Daily Archives: August 20, 2019

new course lesson 10 . Lewis Carroll


LEWIS CARROLL. New course lesson 10

Alice in Wonderland is one of the best known children’s stories in the world. It was written by Lewis Carroll. Not many people know much about the author.

Lewis Carroll was born in the United Kingdom. His real name was Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. His family was affluent and well-connected. He attended Rugby School. This is one of the most celebrated schools in the realm. In the early 19th century it was on the up and up because of its legendary headmaster Rev Thomas Arnold.

Lewis Carroll was exceptionally academically able. He had no trouble with Latin and Greek. However, his passion was mathematics. He went to Oxford University. There he covered himself in glory graduating with a first class degree. He was immediately offered a fellowship at Christ Church. Christ Church is the most magnificent college in Oxford. As a ‘fellow’ of the university he was teaching undergraduates. He was also producing research papers.

Photography was only invented in the 1840s by two French brothers named Daguerre. Cameras came to the UK shortly after this time. Cameras were extraordinarily expensive. Lewis Carroll was one of the first people in the country to own a camera. He was an enthusiastic photographer.

Most Oxford dons were priests in those days. A ‘don’ at Oxford or Cambridge is someone who teaches at a university. The word ‘don’ does not have this meaning outside Oxford or Cambridge. The two great English universities were affiliated to the Church of England. People of other Protestant denominations could attend these universities. Lewis Carroll decided to take holy orders – that means to become a priest. This involved some study of theology. He found that simple and passed the exam easily. Soon he was ordained a priest in the Church of England. He was entitled to wear clericals (special clothes for priests). He was also allowed to lead worship and to perform particular ceremonies such as marriages and funerals. Lewis Carroll was allowed to put the word ‘Reverend’ in front of his name. People called him ‘The Reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’. Reverend is a word that means ‘respected’. For short people write ‘Rev.’ before the name thus ‘Rev. Dodgson’.  But if you see ‘Rev’ it is pronounced ‘ the reverend’. Notice that the word ‘Reverend’ is used before the surname or the whole name. To say ‘The Reverend Charles’ would be wrong unless you say the surname too ‘ The Reverend Charles Dodgson’. Usually people simply used the surname as in ‘The Reverend Dodgson’.

Most Oxford dons were not permitted to marry. If they wished to marry they could do so with the blessing of their college but they must leave the college. Dons who married moved to be clergy in parishes controlled by their colleges. One of the exceptions to this was the head of house. Each Oxford college had a head of house. The head of house was the man in charge of the college. At Christ Church the head of house was the Dean. Dean Liddell was married and had children.

On Sunday 4 July 1861 Dean Liddell decided to take his family on a jolly boat trip down the Thames. Liddell asked his friend Lewis Carroll to come along. They set off from Folly Bridge in Oxford. They rowed at a sedate pace. This was leisure and not a race.

As they paddled along that afternoon Dean Liddell’s daughter Alice asked Lewis Carroll to tell her a story. Lewis Carroll made up a story on the spot.  The protagonist was named Alice after the child in the boat. It was so vivid and enthralling that Alice said that he should write down the story. When Lewis Carroll got home he did just that.

The story was reworked. Lewis Carroll added a character called the mad hatter based on an eccentric furniture dealer in Oxford.  Hatmakers used quicksilver (mercury) to treat felt. Felt is animal’s fur and skin. Quicksilver made the felt stiff and therefore suitable as a hat. Continued exposure to mercury made people mentally ill. Insanity was an occupational disease of milliners.

Carroll then presented the manuscript to a publishing house. His story was printed and sold. It was an overnight sensation.

Charles Lutwidge Dodgson wanted to be taken seriously as a mathematician. He thought that if he published a children’s storybook under his real name it would undermine his reputation. Therefore he took the name Charles and turned it into ‘Carroll’ because it is related to the Latin for Charles. Lutwidge he turned into Lewis. He dropped ‘Dodgson’ for his pen name.  He reversed the order of his names. It should have been Carroll Lewis but he put them in the opposite order. Therefore he published the book under the name Lewis Carroll.

Alice in Wonderland was groundbreaking. It did not conform to the conventions of a fantasy novel. It was not a fairytale with witches, goblins, wizards, enchantment, miracles and so forth. It was zany and memorable. The novel contained some characters whose names have now entered common parlance such as the Mad Hatter. The expression ‘off with their heads’ is well known now.

