Sylvie and Bruno: Wikis


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Sylvie and Bruno  
Sylvie and Bruno.gif
frontispiece of second volume
Author Lewis Carroll
Illustrator Harry Furniss
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Fantasy
Publisher Macmillan and Co.
Publication date 13 December 1889
29 December 1893
Media type Print
Pages xxiii + 400pp
xxxi + 423pp

Sylvie and Bruno, first published in 1889, and its 1893 second volume Sylvie and Bruno Concluded form the last novel by Lewis Carroll published during his lifetime. Both volumes were illustrated by Harry Furniss.

The novel has two main plots; one set in the real world at the time the book was published (the Victorian era), the other in the fantasy world of Fairyland. While the latter plot is a fairytale with many nonsense elements and poems, similar to Carroll's Alice books, the story set in Victorian Britain is a social novel, with its characters discussing various concepts and aspects of religion, society, philosophy and morality.



Two chapters from the first volume, "Fairy Sylvie" and "Bruno's Revenge", originally appeared as short stories in Aunt Judy's Magazine in 1867. Some years later, in 1873, Carroll had the idea to use these as the core for a longer story. Much of the rest of the novel was compiled from notes of ideas and dialogue collected by Carroll over the years (which he called "litterature" in the introduction to the first volume).

Carroll initially intended for the novel to be published in one volume. However, due to its length, it was divided into two volumes.

The novel is not nearly as well-known as the Alice books. The poem The Mad Gardener's Song, widely reprinted elsewhere, is the best-known part of the book.

Plot summary

There are two strands:

  • the conspiracy against the Warden of Outland, instigated by the Sub-Warden and Chancellor, and
  • the love of a young doctor, Arthur, for Lady Muriel

Volume 1

Conspiracy in Outland; Arthur and Lady Muriel

1 The narrator finds himself in a high room overlooking a public square filled with people. The room is the Warden's breakfast-saloon. The Chancellor has organised a "spontaneous" demonstration. Bruno enters briefly, looking for Sylvie. The Chancellor delivers a speech. The narrator follows Bruno into the study, where he climbs on to the Warden's knee, next to Sylvie. The Warden tells them that the Professor has finally returned from his long wanderings in search of health. They set off for the Library, where the Professor tells them about his concerns with the barometer and with "horizontal weather". The Professor then leads the children back to the saloon.

2 The narrator finds himself in a train compartment, which a veiled young lady has just entered. He is on his way to see Arthur, a doctor friend, for a consultation; he rereads Arthur's letter, and absent-mindedly repeats out loud its last line, "Do you believe in Fate?" The lady laughs, and a conversation ensues.

The scene changes abruptly to the breakfast-saloon, in which the Professor is explaining his plunge-bath invention to the Sub-Warden, his wife, her son, the Chancellor, Warden, Sylvie, and Bruno.

3 The Chancellor tries to persuade the Warden to elevate the Sub-Warden to Vice-Warden. The Warden asks the Sub-Warden for a private talk. The Sub-Warden's wife asks the Professor about his Lecture, suggesting a Fancy Dress Ball. He gives Sylvie a birthday present: a pincushion. Uggug throws butter over Sylvie. The Sub-Warden distracts his wife by saying a pig is in the garden; the Chancellor drags Uggug out by his ear.

4 The Warden agrees to the changes. After he has signed the Agreement and left (to become Monarch of Fairyland), the Chancellor, Vice-Warden and his wife laugh about how they have deceived him, the document having been altered at the last minute to give the Vice-Warden dictatorial powers. A beggar appears beneath the window; Uggug and his mother throw water over him. Bruno try to throw him some food, but he has gone.

5 The narrator wakes up, and he and the lady discuss ghosts. They change trains at Fayfield Junction; he notices her name on her luggage: Lady Muriel Orme. An old tramp is sent on his way. The narrator falls asleep again, and hears the first stanza of the Mad Gardener's Song. The Gardener directs Sylvie and Bruno after the beggar. They give him cake, and he leads them to an underground octagonal room lined with creepers bearing fruit and flowers. His clothes transform, and they find it is their father.

6 He says they are in Elfland. Bruno tries to eat the fruit (Phlizz) but it has no taste. Their father shows Sylvie two lockets, one blue ("All will love Sylvie") and one red ("Sylvie will love all"). She chooses the red. The narrator finds himself at the railway station of his destination, Elveston. On arriving at Arthur's house, he tells him of Lady Muriel Orme, and it turns out that Arthur knows her and is in love with her. The narrator falls asleep again, and hears the Chancellor warn the Vice-Warden that the Ambassador of Elfland has arrived and that they will need to convince him that Uggug is Bruno, or as able as Bruno.

