January 27: Lewis Carroll

LewisCarrollEnglish writer, mathematician and reverend Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was born on this day in 1832. Of course, Dodgson is best known for his novel Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, written under his pen name Lewis Carroll.

Published in 1865, Alice is perhaps the first true surrealist work. The story was inspired by a boating trip on a Summer’s day that Dodgson took with the Reverend Robinson Duckwork and the three daughters of Henry Liddell, Lorina, Alice and Edith. During the boating trip, Dodgson began telling the girls a silly tale of a bored little girl named Alice who went searching for adventures. The three sisters loved it, and the next day, Dodgson got to work on creating a book length version of the story.

After completing the first draft of the book, Dodgson essentially focus grouped the manuscript, then titled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground, by asking Alice Liddell and other children to read it and tell him what they thought of it. Unsurprisingly, the children loved the manuscript, but Dodgson kept adding more short chapters to the book. Interestingly, two of Alice‘s most iconic elements, the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Tea Party, were not included in the book’s original draft.

For a children’s novel, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland is surprisingly dense. In addition to its surreal touches, the novel is full of allusions, parodies and references. Many of the characters are based on people from Dodgson’s time; the author himself appears as the Dodo, as he had a stutter that made him pronounce his name Dodo-dodgson. The many songs and poems often parody works that were famous at the time, the most notable of these being the Mad Hatter’s recitation of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat.” Also, as Dodgson was a mathematician, he included several obscure mathematical references, including a scene in which Alice tries to perform multiplication and keeps getting weird results: “Let me see: four times five is twelve, and four times six is thirteen, and four times seven is—oh dear! I shall never get to twenty at that rate!” This is in fact a reference to different base number systems. Simply put, in base 18 notation, 4 × 5 = 12, in base 21 notation 4 × 6 = 13, and in base 24 notation 4 × 7 = 14. Obviously, it would take Alice a bit of time to reach 20 at that rate.

Now, what better way to celebrate Dodgson than with a cocktail named after the animal that led to Alice’s visit to Wonderland? The White Rabbit is a fairly straightforward vanilla flavored cocktail with just a touch of milky smoothness.

White Rabbit

  • 3 ounces Vanilla Vodka
  • 3 ounces Vanilla Liqueur
  • 1 ounce milk

Shake with ice and pour into a chilled highball glass.

Tomorrow: The many wives of Henry VIII.

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