Curious Carroll INWONDERLAND

The Mail on Sunday (London, England), March 29, 2015 | Go to article overview

Curious Carroll INWONDERLAND


Byline: ANTHONY QUINN BIOGRAPHY

The Story Of Alice: Lewis Carroll And The Secret History Of Wonderland Robert Douglas-Fairhurst Harvill Secker PS25 ????? This is the story of a creator and his muse, and of how the world came to embrace and misunderstand them. It is at times astonishing in its portrayal of their twinned fates and for what it says about the age in which they lived. It's no exaggeration to suggest that if Lewis Carroll were alive today and happened to make known his inspirations, pastimes and feelings about children, he would find his home being visited at dawn by the police.

Different times, and Robert Douglas-Fairhurst makes a sure-footed guide in unravelling them. The centrepiece of his intriguing book, published to coincide with the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice In Wonderland, is a summer's afternoon in Oxford - July 4, 1862 - when the Rev Charles Dodgson and his friend the Rev Robinson Duckworth made a boating expedition up the Thames to Godstow. They took with them three girls, the Liddell sisters - Ina, Edith and Alice - to whom Dodgson, aka Lewis Carroll, told an improvised story. Months afterwards, Carroll marked the significance of the day in his diary: 'On which occasion I told them the fairy-tale of Alice's Adventures Under Ground, which I undertook to write out for Alice.' Three years later the manuscript was published as Alice's Adventures In Wonderland.

In these pages, Carroll can seem a figment of someone's imagination, so eccentric and conflicted was his personality. One of 11 siblings born to an Anglican curate, he was the family entertainer, a games-player, conjuror, a maker of puns, puzzles, jokes, japes - and stories. He was also a shy stutterer, not much liked by his peers or admired by his students when he became a fellow in Mathematics at Christ Church, Oxford: 'Dull as ditchwater' was one verdict on his teaching. When he became famous for the books (Alice Through The Looking-Glass followed in 1871), celebrity-spotters were disappointed by his 'homely figure', while he was annoyed with them for noticing him at all. …

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