Did you read and enjoy Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland books as a child?
Or better still, did you have someone read them to you? Perhaps you
discovered them as an adult or, forbid the thought, maybe you haven't
discovered them at all! Those who have journeyed Through the Looking Glass
generally love (or shun) the tales for their unparalleled sense of nonsense .
Public interest in the books--from the time they were published more than a
century ago--has almost been matched by curiosity about their author. Many
readers are surprised to learn that the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and a
host of other absurd and captivating creatures sprung from the mind of
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, a shy, stammering Oxford mathematics professor.
Dodgson was a deacon in his church, an inventor, and a noted children's
photographer. Wonderland, and thus the seeds of his unanticipated success as
a writer, appeared quite casually one day as he spun an impromptu tale to
amuse the daughters of a colleague during a picnic.
One of these girls was
Alice Liddell, who insisted that he write the story down for her, and who
served as the model for the heroine.
Dodgson eventually sought to publish the first book on the advice of friends
who had read and loved the little handwritten manuscript he had given to
Alice Liddell. He expanded the story considerably and engaged the services
of John Tenniel, one of the best known artists in England, to provide
illustrations. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through The
Looking Glass were enthusiastically received in their own time, and have
since become landmarks in childrens' literature.
What makes these nonsense tales so durable? Aside from the immediate appeal
of the characters, their colourful language, and the sometimes hilarious
verse ('Twas brillig, and...