The book was read avidly in the United States. The US was in the throes of its civil war. This book distracted people from their travails.

Queen Victoria asked Lewis Carroll to come to meet her. The don duly traveled to Buckingham Palace. Her Gracious Majesty expressed her delight at this sublime book. She requested a copy of his next publication. The following year Lewis Carroll published a book on higher mathematics and sent it to the Queen. She was perplexed by the book. It was beyond her. She had not realized that Lewis Carroll was first and foremost a mathematician.

Lewis Carroll preferred photographing people to things.  He never married or had children. Rev Dodgson (to give him is real name) conducted worship until the last months of his life. He lived out his days in Oxford. He died there and is buried in the city. After he died his family destroyed most of his albums.

Alice grew up, married and had children.


  1. In which country was Lewis Carroll born?
  2. What was his real name?
  3. What school did he go to?
  4. What was his favourite subject?
  5. Which university did he go to?
  6. Was he clever?
  7. What is an Oxford don?
  8. Did Lewis Carroll marry?
  9. Who was Dean Liddell?
  10. What was the name of Liddell’s daughter?
  11. On which day did the Liddell’s take Lewis Carroll on their boat?
  12. How did the name Charles Lutwidge Dodgson turn into Lewis Carroll?
  13. Which bridge did they set off from on their boat?
  14.  On which date did Lewis Carroll tell a story to Alice?
  15. Why is the main character in Alice in Wonderland named Alice?
  16. Who was the mad hatter based on?
  17. Was Lewis Carroll’s book popular?
  18. Did Queen Victoria read the book?
  19. Why did people in the US need cheering up in the 1860s?
  20. What happened to Alice Liddell?

21. What is your opinion of Lewis Carroll? Five sentences.






C S Lewis. New course 9


C S LEWIS. New course  9

Clive Staples Lewis was born in Ireland in 1899. The city of his birth was Belfast. He was Irish but his ancestors had come from Wales and England not many generations before. Lewis had one brother to whom he was very close. C S Lewis had no sisters. His family was well off due to his father’s successful legal practice. The Lewis family were communicants of the Church of Ireland. The family was intensely religious. The mother of the family had been to university. Tertiary education for women had only just become available. Therefore the Lewis family must be recognized for its academic prowess.

When Lewis was nine years old his mother died. He felt this blow very heavily. His father was not much good at commiserating with his children or providing them with the warmth that their mother had. Instead the father of the family threw himself into his work even more. C S and his brother were sent to a boarding school in England.

C S was very bright. He was gifted in several subjects but gravitated more towards the humanities. When he was 15 the First World War broke out. As he approached school leaving age he knew that he would be expected to join the British Army or the Royal Navy. He sat exams for a scholarship to University College, Oxford.  University College is the oldest college in Oxford University. He won his scholarship in classics. That means Latin and Ancient Greek. He was allowed to go up to Oxford for one year on condition that after that he joined the army. Once the war was over he would be welcomed back to the university to finish his degree.

C S Lewis hugely enjoyed his year at Oxford. He strove to make the most of it. But he knew it was delaying the time before he must go and fight. News of the war was everywhere. Some university buildings were taken over as hospitals for wounded soldiers. There were war refugees in the town. Young men who had just graduated went off to fight. Every Sunday names were read out in chapel of men who had recently left the college and been killed in the war.

The time came when  C S Lewis volunteered for the British Army. The army was class stratified. Those from the higher socio-economic stratum could be officers. C S Lewis had been to a fee paying school so was eligible. Further, he had attended university. He was selected for officer training. He was soon commissioned as an officer. Lewis was soon dispatched to France. There he saw action. Understandably he was horrified by war. He was not nationalistic. He did not detest the German enemy. Lieutenant Lewis was a man of peace and he derived no satisfaction from killing.

The war ended only a few months after C S Lewis had been sent to the front. He returned to Oxford. He soon graduated with a First Class degree. He was offered a fellowship at a college. This means a job teaching and being part of the governing body of a college. C S Lewis accepted without hesitation. Classics was his subject and he also delved into philosophy. He was fascinated by literature in various languages.

The war had badly shaken C S Lewis’ faith. For a time he became an atheist. He blamed God for all this suffering.

