You’ve read the novel, seen the film and television adaptations, and perhaps even watched the live performances. But, have you ever wondered, “Who is the real Alice?”
Most of us are familiar with the story of the inquisitive young girl who fell down a rabbit hole and ended up in a fantasy world called Wonderland. However, perhaps not many know about the young girl who became the inspiration for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, an 1865 children’s novel written under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll.
Meet Alice Pleasance Liddell, who was 10 years old at the time she met Charles Dodgson, a mathematics professor in Oxford, in July 1862. While riding a rowing boat during a picnic outing, young Alice asked the future author of the children’s classic to entertain her and her two sisters (Edith, aged 8, and Lorina, aged 13) with a story. Dodgson delighted the girls with the story of a young girl named Alice, who had quite an adventure after falling down a rabbit hole. The girls enjoyed the fantastic tale and Alice asked Dodgson to write down the story for her.
During another boat trip with the girls a month later, Dodgson continued the story of Alice, and later in November, got started with the manuscripts. Alice Liddell received a copy of the handwritten manuscript two years later, with a illustrations by Dodgson himself, and a dedication that says “A Christmas Gift to a Dear Child in Memory of a Summer’s Day.”
Interestingly, photography was a hobby of Dodgson, and the young Alice Liddell was one of his favorite subjects. Dodgson, who was a friend of the Liddell family, took most of her photos prior to the creation of the novel. The most famous is the 1859 photo entitled “Portrait of Alice Liddell as the Beggar Child”, described by many as a compelling portrait of a child with “exceptional beauty” and a gaze like no other.
Here are more pictures of Alice Liddell taken by Charles Dodgson (the last one with her sisters):
Sources and additional readings:
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