LCSNA Summer School Session 3 – Ambition & Distraction
August 21, 2022, 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Lewis Carroll’s Game of Syzygies and How It Drove Him Slightly Crazy with Christopher Morgan
2:00 PM Eastern/11:00 AM Pacific
Move over, Wordle! Christopher Morgan is ready to inform and enthrall you with the history of a trendy word game from periodicals past: Syzygies! Carroll devoted a great deal of time and effort to his game of Syzygies columns, which ran from July 23, 1891 to June 3, 1892 in The Lady magazine. Their total word count was approximately 31,200 words, roughly equivalent to that of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland! The columns reveal Carroll’s busy mind at work and his many flashes of his dry wit.
Carroll wrote often for the popular press, because for all his otherworldly appearance, he was a practical man who understood that he should keep his name before the public for commercial reasons. And being a great letter writer, he also loved the weekly back-and-forth interaction with the readers.
But all was not smooth sailing. Syzygies, with its complicated scoring and contestants who liked to bend the rules a bit (or simply play the game in ways not foreseen by Carroll) often brought out elements of his personality one does not usually associate with the author of the Alice books. He could be, by turns, pedantic, frustrated, despairing, admonitory, sarcastic, and, finally, deflated.
Christopher Morgan is the outgoing editor of Knight Letter and the editor of The Pamphlets of Lewis Carroll, Volume 5: Games, Puzzles, and Related Pieces, for the LCSNA. It contains his introductory essays, notes, and annotations, and the complete text of all of the Syzygies columns.