Artwork of Alice in Wonderland having a tea party, uploaded Feb. 28, 2014 - azzy_roth/Pixabay
CAIRO - 27 January 2018: January 27 is the birthday of author and mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, better known to the world as Lewis Carroll, the father of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", perhaps the most beloved children’s book ever written.
Dodgson was born in 1832, the third of 11 children, to a Christian clergyman. At a young age, Dodgson excelled at entertaining his siblings, something that was necessary due to the isolated little village they lived in. He thought up games and poems, nurturing that remarkable creativity that would propel him to fame later in his life. Dodgson also proved himself as a competent mathematician from a young age, winning numerous prizes.
By the time he was 20 years old, he had received a scholarship to Christ Church, which required him to remain unmarried until he became a priest. However, Dodgson felt he was not made for the duties and preferred to remain single for the rest of his life. This is not to say he was lonely, because Dodgson was known to be a friendly and sociable man, especially with the young children of his friends.
Portrait photography was a popular hobby at the time, and Dodgson was considered to have a gift for it. In particular, he was drawn to little girls, spending a lot of time with them. He marveled at their innocence, and, with the permission of their parents, was known to frequently photograph them. His lifelong stutter was claimed to have been softened around children, showing his immense comfort with them.
Eventually, Dodgson befriended Henry George Liddell, the dean of Christ Church, but it was his friendship with his young daughter, Alice Liddell, and her sisters that would prove to be an important turning point in Dodgson's life. Amongst all the children Dodgson knew, the Liddell sisters held a special place in his heart, and he frequently told them stories and poems, which they fondly remembered as the highlights of their youth.
It was Alice Liddell who would eventually inspire "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland", which Dodgson wrote as a gift to her. On July 4, 1862, Dodgson told little Alice the first version of the story, "Alice’s Adventures Underground", which she adored immensely, begging Dodgson to expand the story, which he of course did. "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland" was first published in 1865 under the penname of Lewis Carroll, and then republished to a wider release following printing issues in 1866.
The story quickly grew to become a massive success, prompting Dodgson to formulate a sequel, "Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There", published in 1871. By the time he passed way from pneumonia at the age of 66 on January 14, 1898, “Alice in Wonderland” had become more than just a household name – it was one of the most popular children’s books in all of England, and eventually, the world.
However, the reputation for Dodgson himself has taken a beating in recent years. Starting in the 1930s, theories have abounded that his friendship with Alice Liddell may have held sinister overtones, and that his writing, “Alice in Wonderland” in particular, held evidence that he was a repressed pedophile. The controversy rages to this day, with Dodson's private letters and other writings used as evidence for and against a supposed attraction to young girls. Regardless, there is no evidence that he had ever committed any inappropriate acts with any of the children he knew, and Alice Liddell remembered him fondly even at the age of 80.