Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Carroll at Oxford

Sketch of a bridge.

Three pen-and-ink sketches of bridges and towers
at Oxford by George Henry Liddell. Liddell was
Dean of Christ Church College from 1856 to 1892
and a fairly accomplished amateur artist, as may
be seen from these drawings. Carroll, who became
a lecturer in mathematics the same year Liddell
was appointed Dean, knew the Liddell family well
and was a frequent guest at the Deanery. Liddell’s
daughter Alice was, of course, the little girl
to whom Carroll narrated the original "Alice’s
Adventures Underground."

Sketch of a tower.

Sketch of a tower.

Sketch of a tower surrounded by water.

Pen-and-ink sketch of tower at
Oxford by George Henry Liddell.

After graduation from Rugby School, Carroll began his studies at Christ Church College of Oxford University in early 1851. Carroll received a first-class honors degree in mathematics in 1854 and was soon appointed Lecturer in Mathematics. From 1882 to 1892, he served his college as Curator of its Common Room. For most of his adult life, Carroll lived the typical life of an unmarried Oxford don, occupying book-filled rooms on Christ Church’s Tom Quad.

Oxford made it possible for Carroll’s genius to thrive: it offered him a small source of income and the opportunity to do research in mathematics and logic. Not least of all, Oxford afforded him free time for his writing and his various hobbies and recreations - most notably photography. Finally, Oxford was the home of Alice Liddell, his favorite "child friend," and her sisters, whose father was Dean of Christ Church College. Carroll’s association with Alice would forever change the course of his life and the history of children’s literature.

Portrait of Thomas Combe sitting in a university cap and gown.

Thomas Combe, 30 June 1860. A noted printer of his day,
Combe was the Director of the Oxford University Press.

Printed copy of the Examination Statute.

Examination Statute (Oxford, 1864) annotated in Carroll’s
handwriting. The occasion for this piece was a faculty
dispute over lowering academic requirements for graduation.
On 1 February 1864, Carroll wrote in his diary: "Invented
and wrote out…a squib on the division [i.e., vote] of
tomorrow (about the New Examination Statute) consisting
of an alphabetical list of the names of voters and others,
with the names left blank." In this copy Carroll has
supplied the complete names in pen.

Next: Carroll the Photographer

Introductory - Early Life at Croft Rectory - Carroll at Oxford -
- Carroll the Photographer - Photographs of Children -
- Logic, Mathematics, and Puzzles - Alice - In Memoriam