On July 4, 1868, Charles Dodgson went on a river expedition with the three little Liddell sisters- Lorina, Edith and the youngest sister, Alice. During their venture, Dodgson extemporaneously told a fantastic tale to the Liddells. Later that day, Alice begged Dodson to write his story. He complied with her wish and began writing Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, which he presented to her on November of 1864. One day, a novelist, Henry Kingsley was visiting the Liddell family and noticed the book on their coffee table. After reading the story, Kingsley encouraged Dodgon to submit his work of publication. Acting on this suggestion, Dodgson expanded his original work and hired John Tenniel to illustrate the book. The finished product, entitled Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, was published in London by Macmillan in December of 1865 and Dodgson published this book under the pen name Lewis Carroll. Despite an initial mixed critical reception, the book eventually gained popularity throughout England, and ultimately throughout the world.
This year Alice in Wonderland celebrates its 150th year anniversary and fascination and appreciation of this masterpiece has continued to grow since its publication. It has been translated in every living language and have been read widely throughout the world by children as well as adults, scholars as well as non-scholars. It has been illustrated by several prominent artists since Tenniel, including Salvadore Dali. It has been animated, annotated, musicalized and televised. Alice enthusiasts are a diverse group including philosophers, linguists, semioticians, logicians, children’s literature scholars, feminists, Freudian analysts, sociologists, mathematicians, etc. Alice has been criticized as a parody of Victorian children’s literature; a political satire; a psychological novel; a work of metaphysical philosophy; a feminist manifesto; and a work of nonsense literature.
As a fiction writer, I’m most amazed at how Carroll was able to tell this great tale extemporaneously. I often wish I could have been there on the boat with the Liddells so that I could have witnessed this event. It makes me contemplate the limitless quality of imagination. Perhaps the story he told that day on the boat was not as detailed and elaborate as the one which was published but still, this fantastical story was told off the top of his head. How incredible! The story of how Alice got written fascinates me as much as the story itself. It has always and will always continue to inspire me as a reader, a children’s literature enthusiast and most of all, as a storyteller.