chapter  8
15 Pages

Lewis Carroll: fugitive from reality?: A. D. Nuttall

Lewis Carroll was also the Revd. C. L. Dodgson, mathematician and Fellow of

Christ Church, Oxford. Claude M. Blagden (who became Bishop of Peter-

borough) gives us, in the course of reminiscences of his time at Christ Church, a

picture of the man who wrote Symbolic Logic and also, on the quiet, Alice’s

Adventures in Wonderland. Dodgson, he explains, ‘‘would constantly send his ser-

vant across to Strong with hard questions carefully written down for him to

answer. Strong at first took these questions seriously, and set himself to give

reasoned answers to them; but he soon discovered, on receipt of an answer from

Dodgson with hardly a moment’s delay, that he was being used, not by a tireless

seeker after truth, but by a very determined and skilful games player, who had

worked out all possible solutions, and was prepared to play a game of logic

chopping till the skies fell.’’1 ‘‘Strong’’ is Thomas Banks Strong, a man not noted

for originality of mind, who was optimistically keen on promoting morality and

religion among the young in the recently secularized university. He later became

Bishop of Oxford. It is an oddly chilling anecdote. We do not know the content

of the problems set by Dodgson. They could hardly have been as garishly sur-

real as the material he used in his ‘‘Concrete Propositions, proposed as Premises

for Sorites.’’ The first set reads,

1 Babies are illogical;

2 Nobody is despised who can manage a crocodile;

3 Illogical persons are despised.2