Lewis Carroll, or Charles Dodgson, got the beginnings of Alice in Wonderland during an outing with the three young daughters of Henry Liddell, the Vice-Chancellor of Oxford University and Dean of Christ Church. As they rowed a boat on the river, Dodgson invented the tale to amuse the young girls, and one of them, Alice Liddell, asked him to write it down.
Dodgson wrote the first draft of the story and illustrated it himself. It was later illustrated by John Tenniel with 42 wood engraved illustrations and first published in 1865.
The novel has been translated into French, Italian, Russian, and numerous other languages around the world.
The novel was a critical failure but a popular success. The first printing sold out immediately and was tremendously popular with children and adults.
The first film adaptation came out in 1903. A silent film directed by Cecil Hepworth and starring Mary Clark as Alice.
In 2010, Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland became one of the most elaborate film productions. It stars Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter.
Numerous film versions have been made over the years. Disney produced the animated version in 1953.
Alice in Wonderland has been adapted for television, ballet, and radio. Jan Svankmajer’s mix of stop motion and live action may be one of the darker adaptations.
Some contemporary scholars have suggested that Charles Dodgson’s attachment to Alice Liddell may have been sexual in nature. He was an amateur photographer and took numerous nude photographs of the young Alice. In fact, roughly half of the photographs taken by Dodgson which still remain are of nude children, all of them girls.
It cannot be known to what degree Dodgson was involved with the child and scholars do not agree on whether or not Alice in Wonderland contains sexual imagery of a pedophilic kind. This remains a controversy.