The (possible) Truth Behind Lewis Carroll

Anyone who considers themselves to be well-versed in books and/or fiction has read Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, or as we all know it by today, Alice in Wonderland (and Through the Looking-Glass). Written over a hundred years ago, the book’s never gone out of print and has been translated across multiple mediums.

We know the story, we know the characters- but the author? He’s been the subject of rumors practically ever since the book came out. Many have accepted he was on some form of 19th century drugs when writing his masterworks, or that he was just plain mad. Unlike his wacky creations, however, Carroll probably wasn’t mad by any degree.

In fact, Carroll isn’t even the man’s real last name. His real name is Lewis Dodgson, and you can see why he’d want to change it when publishing works. Dodgson doesn’t sound like a name that would go well with marketing. Regardless, Wonderland first came about when the author told an outline of it to his friend’s young daughter while on a sailing trip. Dodgson proceeded to write it over the next two years, finishing in 1864. The title of that manuscript was called Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, with the title we know today being a result of a publishing decision. With the title finished, Wonderland was published in 1865, illustrations and all.

Besides being a writer, Dodgson also became a mathematician and photographer, among others. Those hobbies don’t exactly indicate signs of madness or addiction. Nothing else does either, that means there’s nothing we’ve ever found to indicate Dodgson was crazy or had a drug addiction.

Why, then, do so many people believe he was mad/addicted? Probably because the world he created is so crazy, nonsensical and nonlinear that someone assumed at some point the only way a man could write such a unique work, especially a children’s story, was if he was mad.

And as for the drugs idea? I assume that idea came from the 60’s movements, where people saw strange things when taking drugs and thought Dodgson had created his world through a similar method. Good theory, except he wrote the book from 1862-1864; not all the substances we have today were available over a century ago.

Today, practically everyone’s read at least some part of the story, including the author of this post. By the time I had to write an essay on it in high school, I remember I wrote something down but most of the time I was at a loss to explain what I’d read. If I’m recalling this right, yeah, I’m sure I went a little crazy, especially during a couple written rants to Dodgson about why he wrote certain things or left certain characters out.

So, no, Lewis Dodgson/Carroll wasn’t crazy, he just wrote a story because he wanted his friend’s daughter to have it. Turns out that story became the classic it is today. If you haven’t read it before, read away…just please don’t think about it too much.


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