He charmed the public but disappointed the Queen
Some books are always in demand at Printed Page. "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" is near the top of the list.
"Alice's Adventures Underground" (its initial title) had a modest beginning. It was handwritten and charmingly illustrated by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson as a Christmas gift for a child friend, Alice Liddell. He had made up a story about a bored little girl called Alice who goes looking for adventure, and he told it to the Liddell family during a river outing in 1862. Three years later, in 1865, at the insistence of a friend, the manuscript -- retitled "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" -- was published under the pen name Lewis Carroll with illustrations by Sir John Tenniel. Then things went off the tracks.
Tenniel was so disappointed with the book's print quality that he asked to have every copy recalled, and the entire book reprinted. The original 2,000 copies would be sold as waste paper. (Only 22 of those copies are extant; only six are in private hands. Carroll's own copy sold for $1.54 million in 1998.) The next (and official) first edition sold 5,000 copies. The novel has never been out of print. There's a reason for that.
There were books for children before 1865, but they were almost all written to make a moral point. Good children behave like this. Bad children behave like that and are punished for it. In "Alice," for the first time, there is a realistic child taking part in a story whose intention was entirely fun. Both children and adults loved the book immediately and have never stopped doing so.
Dodgson, a shy and obscure mathematician and deacon at Christ Church Oxford, was horrified to discover that his alter ego, Lewis Carroll, was famous, praised and sought after, even by Queen Victoria. Dodgson attempted to dissociate himself from Lewis Carroll, and he wrote, "Mr. Dodgson neither claims nor acknowledges any connection with the books not published under his name."
After the popular success of "Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland," Queen Victoria is said to have asked to be sent a copy of Lewis Carroll’s next book. This is how the Queen came to receive a copy of "An Elementary Treatise on Determinants." We bet she was disappointed.