when you did!”
Yes he wrote, mostly all his life. He started out with poetry, and then by 1862, he had outlined the story of Alice in Wonderland, for a family friend’s daughter, named Alice. It was published in 1865, and it took the world by surprise. Wild success. Fan mail. Status. All of which Charles did not really care for. But there was no getting around it. The book was hugely popular.
Big. In fact, Queen Victoria enjoyed that good book. So much so, that she commanded Charles to dedicate his next book to her. He was a very smart guy. And loyal. So, accordingly, he presented her with his very next work, a scholarly mathematical volume entitled “An Elementary Treatise on Determinants.”
I bet he signed the inside cover. Maybe he sine-d it.
He loved to write letters. That is another thing about him. And he kept track, in some sort of a special letter register which he devised. Dodgson wrote and received as many as 98,721 letters. That’s a lot of corresponding.
There is some controversy about him, and some mystery. The mystery is seated in some of his missing “works.” There are four volumes of his diaries that have disappeared. Someone physically “removed” the pages. A thing we’ll never know.
I am glad for him though. Not just because of my dog. That helps, of course. But also because of the Rabbit Hole, which I enter frequently. The good Queen who runs in place to win the races. And the Mad Hatter, who made me believe in the Power of Mercury Lined Hats.
I am most thankful for that very good Cheshire Cat, who reminds me, “I’m not crazy. My reality is just different than yours.”
So here’s to Lewis Carroll. Thanks, Lutwidge, for the Wonderland.
“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice (she was so much surprised, that for the moment she quite forgot how to speak good English). —Chapter 2, The Pool of Tears
“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”
“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. — Chapter 6, Pig and Pepper
“Really, now you ask me,” said Alice, very much confused, “I don’t think—”
“Then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter. —Chapter 7, A Mad Tea-Party