by Akim Reinhardt
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was an odd fellow who eventually became someone else.
Born in 1832, he was the fourth of twelve children, and descended from a long line of English soldiers and priests all named Charles Dodgson. His parents were first cousins. He stuttered. A childhood fever left him deaf in one ear. As an adult he would suffer from migraines and epilepsy.
At age 12 he was sent away to school. He hated it. Still, he aced his classes and went on to Christ Church College in Oxford. He did not always apply himself, but nonetheless excelled at mathematics and eventually earned a teaching position. He remained at the school for the rest of his life.
Dodgson was conservative, stuffy, and shy. He was awed by aristocrats and sometimes snobbish to his social inferiors. He was mildly self-deprecating and earnestly religious. He had a reputation for being a very good charades player. He invented a number of gadgets, including a stamp collecting folder, a note taking tablet, a new type of money order, and a steering device for tricycles. He also created an early version of Scrabble. He liked little girls.
Dodgson enjoyed photographing and drawing nude children. He never married or had any children of his own. Whether his affection for pre-pubescent girls was sexual, or merely tied to Victorian notions of children representing innocence, is still debated. In the prime of his adulthood, one girl in particular caught his fancy: eleven year old Alice Liddell.
Dodgson spent much time with the Liddell family. A favorite activity was taking Alice and her two siblings out on a rowboat, where he would tell them stories. Alice so enjoyed the stories that she begged Charles to write them down. He presented her with a handwritten, illustrated collection in 1864. He called it Alice’s Adventures Underground. Read more »