Thursday, March 10, 2011

Simon Winchester in Wonderland

Charles Dodgson — better known by his nom de plume, Lewis Carroll — was a shy young professor at Oxford University when he first met Alice Liddell and her family in 1856. Alice’s father, Henry Liddell, was the dean of the Oxford College where Charles taught math and the two men became close friends. Charles enjoyed picnics and boating with the ten Liddell children, and he often fabricated elaborate tales to entertain them.
On one occasion he created a fanciful tale about Alice and her adventures after falling down a rabbit hole, and the little girl begged him to write the story down. Eventually Charles presented her with a handwritten copy of Alice’s Adventures Underground. In 1865, Macmillan UK published a revised version which was double in length and had a new title.
Charles Dodgson was not only a mathematical genius and an imaginative writer, but he was also very talented in the new art of photography. The Alice Behind Wonderland focuses on a particular photograph he took of Alice, and uses this famous picture as a starting point in an examination of the inspiration behind one of the most famous children’s classics of all time.

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