Posted by: chloecivin | December 7, 2011

Oxford University’s influence on Dodgson a.k.a Lewis Carroll

Charles Dodgson, widely known by his pen name Lewis Carroll, was very much inspired by Oxford University, where he attended college. He later became in mathematics at Oxford’s  Christ Church College Much is to be said involving the influences the college had on Dodgson during and after his tenure there.  It is apparent, from the stained glass window dedicated to Dodgson, that the college prized their notable alumnus…

Stained Glass Window at Christ Church College

Stained Glass Window at Christ Church College

Today the college’s library holds some of the rarest, most beautiful editions of Dodgson’s Alice in Wonderland.  

Apparently one summer afternoon Dodgson was asked by a restless young girl to tell a zany story, which later developed into the famous Alice in Wonderland.  This young girl was in fact the daughter of the dean of Christ Church College.  I found an interesting article quoting Alice Liddell reflecting on this very special day.

“The beginning of Alice was told to me one summer afternoon, when the sun was so hot we landed in the meadows down the river, deserting the boat to take refuge in the only bit of shade to be found, which was under a newly made hayrick.  Here from all three of us, my sisters and myself, came the old petition, ‘Tell us a story’ and Mr. Dodgson began it.  Sometimes to tease us, Mr. Dodgson would stop and say suddenly, ‘That’s all till next time.’ ‘Oh’, we would cry, ‘it’s not bedtime already!’ and he would go on.  Another time the story would begin in the boat and Mr. Dodgson would pretend to fall asleep in the middle, to our great dismay.”

Clearly Alice Liddell served as Dodgson’s muse, as he wrote a story inspired by her.  His initial introduction to Alice was through her father, Dean Liddell, who apparently did not share as much affection towards Dodgson as his daughter had.  In fact, Alice’s parents did much to dissuade interactions amongst the two.

Several years ago, on a trip with my mother, I visited Christ Church College and learned a great deal about its influence on Dodgson.  Supposedly many edifices and people surrounding the school inspired characters found in the story.  The guide for the tour suggested that the infamous tardy white rabbit was in fact Dean Liddell.  In addition he showed us the gardens where Dodgson may have thought of the rabbit holes. The River Thames was also quite inspirational to Dodgson, which is where he orated the story for the first time. The tour itself was indeed quite magical, clearly showing the power the book had on all of its readers.

Old Sheep Shop a.k.a Alice's Sweet Shop

The fondest memory I have while being at Christ Church was visiting The Old Sheep Shop where Alice Liddell purchased sweets. Now the store is entirely devoted to Alice for her fans across the world.


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