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How Lewis Carroll invented Alice in Wonderland
By Heather Driscoll-Woodford
BBC Surrey

John Tenniel's original illustration of Alice
Artist John Tenniel's illustrations of Alice feature in the original book

There are striking similarities between Lewis Carroll and Tim Burton, director of the new Alice in Wonderland film.

Although born 128 years apart, both were shy, artistic children, who grew up to be iconic creative geniuses.

If you believed in such curious things, given their unusual ability for fantastical storytelling, one could even be the reincarnation of the other.

So how did one time Guildford resident Carroll invent the extraordinary story which is still so popular today?

LEWIS CARROLL IN GUILDFORD
John Tenniel's original illustration of The Mad Hatter
Lewis Carroll was a pseudonym. His real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson
He was an author, photographer, mathematical lecturer and as an ordained Anglican deacon, a Reverend
In 1868 he leased a large family house on Castle Hill in Guildford, called "The Chestnuts"
The house was to be home to his six sisters and a base for him
He wrote Alice Through The Looking Glass in 1871, while staying at the house
He died of pneumonia following a bout of influenza, aged 65, in Guildford in 1898
He is buried overlooking the Surrey town at the Mount Cemetery

The son of an Anglican clergyman, the young Charles Dodgson grew up in Yorkshire, before attending Rugby School in Warwickshire.

Even as a young child he was writing short stories and poetry for a family magazine.

Exceptionally clever for his age, he reportedly read John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, aged seven!

He arrived at Oxford University in 1850 to study Mathematics and it was while he was there that he chose his pseudonym Lewis Carroll.

He later told fellow children's author Mary Manners, that it was chosen "to keep the two personalities distinct, and to avoid all communication, 'in propria persona', with the outer world about my books."

It was also here, during a rowing trip with the three young daughters of the Dean of Christ Church, that Carroll shared his imaginary "Wonderland" with the outside world.

Having told the children about the adventures of his "little heroine", one of them, the sister called Alice, asked him to write them down, which he duly did, finishing the manuscript on 10 February 1863.

Encouraged by friend and author of fairy stories George MacDonald, whose children also loved the tales, and novelist Henry Kingsley , Carroll set about having the story "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" published.

The book proved so enormously popular that he wrote a sequel, while he was staying at the family home in Guildford, called "Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There".

In later life, Carroll confounded popular opinion, by denying Alice Liddell, the child who begged him to write the stories down, was ever the inspiration for the character "Alice" in his books.

Alice in Wonderland image. Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Will Tim Burton's characters last the test of time like Lewis Carroll's?

Even though the stories are now almost 150 years old, they have still not lost any of their magic and appeal to children and adults alike.

Globally popular, they have been translated into over 100 languages and inspired numerous films, including the new 2010 Disney/Tim Burton production.

Given the longevity of Alice and her strange friends in Wonderland, one wonders whether Burton's personal, and equally bizarre, characters Edward Scissorhands, Jack Skellington and the Corpse Bride, will be remembered in the same way, in 150 years time?


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