In 1865, Lewis Carroll self-published his manuscript of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. To celebrate its 150th birthday, we've gone down the rabbit hole to find some fun facts about this beloved children's classic.
She was the daughter of Carroll's boss: Henry Liddell, the dean of Christ Church College at Oxford, where Carroll taught mathematics.
Carroll formed a friendship with Henry Liddell, his wife Lorina, and their entire family. (He took this photograph of Alice, Ina, Harry, and Edith Liddell in the summer of 1860.) The little sisters in the Doormouse's story — Elsie, Lacie, and Tillie — are references to their three daughters. Lorina Charlotte's initials became Elsie, Lacie is an anagram of Alice, and Tillie was short for Matilda, a nickname given to Edith.
It was originally titled Alice's Adventures Under Ground when he gave a handwritten copy to Alice Liddell. By the time it was published, the name had been changed to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. But he went through other titles along the way, including Alice's Hour in Elf Land, Alice Among the Fairies, and Alice Among the Goblins.
On a boating trip up the Thames in the summer of 1862, Carroll spun a fantastic tale for Alice Liddell and her sisters. But after that, the kids pestered him to retell the story — Carroll even wrote in his diary about telling "the interminable Alice's adventures." So he eventually wrote the story down and gave it to Alice for Christmas 1864. (The original was half as long as the version later published and didn't include scenes like the Mad Hatter or Cheshire Cat.)
At least according to legend: In the book, Carroll alludes to the pivotal boat trip by putting the participants into the story as birds. He was the Dodo, named after his real last name, Dodgson. The author had a documented tendency to stammer, and the story is that he would introduce himself as "Do-do-dogson."
In addition to partial deafness and other health complications, Carroll suffered from a rare neurological disorder that causes hallucinations and makes objects appear larger or smaller than they are. The disease wasn't discovered until 1955 by English psychiatrist John Todd. Eventually, it was named or Todd's Syndrome.
In the garden behind the Liddell home at Christ Church College, Oxford, stands a tree that is said to have inspired the famous feline's perch.
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson started using the pen name in 1856 when he published a romantic poem. It was a play on a Latin translation of his real first and middle names. Other options he gave the editor to choose from: Edgar Cuthwellis, Edgar U. C. Westhill, and Louis Carroll.
No, he didn't invent this term for crazy. The phrase, used to describe how hat makers often got dementia from the mercury used in curing felt, had been around since the early 1800s. But Carroll, a marketing genius, popularized — and licensed it. Alice and her friend adorned cookie tins and postage stamp cases. He was the first children's book author to license characters, so his Mad Hatter took on a life of his own.
Other notables: "Tweedledee and Tweedledum," "Cheshire Cat grin," and "down the rabbit hole."
After reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Queen Victoria suggested that Carroll dedicate his next work to her. She probably should have been more specific: Carroll was a mathematician, so his next work was An Elementary Treatise on Determinants, With Their Application to Simultaneous Linear Equations and Algebraic Equations. He presented it to the Queen. One can only imagine her reaction...
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the sequel, Through the Looking Glass, and What Alice Found There, were both banned in China in 1931. Why? On the grounds that "animals should not use human language." Go figure.
Since it was published in 1865, it has been translated into 176 languages. At the time, the book was so popular that its sequel, Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There, sold out within seven weeks of its publication.