Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Carroll, Lewis

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Working name of UK writer Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898), also known under his own name as a mathematician, lecturer and writer of mathematical texts. LC is best known as author of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (1865; vt Alice in Wonderland 1944) and its sequel Through the Looking-glass, and What Alice Found There (dated 1872 but 1871; vt Alice Through the Looking-Glass 1930 US) – the two being assembled first as Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking-Glass (omni 1911). These books liberated Children's Fantasy from its chains of moral didacticism and presented a world of Nonsense which lampooned adults at a level that a child could appreciate. The first book had originally been narrated as a series of sketches by LC to the children of the Reverend Liddell (1811-1898), in particular his daughter Alice (1852-1934), during a boating trip in 1862, and LC had first written them down as Alice's Adventures Under Ground (written 1862-1863; published in manuscript facsimile 1886), a version that varies in many ways from the final. Although both novels are Dream fantasies, their creation is so vivid that both Wonderland and Looking-glass Land feel absurdly real. This illogical Reality forces one to accept them as Crosshatch fantasies, as access is as instantaneous through the imagination as via the Thresholds of the rabbit-hole or the Mirror. Alice Through the Looking-glass has the added discipline of being based on a Chess-game, an ingenious contrivance that brings structure to the Surrealism and makes the sequel a more accomplished and successful work. The second Alice novel is quoted more often than the first (though most people believe they are quoting from the first), and features the poems "Jabberwocky" and "The Walrus and the Carpenter". John Tenniel, who illustrated the Alice books, refused to illustrate one chapter in Through the Looking-Glass called "The Wasp in a Wig" because he thought it was ridiculous. The chapter was dropped but the proofs survived and it was eventually published as The Wasp in a Wig: The "Suppressed" Episode of Through the Looking Glass (1877 chap). A highly fictionalized account of LC's production of the stories and of his relationship with Alice is Dreamchild (1985). A number of movies have been made of Alice in Wonderland, of which the best-known – although not the best – is Disney's Alice in Wonderland (1951); of very considerable interest is Jan Švankmajer's Alice (1988). The star-studded Alice Through the Looking Glass (1960 tvm) is really a Pantomime.

Although the Alice books were always intended for children, there is little doubt that LC entertained himself by satirizing leading members of society, most of these characters being cleverly disguised and only now being rediscovered. Also, true to his mathematical training, he utilized the settings of Wonderland and Looking-glass Land to challenge the norms of society in a way that has caused many critics to regard the books as subversive.

Few authors have ever equalled LC's skills at creating logical nonsense, but the broad parameters of the Alice books spawned hosts of imitations and Sequels by Other Hands. Some of the Plot Devices, like the change in size, were picked up by Jean Ingelow in Mopsa the Fairy (1869), but more overt imitations include: Davy and the Goblin (1884 US) by Charles E Carryl, set in a Land of Nonsense; Down the Snow Stairs (1887) by Alice Corkran (?1856-1916); Wanted: A King (1890) by Maggie Browne (real name Margaret Andrewes), set in a dreamland full of nursery-rhyme characters; The Wallypug of Why (1895) by G E Farrow, which comes close in imitating the rationalized nonsense; Dot and the Kangeroo (1899 UK) by the Australian Ethel C Pedley; David Blaize and the Blue Door (1919) by E F Benson; and, more recently, The Phantom Tollbooth (1961) by Norton Juster. More direct sequels and parodies include (from a much longer list): A New Alice in the Old Wonderland (1895 US) by Anna M Richards Jr; Clara in Blunderland (1902) and Lost in Blunderland (1903) by Caroline Lewis (joint pseudonym of Harold Begbie, J Stafford Ransome [1860-1931] and M H Temple); Alice in Blunderland (1907) by John Kendrick Bangs; More 'Alice' (1959) by Yates Wilson; the inevitable erotic version, Blue Alice (1972) by Jackson Short (real name Peter Hochstein; 1939-    ); Alice in Blunderland (1983 US) by Jack Anderson (1922-2005) and John Kidner (1923-    ); and Alice Through the Needle's Eye (1984) by Gilbert Adair. More recently the world of Alice has been revisited in Fantastic Alice (anth 1995) ed Margaret Weis and Martin H Greenberg.

Between the Alice books LC wrote a short Fairytale, Bruno's Revenge (1867 Aunt Judy's Magazine; 1924 chap), about a bad-tempered Fairy persuaded to help his sister. LC later developed this into the novel Sylvie and Bruno (1889), with a sequel Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893) – assembled as The Story of Sylvie and Bruno (cut 1904) ed Edwin Dodgson, LC's brother. Although these have moments of the Alice sparkle, the storyline is weighed down by philosophizing. LC considered putting The Hunting of the Snark (1876 chap), his last great nonsense poem, in the former book, and would thereby much have enhanced it. His own edited version of The Nursery "Alice" (1889), intended for the under-fives, was devoid of the original's virtues. LC had captured the "golden afternoon" of childhood not once, but twice, but even he could not return a third time. [MA]

other works: Phantasmagoria (coll 1869), poetry, assembled with The Hunting of the Snark and additional new material as Rhyme? and Reason? (omni 1883). Later collections include: For the Train: Five Poems and a Tale (coll 1932) ed Hugh J Schonfield, drawn from items LC contributed to The Train magazine in 1856-1857; The Rectory Umbrella and Mischmasch (coll 1932) ed Florence Milner, selected from his private family magazine produced 1850-1853, including the Absurdist Fantasy "The Walking Stick of Destiny"; The Complete Works of Lewis Carroll (omni 1939; vt The Penguin Complete Lewis Carroll 1982); The Jabberwocky and Other Frabjous Nonsense (1964 US); The Poems of Lewis Carroll (1973 US).

further reading: The Annotated Alice (1960 US), The Annotated Snark (1962 US) and More Annotated Alice (1990 US) all ed Martin Gardner (1914-2010); Aspects of Alice (1971) ed Robert Phillips; The Alice Concordance (1986 Australia) by Daryl Colquhoun. There are many biographies and studies including: Lewis Carroll (1930) by Walter de La Mare; The Story of Lewis Carroll (1949) by Roger Lancelyn Green; Lewis Carroll (1954; rev 1976) by Derek Hudson; The Philosopher's Alice (1974) ed Peter Heath; Lewis Carroll and His World (1976) by John Pudney; Beyond the Looking-Glass (1982) by Colin Gordon; Lewis Carroll (1990 US) by Richard Michael Kelly; The Red King's Dream (1995) by Jo Elwyn Jones and J Francis Gladstone.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.