Saturday, May 9, 2015

Happy late birthday to Alice!

On the afternoon of 25 April 1856 Alice, not quite four, first met Charles Dodgson, then aged twenty-four and in his second year as mathematical lecturer at Christ Church. He had come to the deanery with his friend Reginald Southey to take a photograph of the cathedral, and although their efforts failed they encountered Alice, her older sister, Lorina, and her younger sister, Edith, in the garden: ‘we became excellent friends’, Dodgson recorded. ‘We tried to group them in the foreground of the picture, but they were not patient sitters’ (Dodgson, Diaries, 1.83). Photography, the new rage, provided Dodgson the entrée to the deanery and he became a regular visitor, not only taking photographs but also playing croquet with the children in the garden, inventing and playing other games with them in the nursery, telling them stories, and, in good weather, taking them on river picnics up and down the Isis. On 4 July 1862, on one of these picnics, he invented the story of Alice in Wonderland. The real Alice was then aged ten and pleaded with him to write Alice's adventures down for her, which he carefully did, supplying his own illustrations, in a green notebook that has become one of the most cherished literary manuscripts in the British Library.

- O.D.N.B.