Looking Glasses and Logic

This month our foyer exhibition features the work of Lewis Carroll (pseudonym of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson,1832-1898). He is best known for his books Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass but he was also a mathematician and photographer. Born in Daresbury, Cheshire, Dodgson was educated at Rugby School and Christ Church, Oxford, where he was appointed lecturer in mathematics in 1855 and where he spent the rest of his life.

Illustration from Through the Looking Glass (Sp Coll Hepburn 99)

Illustration from Through the Looking Glass (Sp Coll Hepburn 99)

Ordained as an Anglican deacon in 1861, he did not progress to the priesthood. Dodgson was handicapped by a stammer and his self-consciousness lessened only in the presence of children with whom he spent much time, creating games and puzzles to amuse them. Alice Liddell (1852-1934), second of the three young daughters of the Dean of Christ Church, was the greatest among these ‘child-friends” and became the muse for his Alice books although he kept in touch with many others throughout their adult lives. His other literary works include the poems The Hunting of the Snark and Jabberwocky, the Sylvie and Bruno books, Phantasmagoria, and, in his mathematical guise, An Elementary treatise on determinants.

In 1856, Dodgson took up the new art form of photography. He soon became a well-known photographer of celebrities of the day, such as the poet Alfred, Lord Tennyson and the actress Ellen Terry, but it is his portraits of children that really show his skill and he is now remembered as the premier photographer of children in the Victorian era.

Despite the growing wealth and fame which followed the huge commercial success of the first Alice book in 1865, his existence remained little changed. Dodgson continued to teach at Christ Church until his retirement in November 1881, and remained in residence there until his death. He died from a bronchial infection on 14th January 1898 and was buried in Guildford at the Mount Cemetery. A stone is dedicated to him in the Poet’s Corner of Westminster Abbey.

In our display we have first edition copies of Through the Looking Glass(1871) and The Hunting of the Snark (1876). Also on show are Sylvie and Bruno (1889), The Lewis Carroll Picture Book (1899), and The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll(1940).

Pop up to the Special Collections foyer and see these lovely books for yourself.

Those with an interest in Lewis Carroll may want to investigate the British Library’s Our Discovering Literature section.


Categories: Library, Reflections, Special Collections

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