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Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll

Biography

Here is what we know about Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, also known by his pen name, Lewis Carroll. He was a mathematical genius, becoming a member of the Oxford faculty when he was just 24 years old. He loved logic, puzzles and wordplay. He was one of the best amateur photographers of the Victorian era, shooting hundreds of portraits before abruptly dropping the hobby after 24 years. And when he wasn't taking pictures or lecturing about mathematics or inventing yet another cipher, he was writing.

The stories, novels and "nonsense" poems in which Lewis Carroll specialized were originally written to entertain the young daughters of Rev. Henry Liddell, his dean at Oxford University. (Under the name Charles Dodgson, he published things like An Elementary Treatise on Determinants With Their Application to Simultaneous Linear Equations and Algebraical Geometry. Disney hasn't made a movie about that one yet.) His favorite of the Liddell girls was Alice. Alice inspired Carroll's best-known character, a spirited girl of the same name who falls down a rabbit hole and goes on a series of fantastic adventures. Carroll's stories were some of the most imaginative things ever written, and were an important inspiration for fantasy and science fiction today. Carroll was adamant that his stories contain no moral, allegory or otherwise important "message." He wanted children to find in his stories an outlet for the strict moralizing of the Victorian era.

Victorian social mores are key to the complex problem of Carroll's legacy. Lewis Carroll was obsessed with young girls. With their parents' permission, he took photographs of them, sometimes in states of undress (or no dress). He befriended them, playing with them at the seaside and taking them to the opera. Scholars are divided on whether he had pedophilic tendencies, though there's no evidence that he ever committed inappropriate acts with children.

As the King of Hearts might say, we will just begin at the beginning, go on until we reach the end, then stop.

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