The Secret World of Lewis Caroll

Clare Beavan (2015)

It’s a timeless classic of children’s literature and the third most-quoted book in English after the Bible and Shakespeare. But what lies behind the extraordinary appeal of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland to generations of adults and children alike? To mark the 150th anniversary of its publication, this documentary explores the life and imagination of the man who wrote it, the Reverend Charles Dodgson, better known as Lewis Carroll. Broadcaster and journalist Martha Kearney delves into the biographies of both Carroll himself and of the young girl, Alice Liddell, who inspired his most famous creation. Kearney’s lifelong passion for Carroll’s work began as a young girl, when she starred as Carroll’s heroine Alice in her local village play. She discusses the book with a range of experts, biographers and distinguished cultural figures – from the actor Richard E Grant to children’s author Philip Pullman – and explores with them the mystery of how a retiring, buttoned-up and meticulous mathematics don, who spent almost his entire life within the cloistered confines of Christ Church Oxford, was able to capture the world of childhood in such a captivating way.

Alice in Wonderland is said to be the most quoted book in print, second only to The Bible, with a passionate army of fans who regularly congregate around the world to celebrate its rich and playful world. But what of its creator, the mild-mannered and unassuming Oxford University Math Don, Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka. Lewis Carroll?

Famed not only for his wonderful stories, Carroll is also known for his ambiguous relationship with the young girl who inspired his most beloved creation, Alice Liddell, a seemingly innocent infatuation that he documented in his pioneering photography.

With contributions from the likes of thespian Richard E. Grant, social commentator Will Self and author Philip Pullman, at once adoring and provocative this documentary casts a conflicted eye over the creation of Wonderland. Pouring through historical evidence and stories passed down through generations, hear the tale of Carroll’s first encounter with the three Liddell girls and the first telling of Alice’s tumble down the rabbit hole one summer’s afternoon in a boat upon the River Thames. Documentary first broadcast in 2015.

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