Three episodes from the Victorian romance embedded in Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, all illustrated by Harry Furniss. Left to right: (a) Five O'Clock Tea (Vol I, Ch. 20). (b) The Lords of Creation (Vol. II, Ch. 17). (c) Still Clinging to Him (Vol. II, Ch. 17).

The decision to disinter Lewis Carroll’s Victorian Romance from the large mass of child fantasy-story with which it found itself interwoven, in the lengthy two-volume Sylvie and Bruno fairytale, Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893), was not taken lightly. So carefully disguised was Carroll’s resulting hybrid contribution, of the Victorian social mise en scene in his predominantly Fairyland tale, that the former was only tardily recognisable as a ‘lost’ historically dated novel in its own right, after the work was done of disentangling the ‘skein’, to separate, abridge and reshape the core children’s saga. – Editor’s Preface, Lady Muriel, p. ix.

The new edition’s three volumes provide a full scholarly apparatus, which includes an Outline Life of C. L. Dodgson-Lewis Carroll, with Notes; Notes to Text; Editor’s Introduction & Notes; Prefaces of 1889 and 1893, with Annotated Notes; all original Chapters, with Annotated Notes; Brief History of Indexation and Lewis Carroll’s Contribution; Indexes. The ‘new’ novel, here as Volume 3 of a Scholar’s Annotated Series, is fully illustrated with the appropriate Harry Furniss original pictures, and presented for the first time as a stand- alone, continuous, running series of uniform chapters. These are as follows:

Chapters in Sylvie and Bruno, Vol. 1, using Carroll’s original titles [at left and renumbered].

Original Chapters (renumbered) Synopsis
1. L’Amie Inconnue [A train-journey; first meeting with Lady Muriel]
2. Queer Street, Number Forty[Picnics, lectures and lunatics]
3. Light Come, Light Go [Religious talk, and Tea at the Hall
4. Crossing The Line[A first brush with Death]
5. Looking Eastwards[Disappointed in love; resolve; Ultra-Romanticism]
6. Love’s Curfew[New hopes, severely controlled]
7. Streaks of Dawn[The lovers brought to meet again]
8. Mein Herr [An old, old friend, and Maths puzzles]
9. In A Shady Place[Lady Muriel and Arthur in the Garden]
10. The Farewell Party [Strange new games at the dining-table]
11. Jabbering And Jam[More puzzling Nonsense from Mein Herr]
12. What Tottles Meant[Of Nonsense verses, and tales of Empire]
13. Beyond These Voices [A concluding verse; then much of Science]
14. To The Rescue [Smoke-room talk, and worst possible news]
15. A Newspaper-Cutting [Death of Arthur; Lady Muriel’s grieving]
16. Life Out of Death [Happiness after all; triumphant Light]

What follows is a sample of the notes from annotated edition of the first volume of Sylvie and Bruno:

Chap. 1, p. 11: “…as much under water as if he’d gone a mile or two down into the Atlantic!” [23]

The great depth of the Atlantic Ocean was well-known to Victorian England since 1858 and 1865-66, when submarine telegraphy-cables had been laid between Ireland and Newfoundland, by companies associated with Brunel’s ship Great Eastern, and the physicist and inventor William Thomson [Lord Kelvin]. In London, Punch cartoonists portrayed the amazing feat, as in Du Maurier’s humorous full-pager ‘THE DIVER IN SEARCH OF THE ATLANTIC CABLE GETS INTO HOT WATER’, replete with naked mermaids, Punch’s Almanack for 1866.

Chap. 2, p. 28: “He would distinguish himself as a Vice!” my Lady proceeded, being far too stupid to see the double meaning [3] of her words.”

‘double meaning’, ‘Vice’: ROGET, 1879 gives three major senses, viz. 759, Deputy; 781, Holder; 945, Wickedness. SOED indicates Latin roots for all of these, viz. vix or ‘vice’, Late Middle English LME, Vice as Deputy; vitis, ‘vine or stem’, ME, vice as bench-holder, clamp; and vitium, Old French and ME, vice as corruption. Many other variants exist, in OED, HTOED….. My Lady the Sub-Warden’s use of “a vice” [apparently] points to her intention to signify Latin vix, vice-, i.e. an acting substitute, deputy, in place of…though Carroll quickly perceives the possibility of alternatives…

Chap. 4, p.50: “And what a wild being it was who sang those wild [2] words!”

[2]. ‘wild’ was a key concept to Romanticism and the Romantic Movement, c. 1789-1850. William Blake fitted it into the opening line of his famous Introduction, “Piping down the valleys wild…”, Songs of Innocence, 1789. Byron, in Childe Harold, Canto I: 1, has “And shrieks the wild seamew”, whilst at Canto III: 6 the poet offers what serves to explain the Romantic’s wildness…

’Tis to create, and in creating live
A being more intense, that we endow
With form our fancy, gaining as we give
The life we imagine, even as I do now.

