The Alice behind Wonderland

The Alice behind Wonderland

The Alice behind Wonderland

The Alice behind Wonderland


On a summer's day in 1858, in a garden behind Christ Church College in Oxford, Charles Dodgson, a lecturer in mathematics, photographed six-year-old Alice Liddell, the daughter of the college dean, with a Thomas Ottewill Registered Double Folding camera, recently purchased in London.

Simon Winchester deftly uses the resulting image--as unsettling as it is famous, and the subject of bottomless speculation--as the vehicle for a brief excursion behind the lens, a focal point on the origins of a classic work of English literature. Dodgson's love of photography framed his view of the world, and was partly responsible for transforming a shy and half-deaf mathematician into one of the world's best-loved observers of childhood. Little wonder that there is more to "Alice Liddell as the Beggar Maid" than meets the eye. Using Dodgson's published writings, private diaries, and of course his photographic portraits, Winchester gently exposes the development of Lewis Carroll and the making of his Alice.

Acclaim for Simon Winchester

"An exceptionally engaging guide at home everywhere, ready for anything, full of gusto and seemingly omnivorous curiosity."
--Pico Iyer,The New York Times Book Review

"A master at telling a complex story compellingly and lucidly."
--USA Today

"Extraordinarily graceful."

"Winchester is an exquisite writer and a deftanecdoteur."
--Christopher Buckley

"A lyrical writer and an indefatigable researcher."


On the main floor of the Firestone Library, the cozily magnificent and prematurely ancient (it was built in 1948) Gothic centerpiece of the Princeton University campus, there is what appears to be the private library of an English gentleman’s country house, carefully set back and hidden away to keep it from the general bustle of readers.

Beyond its collection of leather-bound books, this room-within-a-room is notable for its deep and corduroy-ribbed reading chairs, stained glass, richly polished paneling, lamps, and portraits. Perhaps most impressive of all to those of romantic disposition is its baronial fireplace—in which, however, no fire is ever permitted to be lit because of its being sited within a great and very flammable academic library.

The room is more than just a faithful reproduction of the library—it is the library, reconstructed panel by panel, carpet by . . .

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