The early 1920s was a period of intense political upheaval. There was conflict in Ireland. The communists took over Russia. The coalition government came to an end. The economic dislocation engendered by war in the UK caused mass unemployment. All this seems to have passed C S Lewis by. He was indifferent to politics. Although he was Irish he spoke with a totally English accent and seldom visited Ireland.

In the 1920s Lewis returned to his faith. He began writing about philosophy and literature. One of his undergraduates was John Betjeman. Betjeman found Lewis to be fusty, prissy, precious and dull. Lewis thought that Betjeman was a banality – debonair but superficial, brash and mediocre. Betjeman went on to be poet laureate.

The Inklings was an informal social set of writers in Oxford. They called themselves ‘inkling’ as in a drop of ink but it also means a presentiment. The Inklings met at the Eagle and Child pub in Oxford.  The inklings were all men. The group included J R R Tolkien.

C S Lewis savoured the convivial life of a don. A don is a lecturer or professor at Oxford or Cambridge. It was very collegial. He dined on high table in his college and socialized with the other dons. He also had a house outside the college. He and his brother shared a house called the Kilns to the east of Oxford. C S Lewis’ brother had been a career army officer. Neither of them was married.

In the 1930s Lewis began writing about his faith. He tried to reach a wider audience. He wondered if he could pen an allegory that would appeal to children.

In the Second World War many children were evacuated from urban areas. Major cities were the target of bombing. Children would be moved to remote areas where they would not be killed. C S Lewis wrote The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe about some children from the city being sent to live with a kindly old retired professor in the countryside. The fuddy duddy professor is a bachelor and has a huge rambling houses with a wooded garden. It seemed very like C S Lewis. He invented a land called Narnia. The Chronicles of Narnia is a series of five novels by Lewis. The best known of the five is the first in the series – The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lewis wrote these tales in sparse yet sparkling prose. The stories had to have an engaging plotline and be pared. They are fast moving to hold the attention of children. There are plenty of surprises.

In the 1950s Lewis became a world famous broadcaster. Despite that he was still fairly private. A fan of his in the United States began corresponding with him. Her name was Joy Davidman. Joy was married and had two young sons. She had been brought up Jewish but abandoned her faith. She had been a communist in the 1930s. Miss Davidman had been a prodigy. She was also a published poet.

In 1955 Joy Davidman visited the United Kingdom for the first time. She brought her children with her. Her marriage was breaking up. She finally met C S Lewis whom she knew so well through his letters and books. Soon she found that she wished to remain in the United Kingdom. This was no simple matter. Her friendship with C S Lewis became intense. She asked him to marry her because that would grant her to right to reside in the UK. C S Lewis agreed and they married in a registry office. However, they lived separately.

Some of C S Lewis’ colleagues were distinctly cool on Joy Davidman. A few of them were suspicious of this woman 20 years younger than C S Lewis who had come into his life. C S Lewis was in his 50s and had never evinced the slightest interest in women. He was a confirmed bachelor. They felt that she had seduced Lewis.

Joy Davidman contracted cancer. It went into remission. In 1958 she and Lewis decided to marry in a church. This was a real wedding so far as Lewis was concerned. This time they lived together.  She and Lewis had no children together. Then the cancer returned. Joy’s health deteriorated rapidly. She died in 1960. Her sons were adopted by C S Lewis.

In 1963 Lewis died on the same day as John F Kennedy. Therefore Lewis’ death garnered little press comment.


  1. When was Lewis born?
  2. In which city was he born?
  3. What was unusual about his mother?
  4.  How many siblings did he have?
  5. What was his father’s job?
  6. Where did C S Lewis school?
  7. Which university did he attend?
  8. What was his subject?
  9.  Was he in the army?
  10. Did he like fighting?
  11. What happened to his faith after the war?
  12. Was he a don?
  13. Which university did he work at?
  14. What did he make of John Betjeman?
  15. What was the name of his first novel?
  16.  How many books are in the Chronicles of Narnia?
  17. Is Narnia real?
  18. Why were children evacuated in the Second World War?
  19. Who was Joy Davidman?
  20. Why did some of Lewis’ colleagues dislike Joy?
  21. How many children did Davidman have?
  22. When did Joy die?
  23. Why did Lewis’ death get little publicity?
  24.  What do you think of him?