This Day In Literary History
On November 26th, 1864, the legendary English writer Lewis Carroll gave a copy of the completed manuscript of his classic novel, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, to Alice Liddell, the little girl whom he named the book's heroine after.
Carroll, whose real name was Charles Dodgson, had been teaching mathematics at the University of Christ Church, Oxford, when he first met ten-year-old Alice Liddell. The new Dean of the university was Henry Liddell, who had come to Oxford along with his wife and children.
Dodgson became a close friend of the Liddell family, and often took Alice and her siblings out for boat rides. Of all the Liddell children, Dodgson was closest to youngest daughter Alice.
A brilliant mathematician who also possessed an above average talent for wordplay, Dodgson would tell Alice fantastic stories. One day, while they were out alone for a rowing trip, Dodgson told Alice a story about a little girl who falls down a rabbit hole and finds herself in a strange and magical world.
Alice loved all of Dodgson's stories. The one about the little girl was her favorite, so she begged him to write a book of his stories. He promised her that he would. Originally, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland was going to be a 15,500 word novella, but Dodgson expanded it to almost twice that length.
When he completed the manuscript in November of 1864, which included his own illustrations, he made a handwritten copy that he gave to Alice Liddell as an early Christmas present.
The homemade book featured the original title, Alice's Adventures Under Ground, and was inscribed, "A Christmas Gift to a Dear Child, in Memory of a Summer Day." The "summer day" was a reference to the rowing trip he and Alice had taken the previous summer.
The following year, in 1865, Dodgson's novel was published as Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, under his now famous pseudonym, Lewis Carroll. The initial press run of 2,000 copies was held back when illustrator John Tenniel complained about the print quality.
A new edition was soon printed and released. Though it came out the same year, in December of 1865, the publication date was given as 1866. It sold out fast, and Dodgson became an overnight sensation - though he would become more famous in England as photographer than as a writer.
It was this occupation that gained him entrance into high society. He would photograph many notable people, including legendary poet Alfred Lord Tennyson. When he retired as a photographer in 1880, he'd taken over 3,000 photographs, but less than 1,000 of these images have survived.
Dodgson wrote several more children's books, including a poetry collection, but none would be as popular or enduring as Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and its sequel, Through The Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1871).
Adapted numerous times for the stage, screen, radio, and television, the Alice books continue to enchant new generations of fans - both children and adults - with their magic, humor, and wit.
Quote Of The Day
"Life, what is it but a dream?" - Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson)
Today's video features a complete reading of Lewis Carroll's classic novel, Alice's Adventures In Wonderland. Enjoy!