A new demand for educational books meant that success came with the publication of travel books, scientific books, encyclopaedias and dictionaries. This demand to be educated led to the later publication of atlases and Collins also held the monopoly on scripture writing at the time.
Affordable editions of classical literature were published and in Collins introduced 10 titles in their Collins Handy Illustrated Pocket Novels. These proved so popular that a few years later this had increased to an output of 50 volumes, selling nearly half a million in their year of publication.
This series eclipsed all competition at the time and the introduction of paperback books in the s helped to open that market and marked a high point in the industry. HarperCollins is and has always been a champion of the classics and the current Collins Classics series follows in this tradition — publishing classical literature that is affordable and available to all.
Beautifully packaged, highly collectible and intended to be reread and enjoyed at every opportunity. He published the book and other works under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll because he wished to maintain anonymity and so remain relatively immune to any criticism of his poetry and prose. The family moved to the county of Yorkshire when he was 11, by which time Queen Victoria had been on the throne for four years.
He and his siblings were home tutored which had an inevitable effect on their ability to socialize. All of the children also suffered from speech stammering.
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As a result, this self-consciousness was something that pervaded and continued to affect Charles for the rest of his life. For two years Dodgson attended a school in Richmond, Yorkshire, and then he was sent to Rugby School at the age of Like his father, he showed great promise as a mathematician and went on to academic success at Oxford University, even winning a lectureship, which kept him fiscally well off for many years. Like his father, he decided to enter the church and became an Anglican deacon at Christ Church, Oxford, although his relationship with Christianity was one with which he wrestled.
He was, at heart, a liberal thinker, as his literary work would eventually betray.
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It may well have been these psychological and physical flaws that translated into his drive to succeed as a writer and him becoming a prominent member of society. Having always written short stories and drawn illustrations, Dodgson began publishing his own magazine in as a means of creative expression. Then, in , he had the opportunity to officially publish some work in The Train: A First-Class Magazine, which was a short lived monthly magazine and prompted him to invent his pseudonym Lewis Carroll.
It was at this time that Dodgson became acquainted with a new colleague, Henry Liddell, and his young family. It took him three years to complete the manuscript to his satisfaction and to finally have the book published in The book quickly caught the collective imagination of Victorian society and became something of a publishing sensation.
In fact, it has never been out of print and has been translated into almost every language, such is its universal popularity. Apparently his inspiration was another conversation with Alice Liddell, where they discussed what it might be like to enter the reflected world in a mirror.
This second book was every bit as successful as the first. There was a paradox about the Victorian era during which Dodgson lived. On the one hand it was conservative and formalized, but on the other it was progressive and dynamic. In Charles Darwin had published On the Origin of Species , in which he had revealed his theory of biological evolution by natural selection.
It famously caused a great deal of scientific and theological argument, but it also had the effect of allowing people to think more laterally or outside of the box, because it showed that preconceived ideas may no longer be appropriate or correct. His fertile imaginings were honed by using the Liddell children as his sounding board, so that he developed an instinct for writing prose that appealed to children and adults alike.
His two books about Alice are now described as literary nonsense as he was the first author to allow himself the creative license to go wherever his mind took him.
As a result he produced stories that enter absurd worlds with anthropomorphic animals and other strange characters with exaggerated personality traits. All of the time though, Dodgson uses the scenarios to tackle problems relating to logic, reason and philosophical conundrums, so that there is far more to the books than there would immediately seem. It probably came as a welcome counter balance to the weight of austerity that typified the age in other respects. In effect, Dodgson realised that literature is a true art form, just like painting or sculpture, in that so-called rules are there only to be tested and reset in the creative process.
Incidentally it seems likely that Dodgson had indeed tried hallucinogenic drugs. Opium smoking dens existed in Victorian London as it was long before the drug was made illegal. In addition to this, it was known that Psilocybin mushrooms could be consumed to induce mind bending effects.
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In the book a shrunken Alice meets a caterpillar, smoking a hookah pipe and reclining on a mushroom. Alice consumes morsels of mushroom that make her first shrink even smaller and then grow back to her normal size.
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Alice in Wonderland books for all ages
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