Alice Pleasance Liddell (May 4, 1852 – November 15, 1934) was the inspiration for children's classic Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Her surname Liddell is pronounced /lɪdl̩/ and rhymes with fiddle.
Origin of Alice in Wonderland
Alice Liddell was a daughter of Henry Liddell, Dean of Christ Church, Oxford, and his wife Lorina Hanna, née Reeve. Alice was the fourth child. She had two older brothers, Harry (born 1847) and Arthur (born 1850), who died of scarlet fever in 1853, and an older sister, Lorina (born 1849). She also had six younger siblings, including her sister Edith (born 1854), to whom she was very close. One of her younger brothers died as an infant.
At the time of her birth, Alice's father was the Dean of Westminster School but was soon after appointed to the deanery of Christ Church, Oxford. The Liddell family moved to Oxford in 1856. Soon after this move, Alice first met Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, who encountered the Dean's family while he was photographing the cathedral on April 25, 1856. Alice was almost four. He became a close friend of the Liddell family in subsequent years (see Relationship with Lewis Carroll below).
Alice grew up primarily in the company of the two sisters nearest to her in age: Lorina, who was three years older, and Edith, who was two years younger. She and her family regularly spent holidays at their holiday home Penmorfa, now the Gogarth Abbey Hotel on the wild West Shore of Llandudno in North Wales.
When Alice was a young woman, she set out on a grand tour of Europe with Lorina and Edith. Two years later, Edith died, possibly of measles or peritonitis (accounts differ), shortly before she was to be married. One story has it that Alice became a romantic interest of Prince Leopold, the youngest son of Queen Victoria, but the evidence for this is sparse. It is true that Leopold's first child was called 'Alice' and that he acted as godfather to Alice's son, Leopold Reginald Hargreaves. (Leopold's most recent biographer suggests it is far more likely that Alice's sister Edith was the true recipient of Leopold's attention.)
Alice married Reginald Hargreaves on September 15, 1880, at the age of 28 in Westminster Abbey. They had three sons: Alan Knyveton Hargreaves and Leopold Reginald "Rex" Hargreaves (both were killed in action in World War I); and Caryl Liddell Hargreaves, who survived to have a daughter of his own. Alice denied that the name 'Caryl' was in any way associated with Charles Dodgson's pseudonym. Reginald Hargreaves inherited a considerable fortune, and Alice became a noted society hostess.
After Reginald Hargreaves' death, the cost of maintaining their home, Cuffnells, was such that Alice deemed it necessary to sell her copy of Alice's Adventures Under Ground. The manuscript fetched nearly four times the reserve price given it by Sotheby's auction house and sold for £15,400. It became the possession of Eldridge R. Johnson and was displayed at Columbia University on the centennial of Carroll's birth. (Alice was present, aged 80, and it was on this visit to America that she met Peter Llewelyn-Davies, one of the brothers who were the inspiration for J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan). At Johnson's death, the book was purchased by a consortium of American bibliophiles and presented to the British people "in recognition of Britain's courage in facing Hitler before America came into the war." The manuscript now resides in the British Library.
The relationship between Alice Liddell and Charles Dodgson has been the source of much controversy. Many biographers have supposed that Dodgson was romantically or sexually attached to the child, though there has never been any direct proof for this and more benign accounts assume merely a platonic fondness. It is certainly true that the evidence pool on which any claims can be based is very small and that many authors writing on the topic have tended to indulge in a great deal of undocumented speculation.
Dodgson met the Liddell family in 1855. He first befriended Harry, the older brother, and later took both Harry and Ina on several boating trips and picnics to the scenic areas around Oxford. Later, when Harry went to school, Alice and her younger sister Edith joined the party. Dodgson entertained the children by telling them fantastic stories to while away the time. He also used them as subjects for his hobby, photography. It has often been stated that Alice was clearly his favorite subject in these years, but there is very little evidence to suggest that this is so. Dodgson's diaries from April 18, 1858 to May 8, 1862 are missing and were, presumably, destroyed by his heirs. They would have covered his close friendship with the Liddells and many other experiences. No one knows how or why they went missing.
The relationship between the Liddells and Dodgson suffered a sudden break in June 1863. Until recently, there was no record of why the rift occurred, since the Liddells never openly spoke of it, and the single page in Dodgson's diary recording June 27–29 1863 (which seems to cover the period of the break) is missing. Until recently, the only source for what happened on that day had been guesswork (of which there is much), all centered on the idea that Alice Liddell was, somehow, the cause of the break. It was long speculated that Alice's mother, Lorina Liddell, disapproved of Dodgson's interest in her daughter as she saw him as an unfit companion for her very young child, then only 11.