Lewis Carroll, the author of ‘Alice in Wonderland’, whose real name was the Rev Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, was a frequent visitor to Guildford. He installed his sisters in a house called The Chestnuts on Castle Hill in September 1868 and he always spent Christmas with them. He brought child friends to stay there, photographed them and the children of Guildford friends in the garden, took part in amateur theatricals and went for long walks, on one of which the line of verse which was to become the last line in ‘The Hunting of the Snark’ came into his head. Occasionally he preached in St Mary’s church. As far as is known he was usually on holiday when in Guildford, and none of his imaginative writing was worked on there. Nonetheless Guildford has a good claim to be, after Oxford, the place most associated with his adult life. At least by the time the centenary of his birth was being celebrated in 1932 Guildford was conscious of the significance of the distinguished former occupant of The Chestnuts, and the profits of the celebrations in the town went towards the placing of a plaque on one of the gateposts in Castle Hill. The occasion of the unveiling on 24 May 1933 was ceremonious and attended by several members of the Dodgson family.
Lewis Carroll at Surrey History Centre
‘I can never have told you my views as to my real name & my pseudonym … For 30 years I have managed to keep the 2 personalities distinct, & to avoid all communication, ‘in propria persona’, with the outer world about my books’ (From a letter from Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, otherwise known as Lewis Carroll, to Mary Manners, children’s author, 7 Feb 1895. SHC Ref. G103/1/32).
Surrey History Centre holds several significant archives relating to Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)), which in particular provide important evidence of his private life as the Reverend Dodgson and his time spent corresponding and meeting with family and friends.
Charles Dodgson died at The Chestnuts, his family’s home in Guildford, in 1898, and he is buried in The Mount Cemetery there. He had accumulated a vast quantity of records of the various aspects of his life as a mathematics don and logician (a person who studies or teaches logic), as Lewis Carroll the writer, and as an amateur photographer, but shortly after his death, his brother Wilfred agreed that the many sacks of papers collected from his rooms at Christ Church Oxford could be burned, and the family sold other papers at auction.
In 1965 the younger generation of the Dodgson family decided to deposit many of their surviving records at Guildford Muniment Room and Museum: the Dodgson Family Collection archive (SHC Ref. DFC) is now at Surrey History Centre, while the family toys are on permanent display at Guildford Museum. The Dodgson Family Collection archive includes papers relating to Dodgson’s childhood, letters and his original photographs of his brothers, sisters and aunt.
Among many 20th century papers are reminiscences by ‘child friends’ and also a page of notes and a letter of 1932 relating to family members’ speculations on the pages now missing from his diaries.
Donations from other sources from the 1950s to the 1990s have further enriched the resources for Lewis Carroll studies, including:
The Manners family archive, a rare example of a complete series of letters from Dodgson surviving intact. Dodgson wrote to Mary Manners, children’s author, and her brother Charles between 1895 and 1897. To Mary he imparts his views on the friendship of children and the separation of his two ‘personalities’. (SHC Ref. G103)
Anniversaries of Alice – A chronology. Click here to follow Alice and Lewis Carroll through the decades.
For a selection of books held at Surrey History Centre relating to Lewis Carroll’s life and work click here to view and download a pdf () document.
Useful online links for researching Lewis Carroll
Click here to view information about articles and collections held at the British Library relating to Lewis Carroll. The British Library has held the precursor to the Alice In Wonderland manuscript (called Alice Under Ground) since 1948. The work is unique in that it was created by Carroll as a gift for Alice Liddell in 1864, making it the very first edition of the book. The British Library has now made it available to browse online, see http://www.bl.uk/collection-items/alices-adventures-under-ground-the-original-manuscript-version-of-alices-adventures-in-wonderland
Click here to find out about Lewis Carroll material held at Guildford Museum.
Find out about Lewis Carroll material on the The Public Catalogue Foundation’s Your Paintings website, click here.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson lived in Daresbury, Cheshire, until he was 11 years old. Click here to find out more the author’s birthplace and the Lewis Carroll Visitor Centre at All Saints’ Church, Daresbury http://lewiscarrollcentre.org.uk/about-us/
Click here http://hcl.harvard.edu/libraries/houghton/exhibits/alice/ to view ‘Such a Curious Dream!’, an online exhibition celebrating the 150th anniversary of Alice at the Houghton Library, Harvard University. The library is where Alice Liddell’s own copy of Alice in Wonderland is held.
The Lewis Carroll Society promote the author’s life and works through events and publications. They also have a full series of links to other Carroll societies and resources, click here to find out more http://lewiscarrollsociety.org.uk/.
There are Lewis Carroll Societies around the world, the Lewis Carroll Society of North America is particularly active and their website full of vibrant and useful Carroll content: http://www.lewiscarroll.org/.
Lewis Carroll is big in Japan and collectors there keep the market for Carrolliana strong. The Lewis Carroll Society of Japan hold events and their website has an English version at www2.gol.com/users/kinosita/lcsj.