On this day in 1832, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born. He studied and taught mathematics at Oxford, excelled in the new art form, photography, was an Anglican Deacon, and wrote poetry and books—under the pen name, Lewis Carroll.
While teaching at Oxford, he befriended a new dean, Henry Liddell, his wife and children. The youngest girl was named Alice.
While Carroll denies that “his little heroine” was based on Alice Liddell, many clues are buried within the text in clever ways—betraying the complex, mathematical mind of the author.
“Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There” is the 1871 sequel to “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” It opens on a cold, snowy night with Alice playing before the fireplace with two kittens. She gazes up at the mirror and wonders about the world which exists on the other side of the glass. Climbing upon the mantlepiece, she finds she can poke her finger—and step through—the looking glass, and thus begins her adventure in a strange, parallel universe.
While Lewis Carroll is best know for his writings in the genre of Literary Nonsense, he also wrote poetry (including “Jabberwocky”) and serious, mathematics treatises. As a pioneering art photographer, he took many photos of children (especially young girls) but also portraits of the famous artists of the day: painters John Everett Millais and Dante Gabriel Rossetti, actress Ellen Terry, and writer Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Lewis Carroll was also a prolific inventor. He created word games (including the “word ladder,” still popular today) and an early version of Scrabble. He invented double-sided tape and a postage stamp purse which was accompanied by his little pamphlet, “Eight or Nine Words about Letter-Writing.” He designed a “Nyctograph,” a device which allowed a person to jot down an idea in the dark, thus not having to light a lamp in the middle of the night. And he created a device which allowed the bedridden to read in bed while lying on their sides.
The mirror, pictured above, is from the same place and time as Lewis Carroll. Perhaps it conceals a strange and life-altering adventure for you. Click on the photo to learn more about the mirror.
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