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.”

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