7 The Ambassador, Baron Doppelgeist, is given demonstrations of Uggug's abilities which always happen when he is looking the other way. Finding his guestroom full of frogs, he leaves in anger.

8 The narrator visits Lady Muriel and her father, the Earl, in the company of Arthur. They discuss weightlessness. Later, Arthur and the narrator visit the beach. Arthur goes home. Sylvie and Bruno go in search of the Beggar, their father. She rubs the red amulet, and a mouse is transformed into a lion, which they ride. Their father listens to their account of the Ambassador's visit; he cannot rectify the situation, but casts a spell.

9 Uggug refuses to learn his lessons. The Vice-Warden and his wife try on disguises: jester and dancing bear. Uggug sees them and runs off to fetch the Professor. When he arrives, they are dressed normally, and they tell him that the people wish to elect an Emperor -- the Vice-Warden.


10 The Professor takes Sylvie and Bruno to see the Other Professor. The Professor asks him about the Pig-Tale, which he promised to give after the Professor's Lecture. Bruno asks what "inconvenient" means.

11 By way of illustration, the Other Professor recites Peter and Paul, 208 lines of verse.

12 After a discussion, the Other Professor vanishes. Sylvie and Bruno complain to the Professor about their treatment, and ask him to tell the Gardener to open the garden door for them, so they can go to Fairyland to see their father.

13 They walk a long way, stopping briefly to visit the King of Dogland, before entering the gate of Fairyland. Arthur tells the narrator that he has discovered that he has more wealth than he thought, and that marriage with Lady Muriel is at least possible.

14 The narrator spends a month at London; when he returns, he finds that Arthur has still not yet declared his intentions. The narrator sets off to speak to the Earl; on the way he encounters first Sylvie (who is helping a Beetle) and then Bruno (who is spoiling Sylvie's garden). He persuades Bruno to help weed it instead.

15 Bruno weeds the garden with the narrator's help.


16 The Earl invites Arthur to a picnic in ten days' time. On the day, walking to their house, the narrator encounters Sylvie and Bruno again.

17 The party leave the Earl's Hall and travel to a ruined castle, the site of the picnic. Muriel sings, but the narrator falls asleep, and her song becomes that of Bruno.

18 Muriel introduces Captain Eric Lindon, a highly presentable young man. Arthur is in despair, and declines to return with the party in the same carriage. The narrator falls asleep again, and there is a meeting between Lindon, Sylvie, Bruno, and the Professor.

19 A week later, Arthur and the narrator go to church. They discuss religion with Muriel, condemning High Church affectations, and moralising which relies on Pascal's Wager. The narrator helps carry a lame little girl upstairs at the railway station, and buys a posy in the street. The girl turns out to be Sylvie.

20 He brings Sylvie and Bruno to the Earl's Hall. The Earl is astonished by the flowers, none of which are English. Muriel sings a new song. A couple of days later, the flowers have vanished. The narrator, Muriel, and the Earl idly sketch an alternative scheme for the animal kingdom.

21 Sylvie asks the Professor for advice. He unlocks the Ivory Door for the two of them, and they meet Bruno. The Professor boasts of having devised the Emperor's new Money Act, doubling the value of every coin to make everyone twice as rich, and shows the narrator an "Outlandish" watch (essentially a kind of time machine). Sylvie finds a dead hare, and is horrified to learn that human beings hunt them.

22 Arthur is even more discouraged. Muriel is surprised to discover that Eric has met Sylvie and Bruno. Eric saves Bruno from being run down by a train.

23 The narrator tries to use the Outlandish watch to prevent an accident, but fails. He then uses it to witness, in reverse, some scenes of family life. Later, the narrator is talking to the Earl when he learns, and Arthur overhears, that Muriel is engaged to Eric.

24 Sylvie and Bruno present a variety show to an audience of frogs, including "Bits of Shakespeare", and Bruno tells them a long rambling story.

25 A week after discovering that Muriel is engaged, Arthur and the narrator go for the "last" time to the Earl's Hall. They discuss with Muriel how the Sabbath should best be kept, and the nature of free will. Arthur informs the narrator that he is leaving for India.

Volume 2

A clean slate

1 Several weeks pass in London. The narrator sees Eric Lindon at a club, and learns that Eric's engagement to Muriel is over, and that Arthur is still at Elveston. The narrator meets Bruno in a park; Sylvie gives Bruno his lessons. A thunderstorm drives the narrator home, where he finds a telegram from Arthur, asking him to come.

