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Friday, January 27, 2017

'Start at the beginning; end at the end'

“Sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” Lewis Carroll

While they may have seemed impossible, for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, born on this date in 1832, they were at least worth trying.  Feted for his work as a mathematician, logician, Anglican deacon, and photographer, Dodgson is, of course, most famous for his fantastical writings, portrayed in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass – both written under his nom de plume, Lewis Carroll.

Despite his inclination toward math and science, he was a longtime writer, starting on poetry and short stories while still a young teen.  He actually had some moderate successes writing as himself before, in 1856, publishing a wildly successful romantic poem, “Solitude,” under the name that would make him famous.   It was that same year – the outset of his long career as a teacher of mathematics and logistics at Christ Church University – that he also took up the new art form of photography, and started a friendship with the family of University Dean Henry Liddle. 

It was while spending time with the Liddle family that he began sharing fantastical tales with the three young Liddle daughters, Lorina, Edith, and Alice.   Alice, it is long-believed (although Dodgson would not verify it) served as the model for the Lewis Carroll’s title character.

As for photography, Dodgson became one of the new medium’s top practitioners, establishing his own studio near his University offices and being lauded as an amateur master of the medium.  One of his surviving photos is a great character study of  young Alice, who he once advised to, “Always speak the truth, think before you speak, and write it down afterwards.”
His advice to writers and those seeking any type                             
 of quest comes right out of his “Alice” books.  “Begin at the beginning,” Carroll noted, “and go on till you come to the end; then stop.”

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