Hello Everyone! It’s time for another Famously Unknown!
Ever since I was a child, I have loved the story of Alice in Wonderland. Most importantly, I love the Cheshire Cat! His quick whit and philosophical humor have always made me feel that he just “gets me”.
I know, I know, he’s a fictional character. But any of you book-addicts out there understand what I mean… right?
So, for today’s Famously Unknown, I’d like to share the story of the man that used his struggles with Epilepsy to create both my beloved Cheshire Cat and also the entire world of Wonderland.
It began long ago, in a land far far away…
Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born January 27, 1832 at the small parsonage of Daresbury in Cheshire. Even though he was the third child born to his young parents, he did not remain the baby of the family for long. Over an astoundingly short period of time, his mother gave birth to 11 children in all!
Charles’s father was Archdeacon of Richmond, a position that required the family to relocate frequently over the years. To help ease this transition, Charles’s mother took on the task of homeschooling her 11 children.
At a very young age, Charles suffered a severe fever that consequently left him deaf in one ear and prompted a long struggle with migraines and Epileptic seizures. Of the many side effects that Epileptics are prone to experience, Charles most notably suffered from a severe stutter as well as micropsia and macropsia; a brain condition that alters the way objects are perceived by the mind, making them appear incredibly small at times and quite large at others.
These neurological conditions greatly affected Charles’s social life and consequently, he turned inward and began creating his own version of the world.
He used his struggles with pronunciation and concentration to model one of his written characters after himself; the loveable floundering Dodo. He also used his epileptic aura and the mis-perceptions it caused as inspiration to create what he referred to as “his most ambitious fairy tale” – Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and it’s sequel Through The Looking Glass.
Charles was well acquainted with famous fairy tale author George MacDonald, and
looked up to him greatly. At a social gathering one evening, MacDonald encouraged Charles to recite a bit of his own writing. After much persuasion, Charles shared an excerpt from Alice and was astounded by the warm reception it was given! MacDonald urged Charles to send in the entire works for publication. Charles agreed on one condition, he would use a pseudonym instead of his real name, to avoid any unwanted social attention that it would bring him. The name that he chose?
Lewis Carroll – a Latin play on his formal birth name.
The attempt to avoid attention failed however, and Charles suffered much anxiety due to the increasingly large amount of fame he was receiving. Fairy Tale fans were quickly swept away by Carroll’s talent for word play, logic and fantasy. He received an outstanding amount of fan mail and was encouraged by the public to continue writing.
While completing his Alice series, Charles continued to dabble in his passion for marrying mathematics and the written word. He subsequently came up with many inventions, the most famous being the parlor game Scrabble! These inventions, along with his beautiful gift for story telling earned him fame and notability that continues still today.
And so, the next time you feel like your Epilepsy is making you an outsider, just remember the famous line given to Cheshire himself by Lewis Carroll:
“We’re All Mad Here”
Thank you for reading another Famously Unknown and don’t forget to Seize The Day!