2 As before, the narrator meets Lady Muriel while changing trains at Fayfield Junction. She is giving money to the old tramp (vol. 1, ch. 5). On their way to Elveston she says that Eric broke off their engagement because of her evident discomfort with Eric's lukewarm faith. Arthur does not know this.

3 The next morning, on a walk, Arthur discusses his anti-socialist views, and condemns charity bazaars as "half charity, half self-pleasing". Sylvie and Bruno contrive that he should meet Muriel, who is also out walking.

4 The narrator presses on without him to Hunter's farm to order milk. On his way he meets the farmer, who is talking to a woman about her hard-drinking husband, Willie. At the farm, the dog Nero (who is the Dog King from vol. 1, ch. 13) catches a boy who is stealing apples.

5 The three of them meet the farmer's wife, daughter Bessie, and Bessie's doll, Matilda-Jane. On their way back to Elveston they pass the Golden Lion, a new public house.

6 Willie comes walking down the road; Sylvie and Bruno invisibly drag him away from the pub. He delivers his wages to his wife, and swears off drink. The narrator walks back to the house, and learns that Arthur is now engaged to Muriel.

7 At the Hall, the narrator finds Muriel with a man called "Mein Herr," who has a beard and a German accent. He bears a remarkable resemblance to the Professor. He shows them Fortunatus's Purse, and describes a gravity-powered train, a method of storing up extra time so that nobody ever gets bored, a carriage with oval wheels (with the end of one wheel corresponding to the side of the wheel opposite it, so that the carraige rises, falls, rolls, and pitches, and so anybody in the carriage gets vomitingly sick) He also describes a carriage designed to prevent runaway horses from getting anywhere. Oddly enough, nobody seems to remember where they first met "Mein Herr", nor what his real name is, nor where he lives, nor where he's from. Lady Muriel admits that she never realized what a mysterious man he is until she met the narrator. A party is planned.

8 Ten days pass. The day before the party, Arthur, Muriel and the narrator have tea at the Hall. Arthur argues that the gravity of a sin must be judged by the temptation preceding it. The Earl returns from the harbour-town with news of the spread of a fever.

A brief marriage

9 At the party, conversation ranges over sanity and insanity, cheating at croquet versus cheating at whist, rational honeymoons, teetotalism, and keeping dinner parties interesting.

10 An interlude, with the arrival of Sylvie and Bruno, the discussion of wine (which is transformed into a discussion of jam) and an unsatisfying musical performance.

11 Another interlude, with "Mein Herr" telling tall tales about his country. He describes how nobody in his kingdom ever drowns, because they have been eugenically bred for dozens of generations to weigh less and less until everybody is lighter than water. He also hears about how the largest map ever made on Earth was six inches to the mile; as his country is older, it has gone through maps that are six feet to the mile, then six yards to the mile, next a hundred yards to the mile---finally, a mile to the mile (the farmers said that if such a map was to be spread out, it would block out the sun and crops would fail, so the project was abandoned). He goes on to portray some devices similar to modern planetary engineering or terraforming, and paint-balls. Finally, he describes a system of government where there are thousands of kings and one subject, instead of the other way around.

12 Sylvie plays the piano for the assembled company. Mein Herr discusses incomprehensibility, competitive examinations, and scholarships.

13 Mein Herr condemns the idea of a "loyal Opposition" in politics. His speech is interrupted for the narrator by stanzas of What Tottles Meant.

14-15 Sylvie tells the story "Bruno's Picnic".

16 Sylvie and Bruno have vanished. The guests, after a brief search, go home; Muriel, Arthur and the Earl discuss what pursuits might be followed in the Afterlife.

17 Muriel sings To a Lark (which is replaced, for the dreaming narrator, by a different song). Arthur is called away to the harbour to treat cases of the deadly fever, and he leaves immediately after his wedding the next morning.

18 An item in the Fayfield Chronicle reports the death of Arthur Forester.

The return

19 In December of the same year, the narrator returns to Elveston, and visits Arthur's grave in the company of Muriel. They have tea with the Earl, and discuss whether animals have souls. Lady Muriel walks the narrator part of the way home, and they meet Sylvie and Bruno, who are singing A Song of Love.

20 Back in Outland, the Professor welcomes Sylvie and Bruno back to the palace in time for Uggug's birthday celebrations. They hear the last verse of the Gardener's Song, then hurry to the Saloon.

21 The Professor delivers his Lecture. It includes Axioms, Specimens, and Experiments.

22 (The narrator visits the tramp mentioned in vol. 2, ch. 2.) The Banquet takes place.

