Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lewis Carroll and the Antipodes

As Alice falls down the rabbit hole she wonders where she might end up, she thinks she might end up in the "Antipathies". This is a reference to Australia and New Zealand, which were considered to be the Antipodes (meaning "the opposite foot") to Great Britain. Alice's musings might seem like a passing remark, but Lewis Carroll may have had a more serious reason for including it.

Alice's observation does not occur in the manuscript version of "Alice's Adventures underGround" but was added to the final edition. The reason may have been this; in December of 1864 Charles Dodgson records some surprising news in his diary: "Then I called on Uncle Skeffington who told me of Frank and Percy's extraordinary plan of going to Australia."

Frank and Percy Dodgson were Lewis Carroll's first cousins, who had evidently decided to try and make their fortunes in the colonies. Lewis Carroll's diary entry suggests that this was an unexpected and perhaps ill-advised venture. The fact that Carroll refers to this part of the world as "The Antipathies" indicates that perhaps the wider family were not entirely happy with this plan. It seems that Frank Dodgson was the more adventurous of the two, and Percy may have emigrated for health reasons.

The Dodgson cousins emigrated to Australia sometime after this diary entry; they initially worked on a property in Aramac, a remote pastoral region in central western Queensland. It seems likely that they were some of the pioneer settlers of this area; the region was explored in 1859 by William Landsborough and a number of cattle and sheep stations were established in the mid-1860s. Frank and Percy Dodgson apparently lived in this area for sometime; the region was quite prosperous throughout the 1870s, but the combined trials of drought and falling wool prices saw a downturn in fortunes for the area during the 1880s. It seems that this may have caused the cousins to give up farming in central Queensland because around 1882 they move south to Stanthorpe, an inland country town on the New South Wales/Queensland border.

While in Stanthorpe Frank Dodgson married Willimina Ellen King and raised a family; however Percy's fortunes were not so good, it seems his health was not improved by the harsh Australian outback conditions , and his death was recorded on 10th September 1886. He does not appear to have married or had any descendants. Percy Dodgson was buried in Stanthorpe Cemetery. A year later a son was born to Frank Dodgson on 15th June 1887- Percy Hume Dodgson; three daughters followed, Maud, Lucy and finally Frances Charlotte in 1891. Frank Dodgson's family lived in Stanthorpe for around ten year; he owned the local newspaper "The Stannum Miner and Border Post", which he bought from the previous owner, Herbert Farley, in 1885. This was not a fortunate venture either, Frank Dodgson and the newspaper were effected by the economic depression of the late 1880s. He eventually sold the newspaper to the editor, James Scully in 1894.

Around this time Frank Dodgson moved from Queensland to Melbourne so that his four children could be educated. Young Percy attended Scottch College, Melbourne and the three girls, Maud, Lucy and Frances went to Methodist Ladies' College. Maud Dodgson went on to become one of the first lady doctors from Melbourne University and Lucy became a physiotherapist; Percy was a Permanent Army officer and was a major by the time he died. Percy had two sons, Richard and James, and there are thought to be descendants bearing the name Dodgson living in Queensland.

The bulk of this article appeared in "The Lobster's Voice" Volume 3 Issue 2 in 2000, a newsletter produced by myself for the Lewis Carroll Society of Australia. Much of the information in the article was supplied by Mrs Margaret Rogers, great granddaughter of Frank Dodgson. Ms Jean Harlsett of the Stanthorpe Historical Society also supplied information about Stanthorpe.

Information about Aramac can be found at


  1. This is very interesting - I never knew all this! Jenny

  2. Just started following you, would love if you followed my adventure travel blog back :)

  3. Do you know if there still is an Australian part of the Society?

  4. Great! It sounds good. Thanks for sharing.. Antipodes