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Lewis Carroll and Whitby

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Bram Stoker is not alone! He wasn’t the only author to be inspired by our unique town! Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, or as we all know him, Lewis Carroll visited Whitby on a number of occasions. It’s no secret that our charming seaside town has influenced many literary figures with the first Old English poem written in Whitby Abbey by Caedon and the Gothic novel Dracula inspired by its atmospheric nature. Carroll is praised for his enchanting, fantastical word play that is still very much enjoyed today. 

 

Who Is Charles Lutwidge Dodgson?

 

It’s his alias Lewis Carroll that everyone is more familiar with along with his children’s fantasy novels, Alice in Wonderland and it’s sequel Through the Looking Glass. His pseudonym was no random act, Charles chose his introduction to the literary world carefully using a clever play on his own name. Lewis is the anglicised version of Ludovicus (Latin for Lutwidge) and Carroll is an Irish surname that is very similar to Carolus - a Latin name, which inspired the popular boys name Charles. 

 

Lewis Carroll's Links to Whitby

 

Surprisingly, he started his professional career as a mathematician studying at Christ Church, Oxford where he graduated with a First-Class Honours degree. In 1854, aged 22, Charles travelled to Whitby as a member of a mathematical group who were scheduled to give academic lectures throughout the town and its surrounding area. Dr Thomas, who was a part of the group is believed to have said that he ‘used to sit on a rock on the beach telling stories to a circle of eager young listeners.’ He thought that it was here that the famous and much loved character Alice was invented. 

 

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Despite his talent for mathematics, Dodgson’s childhood passion for writing stories ensured that his literary success coincided with his lecturing duties at Christ Church - which he was linked to for the majority of his career. Whilst staying in Whitby, his poem The Lady of the Ladle was published in the local newspaper - Whitby Gazette. Jump two years to 1856 and another of his poems is published under the pen name, Lewis Carroll. In fact, the poem The Walrus and The Carpenter included in Through the Looking Glass is believed to be inspired by his walks along the coastline of Whitby. 

 

Whitby Honours Lewis Carroll

 

We know that Carroll made another 7 visits to Whitby over the years when his novels were at the height of fame. Not much is known about his time spent here but many think he took time to rest whilst coping with all the attention. In honour of Lewis Carroll’s many visits to Whitby, a ‘Blue Plaque’ was attached to the wall of The Rosa Hotel located on the West Cliff. The perfect place as this is where the Alice in Wonderland author stayed during his visits, which was then a lodging house owned by Mrs Jane Hunton. To celebrate Lewis Carrol’s link to our town, Whitby In Bloom designed an Alice in Wonderland garden on Cliff Street back in 2018 - the arched entrance is pictured above.

 

Alongside his lecturing duties and his writing, Carrol was a keen photographer. He made good friends with Samuel Braithwaite who owned a gallery in Whitby. Is there anything this talented gentleman couldn’t do?! 

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