The Amazing World of Alice in Wonderland
Charles Dodgson came up to Christ Church, Oxford, on 24 January, 1851 – just before his mother died suddenly. His aunt Lucy Lutwidge became even closer to the family after her sister’s death, and cared for Carroll and his siblings for the rest of her life.
In 1850, he resided in rooms provided by Rev. Jacob Ley, a friend of his father. He moved to Peckwater Quadrangle in April 1851. Although he occupied at least five different sets of rooms at Oxford in his life, Christ Church remained his first home for the next forty-seven years, until his death in 1898.
He studied hard, reporting in a letter to his family (in mock-medieval English) that ‘I amme uppe toe mine eyes yn worke’, and claimed to be working twenty-five hours a day. He was rewarded with a prestigious Studentship in 1852, part-way through his undergraduate years. His father wrote to him:
‘My dearest Charles,
The feelings and thankfulness with which I have read your letter just received… are, I assure you, beyond my expression; and your affectionate heart will derive no small addition of joy from thinking of the joy which you have occasioned to me, and to all the circle of your home.’
Carroll gained his First Class BA (Mathematics) in 1854, and completed an MA in 1857, taking Deacon’s orders to become ‘The Reverend Dodgson’ in 1861. He lectured in Mathematics from 1855 to 1881, was Curator of the Senior Common Room from 1882 to 1892, and played an active part in college affairs throughout his life.
Alice Pleasance Liddell was born on the 4th May 1852, the daughter of Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ Church. She had nine siblings (two dying young), but was closest to her older sister Lorina, and her younger sister Edith. She was three years old when the family moved into the Deanery at Christ Church, and first met Lewis Carroll when she was almost four, on April 25th, 1856.
To the right is a copy of a photograph of Alice Liddell, dressed as a beggar-child, taken by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, 1860. Stuart Dodgson Collingwood recalls his uncle’s meetings with the poet Tennyson, in his biography The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll (Unwin,1898): “On another occasion he showed the poet a photograph which he had taken of Miss Alice Liddell as a beggar-child, and which Tennyson said was the most beautiful photograph he had ever seen”. This image is reproduced in a centenary Christmas card sent to Dodgson’s nephews and nieces, by Mr and Mrs Eustace A Stedman. It also features a copy of Herkomer’s portrait of Lewis Carroll at Christ Church, and photographs of Daresbury Parsonage and Croft Rectory
Visitors to Oxford can still visit ‘Alice’s Shop’ on St Aldates, near to Christ Church, and a stained glass window in Christ Church Cathedral commemorates Alice’s sister Edith, who died in 1876, very soon after she had accepted a marriage proposal – ‘Hail, our sweetest…scarcely five days engaged’, as the dedication reads.