All about Alice

Article excerpt

All about Alice

LEWIS Carroll, who wrote Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass (1872), was, in private life, a professor of mathematics at the University of Oxford named Charles Lutwidge Dodgson.

He produced other books as well--mostly on difficult mathematical subjects.

Lewis Carroll was also the first of the great photographers, and his studies of children --especially of little Alice Liddell, who was both the heroine and the first reader of the two great books--have a charm and a mastery of technique envied by the snappers of today.

His love of girls, which he was too innocent to interpret sexually, had perhaps something to do with his desire to remain a child himself.

He never married, he was deeply and innocently religious, he liked to be cut off from the dangerous outside world. But the publication of the two Alice books brought him fame.

Both the Alice books are fantasies, aspects of the love of nonsense which was prevalent in England in the Victorian age. There was no nonsense in the rest of the world.

Alice's adventures take the form of dreams in which bizarre things happen, but these things are based on a more serious approach to language than we can permit ourselves in waking life. By language I mean, of course, the English language in which Carroll wrote; many of his dreamjokes are impossible to render into other tongues.

There is a strange poem which one of the characters, Humpty Dumpty, kindly explains to Alice, that sums up the possibilities of the dreaming world. It is called "Jabberwocky' and it begins:

Twas brillig, and the slithy toves Did gyre and gimble in the wabe. …