the real Alice
Alice Pleasance Liddell (1852-1934) was born at Westminster School where her father, the Reverend Henry George Liddell, was headmaster. In 1855 he was appointed Dean of Christ Church and the family moved to Oxford where Alice, her brother and two sisters, made friends with a young don, Charles Dodgson.
One golden afternoon on 4th July 1862 Charles Dodgson took Alice Liddell and her sisters on a boating picnic up the River Thames from Folly Bridge in Oxford. To amuse the children he told them a story about a little girl, sitting bored by a riverbank, who finds herself tumbling down a rabbit hole into a topsy-turvy world called Wonderland.
The story so delighted the 10-year-old Alice that she begged him to write it down. The result was Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland which was published in 1865 under the pen name Lewis Carroll and became one of the best-loved children’s books ever written.
A beautiful child and young woman, Alice had many suitors including Queen Victoria’s youngest son, Leopold. In 1880 she married Reginald Hargreaves and moved to Lyndhurst. They had three sons, two of whom were killed in the First World War. Reginald died in 1926 and two years later Alice sold the manuscript of Alice’s Adventures, and other items Dodgson had given her as a child. In 1932, after a trip to the USA to attend a Carroll centenary celebration, she confessed that she was “tired of being Alice in Wonderland”.
the real Lewis Carroll
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898) was born in Daresbury, Cheshire. The third of 11 children, he developed a talent for entertaining his younger brothers and sisters with stories and games, puzzles and puppet shows. In 1851 he came to Christ Church, Oxford as an undergraduate and, except for vacations, remained there for the rest of his life.
An ordained deacon, published mathematician, poet and philosopher, respected photographer, inventor of games, gadgets and puzzles, Dodgson is best known as the author of the Alice books, under the pen name Lewis Carroll.
'based on a true story'?
Lewis Carroll famously included real Oxford people, places and events in Alice’s adventures. Read all about the Red Queen of Binsey in this article by author and local historian Mark Davies, who has also written about The Real Mad Hatter.
the photography of Lewis Carroll
Charles Dodgson took about 3000 photographs over 25 years, using the wet collodion process. His photographs include pictures of his family and friends, scenes around Oxford, skeletons from the Christ Church anatomical museum, Victorian celebrities, family groups, and children. These latter images made him famous as a photographer. He had a special way of taking pictures of children, normally fidgety and impatient in front of a camera, and Alice Liddell was a favourite subject.
5 great editions of Alice to choose from
An unabridged version of the classic illustrated by Helen Oxenbury
A simple picture book for young children by Lesley Sims and Mauro Evangelista
A fantastic pop-up extravaganza by Robert Sabuda
An audio version on CD or as an .mp3 download
A scholarly annotation of both Alice books
... and for more information on the real Alice, see The Real Alice in Wonderland by C M Rubin.