On this day in 1862, Oxford mathematician Charles Lutwidge Dodgson sends a handwritten manuscript called Alice’s Adventures Under Ground to 10-year-old Alice Liddell.
The 30-year-old Dodgson, better known by his nom de plume Lewis Carroll, made up the story one day on a picnic with young Alice and her two sisters, the children of one of Dodgson’s colleagues. Dodgson, the son of a country parson, had been brilliant at both mathematics and wordplay since childhood, when he enjoyed making up games. However, he suffered from a severe stammer, except when he spoke with children. He had many young friends who enjoyed his fantastic stories: The Liddell children thought his tale of a girl who falls down a rabbit hole was one of his best efforts, and Alice insisted he write it down.
During a visit to the Liddells, English novelist Henry Kingsley happened to notice the manuscript. After reading it, he suggested to Mrs. Liddell that it be published. Dodgson published the book at his own expense, under the name Lewis Carroll, in 1865. The story is one of the earliest children’s books written simply to amuse children, not to teach them. The book’s sequel, Through the Looking Glass, was published in 1871. Dodgson’s other works, including a poetry collection called Phantasmagoria and Other Poems, and another children’s book, Sylvia and Bruno, did not gain the same enduring popularity as the Alice books. Dodgson died in 1898.