We know you are familiar with “Alice in Wonderland” from the animated musical fantasy film, which you might not know is quite old as it was released in 1951.
To be honest, we find it hard for anyone to tell us “I don’t know what you’re talking about” right now in 2021, but we respect the fact that not many know the story isn’t from Disney or original from the industry. Instead, it takes us to a great writer: Lewis Carroll.
Many believe Disney’s animated films are masterpieces written by Walt Disney itself or other writers. Still, many of them are adaptations from books and short stories, and Alice and her adventures aren’t the exceptions.
Now, are you familiar with Lewis Carroll and the book from where the story came from? If not, we are eager to fix that very soon since this one is worth reading several times, even if you aren’t a fan of the story with the premise you know about.
But more than reviewing the book and its plot, we will go over details like the author’s life and background and how this book turned into a big success.
Inside Lewis Carroll’s Childhood & Early Years
Where should we start with someone who was born in 1832? Probably with the fact that Lewis Carroll isn’t his real name but rather his pseudonym.
Instead, we need to introduce you to Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, born on January 27, 1832, in Daresbury, Cheshire, England.
He came from a family with predominant connections in Northern English and was quite conservative while taking part in the high-church Anglican.
Most of his family, male members to be more specific, took part in the army and the Church of England clergy. In fact, his great-grandfather Charles Dodgson became the Bishop of Elphin in Ireland, while his paternal grandfather was an army captain.
But what about Charles’ father? Another Charles of the family went to Westminster School and then to Christ Church in Oxford. Unlike the usual tradition, he focused on holy orders and math, being gifted in the latter and even winning a double first degree.
He was an excellent academic who married Lewis’ mother, Frances Jane Lutwidge, in 1830.
Carroll, the eldest of eleven children, was quite adept at entertaining his siblings and himself.
They were raised in the rectory by their father, who later became a priest after marrying Frances.
Initially, Lewis was educated at home. Following his family’s skills and genetic of his family, he started to show great signs of being a genius since he was seven years old when he started to read quite complicated books.
This eventually led to his father sending him to Richmond Grammar School when he was 12 years old, where he excelled in his education.
In 1846, Lewis had to join the Rugby School. However, he was unhappy with this decision, as we would later know in one of his written extracts.
In 1849, he finally left Rugby and enrolled at the University of Oxford the following year as a member of his father’s former college, Christ Church.
He was a mathematics lecturer, but he also wrote poetry, essays, and political pamphlets during his life in college. His amazing talent in the realm of literary nonsense is evident in “The Hunting of the Snark.”
Overall, he was a mathematician who won numerous academic prizes as he was a boy and showed great aptitudes for literature and similar areas since he was very young.
In fact, many of his works in poetry and short stories came from a very young age and contributed greatly to the family magazine, Mischmasch.
During and after college, he went up to build himself a career in literature.
His work was published in The Comic Times and The Train between 1854-1856.
His output was mostly humorous and sometimes satirical. However, his standards and ambitions were high.
He published his first work in March 1856 under the name that would make him famous, Lewis Carroll.
“Solitude,” a romantic poem, was the first work and published in The Train under the pseudonym.
Like all fellowships of that time, studentship at Christ Church depended on Dodgson remaining unmarried.
Dodgson was ordained as a deacon by the Church of England on December 22, 1861. He could have married and been assigned to a college parish if he had gone on to become a priest.
However, he felt ill-suited to parish work, and though he thought about marriage, he decided he was content to be a bachelor.
Dodgson, as the eldest of eight siblings, his association with children developed naturally.
By the time, he also suffered from a stammer, which he called his “hesitation.” However, he spoke more naturally to children than his siblings and was able to communicate with them easily.
His contemporaries noticed that he was able to get along well with adults and children during this time, leading to great success: Dodgson’s ability to entertain the children Henry George Liddell, Dean of Christ Church.
Lewis was not the first child friend of Alice Liddell, Lorina, and Edith. They were preceded by or overlapped with George Macdonald’s children and the sons Alfred, Lord Tennyson, and other random acquaintances.
The Liddell children held a high position in his affections, partly because they were the only children of Christ Church. Only heads of houses could marry and continue living in their homes.
Writing the Story: Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland
But what does the previous story with Lewis’ association with children has to do? The simple fact that he got along well with them? Not quite.
Later on, the Liddell family would come to play an important role in Dodgson’s life, which takes us to the phase when Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland was about to be written.
Dodgson and his friend Robinson Duckworth rode the children up the Thames from Oxford and took them to Godstow, where they spent some time eating a picnic on the bank and returned to Christ Church at night.
According to Lewis’ diaries and registers, he told them during this picnic the story of Alice’s Adventures Underground, which he wrote thinking about Alice Liddell.
The story was heavily based on a picnic they held a few weeks before when they were all caught in the rain.
Thanks to the real Alice’s encouragement by telling him, “Oh, Mr. Dodgson, I wish you would write out Alice’s adventures for me!” he was inspired to write the book.
Of course, he added many more adventures and the magical and fantasy elements we will get to know a bit later.
He illustrated the book with his own crude but distinct drawings and gave the original piece to Alice Liddell without ever thinking of using it again.
