Charles Dodgson, better known as the author Lewis Carroll, told a story to the sisters Alice, Lorina and Edith Liddell that was to develop into Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Dodgson was a lecturer in mathematics at Christ Church College in Oxford University where, alongside his academic work, he also wrote poems and short stories that were published in national publications under his pseudonym. He became close friends with the family of Henry Liddell, the Dean of Christ Church, from 1856 and was known to take the children on rowing trips along the Thames.
On 4 July the Reverend Robinson Duckworth joined Dodgson and the children for a trip along the river for a picnic in the village of Godstow. During the journey Dodgson entertained the three Liddell girls with a story about a girl called Alice who fell into a rabbit hole. It is said that Alice Liddell enjoyed the story so much that she asked him to write it down for her. Dodgson eventually gave her an expanded handwritten and illustrated copy of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground two years later, on 26 November 1864.
In the meantime he had approached the publisher, Macmillan, with an early version of the manuscript. He had already tested his drafts on the children of his friend George MacDonald, who reportedly adored the story. Macmillan committed to publishing the novel on its completion, and so Dodgson approached the celebrated artist Sir John Tenniel to provide illustrations.
Tenniel rejected the first print as he was unhappy with the print quality so the first UK edition, published at the end of 1865, was actually the second print. The book was an immediate success, and brought Dodgson – or at least his Lewis Carroll – enormous attention. It has remained in print ever since.