Contextualising Carroll

Contextualising Carroll

The contradiction of science and religion
in the life and works of Lewis Carroll

PhD Thesis by
Darien Graham-Smith
University of Wales, Bangor, 2005


This work presents a theory that Lewis Carroll’s life and works were profoundly affected by a conflict between his logical world view and his religious beliefs. Three examinations are presented – the first of convention and logic in Carroll’s life, the second of the nature of his religion and the third of his response to contemporary science. The thesis concludes that Victorian science brought Carroll’s beliefs into contradiction, causing him to experience religious and existential doubts. It is suggested that an understanding of these doubts can inform an understanding of Carroll’s relationships with Alice Liddell and other young girls, and indeed has repercussions for his entire life and works beyond the scope of this thesis.

Two brief appendices expand upon issues mentioned in the text: the first considers the artefacts at Ripon Cathedral which are supposed by some to have influenced Carroll; and the second discusses Effie’s Dream-Garden, a children’s book which bears some resemblance to the Alice story but which was published several years before that story was first told.


   3  Summary
   4  Contents
   7  Acknowledgements
   8  Author’s Declarations
   9  Definitions

  10  Chapter 1: Introduction
  23  Chapter 2: Convention
  46  Chapter 3: Religion
  64  Chapter 4: Science
  88  Chapter 5: Darwin and the Dodo
 114  Chapter 6: Dreams and Doubts
 135  Chapter 7: Conclusion

 139  Appendix A: Ripon Cathedral
 142  Appendix B: Effie’s Dream Garden
 147  Works cited

Amazon (Kindle): B010Y2T5GS


If you want to use Darien Graham-Smith’ thesis for your own research, I recommend to discuss it with the author and with Simon Davison, the maker of the British 2023 Snark film.

2024-06-02, update: 2024-06-11

Snark Hunting with Charles Darwin

369    "The method employed I would gladly explain,
370        While I have it so clear in my head,
371    If I had but the time and you had but the brain —
372        But much yet remains to be said.

373    "In one moment I’ve seen what has hitherto been
374        Enveloped in absolute mystery,
375    And without extra charge I will give you at large
376        A Lesson in Natural History."

377    In his genial way he proceeded to say
378        (Forgetting all laws of propriety,
379    And that giving instruction, without introduction,
380        Would have caused quite a thrill in Society),

Is this about the introduction to evolution by Charles Darwin?

HMS Beagle | Snark Assemblage
Carroll and Science by Mark R. Richards
Contextualising Carroll by Darien Graham-Smith
Henry Holiday’s Boojum
Breakfast at five-o’clock tea | Charles Darwin in Tahiti
Tree of Life
Crossing the Line
Darwin’s Study
One of the Beagle‘s Chronometers
The Expression of Emotions
Charles Darwin and the Snark

2022-10-31, updated: 2024-06-02

Charles Darwin

The Bellman and Charles Darwin.

As for Darwin’s beard see also: Charles Darwin’s wild whiskers in From Charles Darwin’s beard to George Eliot’s right hand: 4 famous Victorian bodily quirks

In an early preparatory draft, the Bellman had a quite different face. Henry Holiday later used that face (an Oxford colleague?) in another illustration.

2017-08-27, updated: 2022-10-31

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