However, the novelist Henry Kingsley saw the finished product and decided to take it from the drawing-room table when visiting the deanery.
He was moved by the story and even persuaded and encouraged Mrs. Liddell, who was clearly a fan, to publish it.
This took Dodgson by surprise, and unable to make a decision, he went to his friend, George Macdonald, the author of some of the most memorable children’s stories, for advice.
Macdonald brought the book home to read to his children as a test, which extremely surpassed as the author’s son, Greville, who was only six at the time, wished for it to have thousands of volumes.
It isn’t a secret he decided to publish the book, and although it was slow in its success when it was published in 1865, it brought the expected results to the point of having the author considering a sequel in 1866.
Something worth mentioning is the fact that the official illustrations for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland were handled by John Tenniel and not Lewis himself.
The following books were inspired by the stories he shared with the Liddells, and this is how Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (the original book’s name) has other two sequels: Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There.
After the success of Alice’s books, other works followed Lewis’ success: The Hunting of the Snark in 1876 and Sylvie and Bruno in 1895. However, the latter didn’t have a big success, and only Alice’s stories and the one from 1876 remained popular.
Finally, besides literature, he contributed greatly with mathematical work, photography, and even some inventions before dying on January 14, 1898, in Surrey, England.
Knowing the Book: Plot Summary
If you’re thinking by this point, there’s no need to go over the details of what the book is about because you’ve watched the movies, allow us to differ there.
Films and adaptations always change and vary, so if you want to know how amazing the story is, we always recommend the book when it is possible.
Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland takes us through a great world with a girl named Alice, as you should have guessed or known.
Alice is a very young girl and curious child (7 years) who feels bored and sleepy as she sits on the riverbank alongside her older sister.
But while having a relaxing yet boring experience, she notices a talking, dressed white rabbit that has a pocket watch and is running past her.
Intrigues by the rabbit, she follows it down a rabbit hole, where she falls into a hall filled with locked doors of various sizes.
She discovers a small key to a door that is too small to fit her through. However, through it, she finds an attractive garden while picking using the keyhole.
Luckily for her, the contents of a bottle labeled “DRINK ME” in a table near her allow him to go small and fit on the keyhole, but making it impossible to find a key she left on the table.
However, another item was found, and she ate a cake labeled “EAT ME,” which allowed her to grow in a great size.
This is just the beginning of her adventures in Wonderland and how she starts meeting great characters, including when the famous Cheshire Cat appears, joining the mad tea party with the mad hatter, playing in the queen’s croquet ground with the Queen of Hearts herself, and many others leading her to the adventures of her life.
Every chapter is a wild ride following Alice’s adventures, elements, and experiencing new phases while meeting evil or good creatures and characters throughout the story.
We personally love the book due to the structure, and despite being published for children mainly, it is perfect for any age.
Success & Earnings: How Much Did Dodgson Make?
Having reached this point, we will go over one of the most interesting facts: how much did the book sell when it was published?
But before getting there, we have to mention how it became popular in the first place. After all, it had to be a huge success for us to write an article and you to be here.
When it was released in 1865 and under the argument of being an instant success according to many (we mentioned the opposite not long ago), its popularity, regardless of how long it took to appeal, lies in how it changed children’s literature.
In the 1800s, it was like fresh air for children who were trying to read and listen to new stories, and many authors agreed that this one was such a great masterpiece to the point of entertaining adults.
The nonsensical fun added to a book that is meant for moralizing was unique and kept children interested the more the book progressed.
The illustrations added brought even more people interested in reading it or buying the books and copies for their children.
In our opinion, it became popular thanks to the book’s structure, how the adventures, despite being fantasy no matter how you see it, felt quite real in terms of being able to experience them one way or another, even if it was through reading the book.
Now that this is clear, what about the sales and earnings?
Which such decades passed, it is hard to track this, so we will owe you several details.
First, there aren’t details about how much Lewis earned by the time it was published, but we do know Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland sold about 6,000 copies during its first edition and release.
Since then, it has been translated into 170 languages and sold millions. However, there isn’t an exact number of how many copies have been sold. In fact, this is one of the mysteries of the book.
What we know is that the first edition of the book is worth about $3 million, and believe us when we say people truly pay for it.
However, not many are available, and there are presumptively ten first editions available worldwide in good shape.
Films & Adaptations: As Famous as the Book?
Remember what we said about the films? Well, we will just take a few minutes to remember them.
Disney’s 1951 animated adaptation was a boom when it came out, and since then, it has been part of the classics from the studio and something children and adults know nowadays as culture.
The animated film follows the same story as the book, but with some changes based on the screen time and the usual adaptation of the story to fit everything.
Though there aren’t that many big changes from the original story but minor ones in this 1951 film.
However, the 2010 live-action that follows the same premise is quite different from what we are used to reading and watch.
Many changes were made, and some agreed that they weren’t that necessary in terms of making the film good, but despite these critics, the movie was a success.
The 1951 film was released as “Alice in Wonderland,” and the 2010 one followed the same name.
For the latter, Johnny Deep took part as a main cast member and even earned $68 million for the role, while Alice’s main actress earned $250k.
Others like Anne Hathaway and Helena Bohman were paid about $400k-$500k for their roles.
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