Biography Lewis Carroll
- Time Period1832 - 1898
Dodgson's family was predominantly northern English, with Irish connections. Conservative and High Church Anglican, most of Dodgson's ancestors were army officers or Church of England clergymen. His great-grandfather, also Charles Dodgson, had risen through the ranks of the church to become a bishop. His grandfather, another Charles, had been an army captain, killed in action in 1803 when his two sons were hardly more than babies. His mother's name was Frances Jane Lutwidge.
The elder of these sons yet another Charles was Carroll's father. He reverted to the other family business and took holy orders. He went to Rugby School, and thence to Christ Church, Oxford. He was mathematically gifted and won a double first degree, which could have been the prelude to a brilliant academic career. Instead he married his first cousin in 1827 and became a country parson.
Young Charles' father was an active and highly conservative clergyman of the Anglican church who involved himself, sometimes influentially, in the intense religious disputes that were dividing the Anglican church. He was High Church, inclining to Anglo-Catholicism, an admirer of Newman and the Tractarian movement, and he did his best to instill such views in his children. Young Charles, however, was to develop an ambiguous relationship with his father's values and with the Anglican church as a whole.
Dodgson was born in the little parsonage of Daresbury in Cheshire, the oldest boy but already the third child of the four-and-a-half year old marriage. Eight more were to follow. When Charles was 11, his father was given the living of Croft-on-Tees in North Yorkshire, and the whole family moved to the spacious Rectory. This remained their home for the next twenty-five years.
During the earlier times in his life, young Dodgson was educated at home. His "reading lists" preserved in the family testify to a precocious intellect: at the age of seven the child was reading The Pilgrim's Progress. He also suffered from a stammer a condition shared by his siblings that often influenced his social life throughout his years. At twelve he was sent away to a small private school at nearby Richmond (now part of Richmond School), where he appears to have been happy and settled. But in 1846, young Dodgson moved on to Rugby School, where he was evidently less happy, for as he wrote some years after leaving the place:
I cannot say ... that any earthly considerations would induce me to go through my three years again ... I can honestly say that if I could have been ... secure from annoyance at night, the hardships of the daily life would have been comparative trifles to bear.
Scholastically, though, he excelled with apparent ease. "I have not had a more promising boy his age since I came to Rugby" observed R.B. Mayor, the Mathematics master.
Over the remaining twenty years of his life, throughout his growing wealth and fame, his existence remained little changed. He continued to teach at Christ Church until 1881, and remained in residence there until his death. His last novel, the two-volume Sylvie and Bruno, was published in 1889 and 1893 respectively. Its extraordinary convolutions and apparent confusion baffled most readers and it achieved little success. It does contain an extremely concise account of three-valued logic when Bruno counts "about a thousand and four" pigs because he is certain about the four but estimates the remainder.
The only occasion on which (as far as is known) he travelled abroad was a trip to Russia in 1867, which he recounts in his "Russian Journal" which was first commercially published in 1935.
He died on 14 January 1898 at his sisters' home, "The Chestnuts" in Guildford, of pneumonia following influenza. He was 2 weeks away from turning 66 years old. He is buried in Guildford at the Mount Cemetery.