"All in the golden afternoon..."
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1865. It was inspired when, three years earlier on 4 July, Lewis Carroll and the Reverend Robinson Duckworth rowed up the River Isis in a boat with three young girls. This day was known as the "golden afternoon," prefaced in the novel as a poem. The poem might be a confusion or even another Alice-tale, for it turns out that particular day was cool, cloudy and rainy. The three girls were the daughters of scholar Henry Liddell: Lorina Charlotte Liddell (aged 13; "Prima" in the book's prefatory verse); Alice Pleasance Liddell (aged 10; "Secunda" in the verse); and Edith Mary Liddell (aged 8; "Tertia" in the verse).
The journey began at Folly Bridge, Oxford and ended five miles (8 km) away in the Oxfordshire village of Godstow. During the trip Dodgson told the girls a story that featured a bored little girl named Alice who goes looking for an adventure. The girls loved it, and Alice Liddell asked Dodgson to write it down for her.
Manuscript: Alice's Adventures Under Ground
Carroll began writing the manuscript of the story the next day, although that earliest version is lost. The girls and Dodgson took another boat trip a month later, when he elaborated the plot to the story of Alice, and in November he began working on the manuscript in earnest.
To add the finishing touches he researched natural history in connection with the animals presented in the book, and then had the book examined by other children—particularly those of George MacDonald. Though Dodgson did add his own illustrations, he subsequently approached John Tenniel to illustrate the book for publication, telling him that the story had been well liked by children.
On 26 November 1864, Dodgson gave Alice the handwritten manuscript of Alice's Adventures Under Ground, with illustrations by Dodgson himself, dedicating it as "A Christmas Gift to a Dear Child in Memory of a Summer's Day". Some, including Martin Gardner, speculate that there was an earlier version that was destroyed later by Dodgson when he wrote a more elaborate copy by hand.
Before Alice received her copy, Dodgson was already preparing it for publication and expanding the 15,500-word original to 27,500 words, most notably adding the episodes about the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Tea Party.