Famous journals - Lewis Carroll

Charles Dodgson, better known by his pen name Lewis Carroll was an english author, best known for Alice’s adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking glass. Receiving his first diary for his 10th birthday, Carroll then went on to keep a diary throughout adulthood. Carroll numbered each of his diaries as volumes, up until volume 13. Out of the 13 volumes only 9 have been found and/or survived, the missing volumes are 1, 3, 6 and 7. Volumes 2 through 13 cover the period 1 January 1855 to 23 December 1897, as to be imagined there is no certainty as to whether volume 1 covers the period from his 10th birthday until 1 January 1855. It has been speculated that Caroll could have a different series of diaries from his childhood on top of those kept as he grew up.

Following Carroll’s death in 1898, the manuscript diaries were kept by members of the Dodgson family, and were transferred to various senior members of the C.L. Dodgson Estate for safe keeping, until they were purchased by the British Library in 1969.

The diaries that Carroll kept were in plain notebooks, which he called his private journal. These were essentially memorandum books. They listed the main activities and events in his life as well as including important pieces of information which he would refer back to at different points in the future. His own subsequent notes and cross-references provide evidence that he did look back over previous entries. It is speculated that this is probably one reason why he kept the left-hand page of the notebooks blank, so that he could include additional comments. He certainly used it for that purpose in the early volumes of his diary, and in later volumes he added wide margins for similar reasons.

The Volumes

Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, who wrote The life and letters of Lewis Carroll, T. Fisher Unwin, 1898, quotes an entry for 15 October 1853 and other previously undocumented dates. This Is where we would learn about when Carroll started to keep his diaries.

As of right now Volume 1 is still considered missing. It is not known what period of time is spanned by Volume 1, it is possible that the first of the numbered volumes began in his adult life, separate from his childhood diary. Saying this it seemed at some point he started on a new format, beginning with Volume 1.

Alternatively, the missing volume 1 might contain all the entries from his 10th year up to 1854 and he started in the new format with the diary beginning in 1855, labelling it volume 2. This would imply that the childhood years were only briefly recorded and contained more sporadic entries.

Each Volume covers quite a period of time, giving incredible insight into the type of character Lewis Carroll, Charles Dodgson, was. 

There are a few occasions when Carroll mis-paginates his journal and records two separate pages with the same number in the same volume. This indicates that he inserted pages as he worked his way through the note-books. They occur throughout a number of the different journals. As previously stated it is shown that he often went back over his diaries and entries, in some he leaves out a page number if the page has already been filled with a subsequent note relating to the right-hand entries. There are also some missing pages within his collection of journals. There is no page 206 in volume 10, but it seems the error was his. 


Throughout his diaries you can find notes which he would later use towards his publications and books.

During the trip, 4 July 1862, the first outlines of the story of Alice’s Adventures under Ground were narrated. Lewis Carroll was accompanied by the three eldest daughters of the Dean of Christ Church, Lorina, Alice and Edith as well as The Rev. Robinson Duckworth of Trinity College. They took a boat‘ up the river to Godstow’ for a little trip. On their return to Christ Church, Alice urged Carroll to write out the story for her. That evening and on a train journey the next day, he set out the main headings. He started a manuscript text on 13 November 1862, completing it on 10 February 1863. He retained the manuscript version for reference as he expanded the book into the fuller text of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In November 1864 he presented the manuscript volume of Alice’s Adventures under Ground, complete with his own illustrations, to Alice Liddell. The book was then published on commission by Macmillan & Co., in July 1865.

In 1869 Dodgson began to write Through the Looking-Glass, and what Alice found there. This was published, again with illustrations by John Tenniel, at Christmas 1871, in an edition of 9000 copies (actually dated 1872).

As with Alice’s Adventures, copies were bound in red cloth gilt, with the date and number of the ‘thousand’ on the title page. It reached the 70th thousand in 1932. The last reprint, like Alice’s Adventures was in 1942.

Not only did Carroll write the Alice books, he wrote many others including poems, pamphlets and articles. He was a skilled mathematician, logician and pioneering photographer and he invented a wealth of games and puzzles which are of great interest today. Through his range of talents he has acquired great respect and has a large following for many of them, not just his books.