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Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Just 'Begin at the Beginning'

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

Carroll was born Charles Dodgson on this day in 1832 in the small English village of Daresbury, England.  The eldest in a family of 11 children, he grew adept at an early age of entertaining both himself and his siblings with his storytelling ability.

As a babysitting aide, he made up stories for his siblings and their friends, something he continued doing into his 20s and 30s, including for the children of good friend Henry George Liddell.   It was Alice Liddell who often is credited with being the inspiration for his best-known story. On a picnic outing with the Liddell family, he told Alice and her sisters an amazing tale of a dream world.  Alice was so enamored she insisted Carroll write the story down so she could both relive it and share it with her friends.

Through a series of coincidences, the story fell into the hands of novelist Henry Kingsley, who urged Carroll to publish it. And in 1865 the book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was born.  It would become the most popular children’s book in England, then America, and then throughout the world before Carroll’s death in 1898.

How did a professional mathematician and photographer spin such a yarn?  Perhaps two of his lasting quotes will suffice: “Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end; then stop.”  And, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.”

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