Famous Poets: Lewis Carroll

January 27 is the birthday of Lewis Carroll, an English writer, poet, mathematician, and photographer best known for his two famous novels Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass.

Lewis Carroll

Born in 1832 in northern England as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, he grew up in a family with eleven children. As a child he loved to read and he began writing poems and short stories at a young age. In his early twenties, he had a number of works published in magazines. In 1856, at the age of 24, he first used the pen name Lewis Carroll for a poem called “Solitude.”

In 1865, he published his first, and most successful novel, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. This book was especially notable for its fantastical and imaginative nature, as well as its use of wordplay and clever puns. It is considered a classic of children’s literature. It has been in print continuously for more than 150 years and has been translated into more than 80 languages. The story follows the adventures of a young girl named Alice as she falls down a rabbit hole and enters a surreal world filled with talking animals and strange characters.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

In addition to being a novelist, Carroll was also a skilled poet. Each of his books of children’s literature includes a number of poems that are filled with clever wordplay. His most famous poem, “Jabberwocky,” appeared in the sequel to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, a book called Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. “Jabberwocky” is perhaps the world’s best-known “nonsense poem,” filled with made-up words, leaving the reader to decide on the meaning of the words from their context and sound.

Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll

In addition to his Alice novels, he also wrote another pair of children’s novels called Sylvie and Bruno and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, both of which include a number of poems, the most famous of which is “The Mad Gardener’s Song.”

Aside from his novels, Carroll wrote several collections of poems, including Phantasmagoria and Other Poems, Rhyme? and Reason?, and Three Sunsets and Other Poems, as well as another famous nonsense poem, “The Hunting of the Snark,” an epic poem that tells the story of an impossible voyage to catch an elusive creature called the Snark.

The Hunting of the Snark by Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll died in 1898 at the age of 65, but his poems and stories have had a lasting impact on children’s literature. They have inspired countless other writers and continue to delight readers of all ages. His works have also been adapted into numerous films, television shows, and stage productions, including the Disney film Alice in Wonderland, solidifying his place in literary history as a master of children’s literature. Why not celebrate his birthday on January 27 by reading one of his poems?