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Alice through the looking glass in Guildford,UK

Lewis Carroll -- the name conjures up a brilliant mind, that wrote Alice in Wonderland. A book that I read as a little girl 'cause Mum said it's fun to read it and never really understood its whimsy and fantasy story line with an odd ball tea party thrown in, then. So, while listening to our guide as we walked around Guildford it became clear to me that Alice is quite different from all other Victorian children's literature. Yet, as odd as this story appears in relation to the other Victorian children's stories, this book is odder still, because it was written by an extremely upright, ultra-conservative man in short, a quintessential Victorian gentleman, a man of the cloth.

So off we went on our walk and we learnt from Roger our guide that Lewis Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson on January 27, 1832, in the parsonage of Daresbury, Cheshire, England, the third child and eldest son of eleven children of Reverend Charles Dodgson and his wife, Francis Jane Lutwidge. "Lewis Carroll" was finally decided on as his pen name, derived from a rearrangement of most of the letters in his real name which was -- "Charles Lutwidge Dodgson."
Family legend has it that King James I actually "knighted" either a loin of beef or mutton at the table of Sir Richard Houghton, one of Carroll's ancestors. This incident has been thought by some critics to have inspired the introductory lines in Through the Looking Glass, the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, when the Red Queen introduces the leg of mutton to Alice: "Alice Mutton: Mutton Alice."

My ears pricked up when Roger told us that a number of the Dodgson children, including Carroll, stammered severely. This stammering made him into a bit of a "loner" and explains, somewhat, Carroll's longtime fascination with puzzles and anagrams, solitary games to amuse himself. Carroll's fondness for games, language puzzles, and the world of the bizarre is further demonstrated in his flair for amusing his siblings especially his sisters, which explains, perhaps, his lifelong attraction for little girls. In fact, a great deal of Carroll's childhood was spent taking care of his little sisters. At home, he was in charge of the seven sisters, and his imagination was constantly being exercised in order to entertain them, said Roger our guide.

He was a generous and kind brother taking his role of eldest son very seriously. Roger our guide took us to see The Chestnuts. A beautiful old Victorian house that he bought to house his sisters in. He never lived in it but spent a month every year in it with them. He did however finally die in the house. We stood under a spreading Mulberry tree and took our pictures of the beautiful old house with a striking blue door. Someone had tried to steal the name plaque of the house so it had been removed for safe keeping.

Yet it was Mathematics and not English literature, that interested Carroll most. When he was very young, Carroll implored his father to explain logarithms to him, presumably because he had already mastered arithmetic, algebra and even most of Euclidian geometry. Infact Roger told us about how Carroll was asked by Queen Victoria to give him any books he wrote and the book he wrote after Alice was a Geometry text book!

In 1857, and took up photography, a hobby that would make him famous as one of the best Victorian photographers of little girls. Carroll's attraction for little girls were honorable and above reproach at least according to Roger, almost a century later, absolutely no evidence to the contrary.

In 1846, Carroll met Alice Liddell, the four-year-old daughter of Dean Henry George Liddell of Christ Church. In 1852, Carroll and a friend, Rev. Robinson Duckworth, took the Liddell children including Alice on a row boat ride up the Thames River. As they made their way upstream, Carroll began telling a story about the underground adventures of a little girl named Alice.On disembarking, Alice asked Carroll to write out Alice's adventures for her. From an initial length of 18,000 words, Carroll's manuscript expanded to 35,000 words, and the famous English illustrator John Tenniel illustrated it.

There have been 700,000 copies in print. Since then, with the expiration of the original copyright in 1907,it has been translated into every major language, and now it has become a perennial bestseller, ranking with the works of Shakespeare and the Bible in popular demand.
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