On July 4th 1862, Charles Dodgson was sitting in a boat on the Isis, the bit of the River Thames that flows through Oxford.
In the boat, were the Lidell sisters – Lorina, 13, Alice, 10, and Edith, 8 – and the author and the Lidells were heading to the picturesque hamlet of Godstow, where they were going to have a picnic.
As they glided along the river, Alice asked Dodgson to tell them a story to keep them entertained. He happily obliged, and began telling them the tales of Alice, a curious little girl who has many fantastical adventures after she falls down a rabbit hole.
Dodgson had told the girls the stories before, but this time was different: the real Alice made him promise to write the stories down for her.
After presenting Alice with a set of the stories in November 1864, Dodgson decided to re-write them from a more publication-friendly angle and, after polishing his manuscript, sent the stories to a writer friend, George MacDonald. MacDonald’s children loved the stories as much as the Lidells, and encouraged Dodgson to get them published.
And so Alice In Wonderland – complete with the now-iconic illustrations by John Tenniel – was born (well, printed, at least) in 1865. Under his pen name of Lewis Carroll, Dodgson also wrote Through The Looking Glass And What Alice Found There. The books have proved to be two of the most enduring – and endearing – tales of our time.
Alice through the ages: