Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)
by Ignacio Zara
‘He flatly rejected the Calvinist principle of original sin and he replaced it with the notion of innate divinity”, that is the opinion of Morton Cohen, the principal biographer of Lewis Carroll, about the author. Then, a man who was a priest, son of an Anglican priest and grandson of more priests, he arrives to admire the beauty of human body as the reflection of moral perfection, as they did the Roman humanists of the Renaissance.
As every well-read gentleman in the 19th century, he attended awful boarding schools, where he was unhappy, and he studied in Oxford, in Christ Church college, where he will be a teacher of mathematics the rest of his life.
Repression, coldness and strict rules were his daily bread, the life of a deacon. However, he found outlets for his imagination. He loved theater and he was an amateur photographer influenced by his friend Reginald Southey and Oscar Gustav Rejlander, a great artist from Sweden, pioneer of photography. Lewis Carroll took more than 3000 photos and most had been destroyed by immoral. Afterwards, and thanks to Bloomsbury Circle and intellectuals as Virginia Woolf, he has been considered the most important photographer of the Victorian era.
His mind was restless and when he mastered this art, he abandoned it, but never his boundless imagination. His first literary forays were in journals: poems and stories, all very humorous. But in 1856, he knew the family of Henry Lidell, a new dean who has 3 daughters, Lorina, Alice and Edith. It was in a picnic with them, in 1862, when he devised the plot (‘Alice’s Adventures under Ground’); afterwards, ‘Alice in Wonderland’. Late in 1871, a sequel – ‘Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There’ – was published.
Other works are ‘The Hunting of the Snark” and the two-volume novel ‘Sylvie and Bruno’ which achieved nowhere near the success of the Alice books.
He also wrote math books, the most known is ‘An Elementary Theory of Determinants’.
Definetely, an author of many faces, across many ‘looking-glass’.