The ‘wild’ poetry of the Romantic Movement was certainly absorbed by C. L. Dodgson, and nowhere more deeply than with Tennyson’s sentiments in The Princess (1847) when he wrote of love “Deep as first love, and wild with all regret”, IV, First Song, verse 4, a line apparently brought back to the twenty-three years old Dodgson as he read and reread Tennyson’s Maud… Carroll’s own use of ‘wild’ was more controlled and sparing, as the logician-mathematician vied with the nonsense writer and anarchical fantasist. He had not felt entirely comfortable with his reading, a year after Maud, of that wildest of Romantic novels, Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights …[citations from Lewis Carroll’s Diaries, 10 vols., 1993-2007, Vols. 1 and 2]…

Chap. 4, p. 52: “I lost the rest of the sentence, for my mind had recurred with a great shock of surprise, to…those very words of Sylvie’s [4]…”

The implications should not be overlooked, for a common, internal, psychological authorial ‘object-representation’ for these two fictional persons, within the emotional world of Carroll-Dodgson. Since each of the novel’s thus-linked characters [here Sylvie and Lady Muriel] responds to witnessing similar situations of maltreatment of a vulnerable individual, it seems plausible that this aspect also may be based on historical-biographical events in C. L. Dodgson’s early, impressionable, childhood. The literary repetition has all the character of a still on-going ‘working through’ of painful residues. [See also Annotated, Vol. 3, Lady Muriel, p.123, note 29].

A recent reviewer of Annotated, Vols. 1 and 2, notes that “annotations are prodigious [and connect] many of the actions and ideas in S.& B. to Dodgson’s life experiences”, (Imholtz, C., 2016). Across the three volumes of the Scholar’s AnnotatedSeries of Sylvie and Bruno, there are over a thousand annotations, including many of page-length or several pages in length. Those fuller discussions include: names of Sylvie, Bruno, Uggug, Lady Muriel; Lewis Carroll [LC] and Oscar Wilde; LC and George Eliot; LC and the Biblical Yahweh; LC’s favourite week-day, Tuesday; ‘wild’ and Romanticism; Indexation; Isabella Louise Keane, a significant child-friend; female beauty; literary endings before beginnings; immaterial essence and Buddhism; Dream-Children; Bruno’s [child] psychology; Dodgson and ageing; Dodgson and Ruskin; LC’s obscure use of ‘rayther’; oral story-telling; LC as an acute observer; free will versus determinism; the Professor [ as literary figure]; the Pope and parody; the Monster [as literary figure]; ‘black light’ and Victorian Science; derelictions of Edwin Dodgson as editor; the Boojum coinage; Judaism-LC-Christian esotery-Poetry, [all in Volumes 1 & 2, SB- SBC. For more, relevant to Lady Muriel and the “graver cadences”, see linked Part 4 below].

Sylvie and Bruno Concluded [SBC]; Vol.2 of Scholar’s Annotated Series.

“…The story, or rather the two stories, of Fairyland and England - the former full of child- sentimentality, the latter with adult romance and philosophising, together with all their hybrid complexities and clever tricks of transitioning back and forth between those two worlds - that story by now, in its concluding Part Two, had manifestly become a closer approximation to the sum total of the myriad complexities of the very same hybrid personality, Romantic and Logician, who wrote and agonised over his labour of love and personal realisation, for some two and a half decades, from c.1867-1893...” Annotated, Editor’s Preface, 2.267.

List of Chapters to Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, Vol. 2, using Carroll’s original titles [at left, renumbered]

1. Bruno’s Lessons.[Victorian geography with onomatopoeic word-play]
2. The Dog-King. [Bruno’s world, and a favourite friend]
3. Matilda Jane. [Bessie’s doll and a gruesome song]
4. Willie’s Wife. [The public-house and Temperance Movement]
5. Jabbering and Jam.[A brief parody of Victorian society]
6. The Man in the Moon. [Mein Herr and the Fairy-Children]
7. Fairy Music.[Sylvie at the piano; Ultra Romanticism]
8. What Tottles meant. [More parodies, of Victorian marriage]
9. Bruno’s Picnic. [The young organiser, avatar of his creator]
10. The Little Foxes.[Moral stories - yes, morals from Lewis Carroll]
11. To The Rescue.[A nursery song, and the Professor’s mind-mangle]
12. A Fairy Duet.[Fairy-Children apogee. See Fig. ‘Frontispiece’]
3. Gammon and Spinach.[The two Professors and much nonsense]
14. The Professor’s Lecture.[A Carrollian chaos-crescendo - and earlier ones]
15. The Banquet.[Conspirators, Bruno, cats and ‘mouses’]
16. The Pig-Tale.[Another cautionary tale]
17. The Beggar’s Return.[The Warden reinstated as Elfin-King]

Related material


Carroll, Lewis. The Story of Sylvie and Bruno. 2nd ed. London: Macmillan, 1910.

Dyer, Ray, ed. Lewis Carroll’s ‘Sylvie and Bruno with Sylvie and Bruno Concluded’. Scholar’s Annotate Series. Vols. 1 & 2 bound as one. Troubador/Matador UK, 2015; Amazon, 2015. Vol. 3, Lady Muriel. The Victorian Romance. Troubador/Matador and Amazon, 2016.

Imholtz, C. Lewis Carroll Review No. 54 (August 2016): 9-11.

Last updated 30 September 2016