Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass

A biography for young readers by Angelica Shirley Carpenter
Lerner Publications, 2003
ISBN 0-8225-0073-6

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who published children’s books under the pen name Lewis Carroll, was born in Cheshire, England, in 1832. His father was a clergyman. Charles was the third of eleven children; he entertained his siblings by inventing games and puppet shows and writing them stories he illustrated himself.

At age eighteen, he “went up” to Oxford University, where he stayed for the rest of his life. In graduate school, he worked in the Christ Church Library, where his office window overlooked the walled garden of the college dean. Oxford was all male at this time. Charles missed the company of women and children, so he was pleased when a new dean, Henry Liddell, moved in with his large family.

The Liddells arrived in Oxford just as Charles bought one of the first cameras available for hobbyists to use. Photos had to be taken outdoors then, in bright light. Charles practiced his photography in the dean’s garden, posing the dean’s children for pictures.

Charles made friends with the children, especially Lorina, Alice, and Edith. One day he told them a story about a girl named Alice, who fell down a rabbit hole. The real Alice asked him to write the story down for her. Later he published it as Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, using the pen name Lewis Carroll, and in time he wrote a sequel, Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.

Charles loved authors, artists, and actors. His friends were some of the most famous celebrities of his time. Often he photographed them. Today he is considered the most important photographer of children from the Victorian era (named for Queen Victoria, who ruled Great Britain for most of his lifetime).

Although Charles died in 1898, his books are known around the world, translated into dozens of languages. New versions continue to appear: plays, movies, ballets, music, video games, and other formats.

In 2011 I curated a Lewis Carroll exhibition at California State University, Fresno. Watch my guided tour of this display.

To find out more about Lewis Carroll, see:

Reviews of Lewis Carroll: Through the Looking Glass

Bulletin for the Center of Children’s Books: “This isn’t the hackneyed picture of Lewis Carroll, Wounded Soul, but rather a more complicated view of a man whose life contained pleasures and successes as well as disappointments. Controversial matters, whether it be Dodgson’s nude photographic studies or his possibly intimate friendship with Gertrude Chataway, aren’t shirked, but they’re addressed in context and without undue speculation.

VOYA, Voice of Youth Advocates: “Carpenter addresses the issue of Carroll's proclivity for young girls, yet she manages to keep it from becoming the focus of his relationship with Alice. Because Carroll kept a copy of all the letters he wrote, there is a great deal of primary information that flows nicely with the text of the biography.”

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