10 Random Facts About Lewis Carroll

Tuesday, January 27 would have been the 182nd birthday of Lewis Carroll (1832–1898), born Charles Lutwidge Dawson, famed creator of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This year also marks the sesquicentennial of Alice. Instead of cake, enjoy some trivia about the mathematician-turned-children’s author.

1. Carroll suffered from chronic migraines, and epilepsy, stammering, partial deafness, and ADHD.

2. He wrote 11 books on mathematics, and 12 works of literary fiction.

3. Carroll had his productivity down to a science: he could write 20 words a minute, a page of 150 words in seven and a half minutes, and 12 pages in two and a half hours.

4. Despite being a mathematician, Carroll didn’t keep a fine balance of his bank account. He wasn’t much concerned with money and would often overdraft, sometimes as much as the modern-day equivalent of £7,500, though he would pay it back promptly on payday.

5. He was a big letter writer, sometimes corresponding upwards of 2,000 times in one year, and he would sometimes write backwards, forcing the reader to hold the letter to a mirror to decipher.

British Library

6. Carroll first told the story of Alice to the Liddell girls on July 4, 1862, while Independence Day was being celebrated across the pond.

7. The Cheshire cat was inspired by cheese molds from the Cheshire county in England, a dairy-rich area, where “grinning like a Cheshire cat” was a popular phrase, possibly because cats would have been so happy to live in a land of abundant dairy farms. Cheesemakers in the area molded the cheese with a cat’s grinning face, and sliced from the back, so that the cat would slowly disappear and the last part consumed was the head.

Photo: Graeme Chuchard. Click to see a larger version

8. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has been translated into more than 70 languages.

9. There’s a white rabbit and Alice holding a flamingo immortalized in stained glass in the Christ Church College at Oxford, where Carroll spent most of his life.

10. Even after all the success of Alice, the only time Carroll traveled abroad was in 1867 on a trip to Russia. On the way back he made stops in Poland, Germany, Belgium, and France.

Sources: Fun Trivia: Lewis Carroll; Shmoop: Lewis Carroll Trivia; NYTimes.com; Wikipedia, Lewis Carroll, and theCheshire Cat; and “Taking account of Carroll.”

Pride and Prejudice anniversary!

P and P

Please join us in celebrating PRIDE AND PREJUDICE — first published 202 years ago today!

“She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me; I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men. You had better return to your partner and enjoy her smiles, for you are wasting your time with me.”
–Mr Darcy to Mr. Bingley about Elizabeth Bennet in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE by Jane Austen, first published on this day in 1813

No novel in English has given more pleasure than Pride and Prejudice. Because it is one of the great works in our literature, critics in every generation reexamine and reinterpret it. But the rest of us simply fall in love with it—and with its wonderfully charming and intelligent heroine, Elizabeth Bennet. And everyone is held fast not only by the novel’s romantic suspense but also by the fascinations of the world we visit. The life of the English country gentry at the turn of the nineteenth century is made as real to us as our own, not only by the author’s wit and feeling but by her subtle observation of the way people behave in society and how we are true or treacherous to each other and to ourselves.

“Jane Austen remains the most misunderstood of great English writers . . . Austen’s is an extended, exploratory, dangerously subversive art, and is neither harmlessly decorative nor picturesquely provincial . . . [Irony] is the secret of the perfect self-sufficiency of Pride and Prejudice.”
—from the Introduction by Peter Conrad