During his early youth, young Dodgson was educated at home. His "reading lists" preserved in the family archives testify to a precocious intellect: at the age of seven the child was reading The Pilgrim's Progress. He also suffered from a stammer — a condition shared by his siblings — that often influenced his social life throughout his years. At age twelve he was sent to Richmond Grammar School (now part of Richmond School) at nearby Richmond.
In 1846, young Dodgson moved on to Rugby School, where he was evidently less happy, for as he wrote some years after leaving the place:
I cannot say ... that any earthly considerations would induce me to go through my three years again ... I can honestly say that if I could have been ... secure from annoyance at night, the hardships of the daily life would have been comparative trifles to bear.
Scholastically, though, he excelled with apparent ease. "I have not had a more promising boy his age since I came to Rugby", observed R.B. Mayor, the Mathematics master.
He left Rugby at the end of 1849 and, after an interval that remains unexplained, went on in January 1851 to Oxford, attending his father's old college, Christ Church. He had been at Oxford only two days when he received a summons home. His mother had died of "inflammation of the brain" — perhaps meningitis or a stroke — at the age of forty-seven.
His early academic career veered between high promise and irresistible distraction. He did not always work hard, but was exceptionally gifted and achievement came easily to him. In 1852 he received a First in Honours Mathematics, and was shortly thereafter nominated to a Studentship by his father's old friend, Canon Edward Pusey. A little later he failed an important scholarship through his self-confessed inability to apply himself to study. Even so, his talent as a mathematician won him the Christ Church Mathematical Lectureship, which he continued to hold for the next twenty-six years. The income was good, but the work bored him. Many of his pupils were older and richer than he was, and almost all of them were uninterested. Despite early unhappiness, Dodgson was to remain at Christ Church, in various capacities, until his death.