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Lewis Carroll: A Biography

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Lewis Carroll: A Biography Morton N. Cohen (Knopf, $35) Charles Lutwidge Dodgson was a stammering Oxford mathematician and a deacon who cherished Victorian values. Under the pen name Lewis Carroll, he gave rein to a whimsical genius in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There—two of the world’s best-known children’s classics. Yet Carroll poured his deepest passions into his ”friendships” with little girls, starting with Alice herself (Alice Liddell, daughter of an Oxford dean), to whom he is rumored to have proposed marriage—when she was 11. Relying on diaries and newly discovered letters, Cohen offers a uniquely informed perspective on Carroll’s various scandalous habits, such as his penchant for photographing children in the nude. This beautifully written bio never shies away from the house-of-mirrors complexity of its subject. Cohen evokes Carroll’s great wit, his ”luxuriant imagination” (besides writing, he invented countless games, including an early form of Scrabble), and his consuming guilt from ever-unnamed desires, all with equally lucid insight. AMegan Harlan