23 The Other Professor recites The Pig-Tale. The Emperor is in the process of making a speech when a mysterious "hurricane" causes him and his wife to regret all of their previous intrigues against the Warden. (No attempt is made to justify this in the terms of the story.)

24 The Beggar returns to the palace, and is revealed to be the Warden. Uggug, who has turned into a giant porcupine, is put into a cage. Sylvie and Bruno visit the ill Professor in the company of the Empress.

25 In the "real" world, the narrator is called urgently to the Hall. Eric Lindon has found Arthur Forester still living -- he had been unconscious or delirious for several months, and went unrecognised as the doctor. On returning to his own lodgings, the narrator witnesses his last scene from Outland: Bruno and Sylvie discover that the two Jewels (vol. 1, ch. 6) are in fact one.


Lead characters

The Historian

An ill Londoner who visits Elveston to consult his friend about his illness (possibly narcolepsy). While never given a name (he is referred to as "the Historian" by Carroll in the prologue to Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, and is called "Mister Sir" by Bruno) this character serves a supporting role in every plotline in the novel, and the story is told through his eyes. At first, he serves principally as an omniscient observer in Fairyland, although his part in the real-world story is somewhat more substantial. However, towards the middle of the novel, he begins to take on a more active role in both dimensions of the story.


Lady Sylvie is a young Sprite at the beginning of the novel, and later a true Fairy. Sylvie is the princess of Fairyland, daughter of the Warden, and sister of Bruno. While exhibiting very innocent traits, she seems far more mature than her younger brother, and often becomes exasperated with his illogical statements.


Bruno, Esquire is a very young fairy child, who uses broken grammar and who seems to have a somewhat twisted view of logic. He abhors his lessons, which his sister makes him take on a daily basis.

Characters in the fairy world

The Warden

Later the King of Fairyland. The father of Sylvie and Bruno, and the rightful ruler of Outland. He is the intended victim of the plots of the Emperor, Empress and Lord Chancellor, but is actually in full control of events.


Sibimet ("Sibby"), Sub-Warden of Outland (later Vice-Warden and then Emperor) conspires along with his wife and the Chancellor to steal the rule of Outland from the Warden. He is a rather ridiculous character, but not unintelligent.


Tabikat ("Tabby"), Sub-Wardeness of Outland (later Vice-Wardeness and then Empress) is the wife of Sibimet, she is an entirely stupid woman, and is unknowingly the butt of many jokes. She is content to spend all her time doting over her hideous son, Uggug.

The Lord Chancellor

The chief underling of the Emperor and Empress, he frequently is willing conspirator in their dirty work.


An ugly and stupid child who is doted upon and spoiled by his mother, and behaves in an obnoxious manner toward everyone. Later becomes His Imperial Fatness Prince Uggug. He changes into a porcupine near the end.

The Professor

A delightfully ridiculous old man, he invents many ridiculous items, and then proceeds to have no purpose for them. The most wonderful item in his possession is the Outlandish Watch (so-called because it comes from Outland). It has the ability to turn back time, although it cannot allow its holder to truly alter events of the past. It can also play any one hour backwards.

The Other Professor

A Professor friend of the Professor. He is frequently asleep, and wakes up to recite poetry. In Furniss's illustrations, his face is never shown.

Characters in the real world

Dr. Arthur Forester

An intelligent, thoughtful, curious young doctor. He often stimulates the storyline -- and the other characters -- by introducing questions of morality and religion. He is in love with Lady Muriel. He is an extremely moral person, and eventually sacrifices himself to save a village dying of fever.

Lady Muriel Orme

Another intelligent person, she is the object of Arthur's affection, and often helps to engage in intelligent conversation with many of the other real-world characters, especially the Narrator and the Earl. She endures a failed engagement with Eric Lindon, before marrying Arthur.

The Earl of Ainslie

The father of Lady Muriel, he is both a father figure to the younger characters, and a comrade to the aging Narrator.

Eric Lindon

Lady Muriel's cousin, and one-time fiance. He breaks their engagement upon realizing that she believes that they are religiously incompatible, but will not break it herself. An ex-soldier, he exhibits great self-sacrifice and courage.

Mein Herr

Seemingly a traveler from a distant planet, "Mein Herr" (German for "my lord") is the catalyst for both satire and several puns. His planet has already experienced much of what earth is currently dealing with, and he gladly shares the end results of some of our more ridiculous customs.


  • Carroll, Lewis (1982). The Complete, Fully Illustrated Works. Gramercy Books. ISBN 0-517-14781-5. 

External links

Source material

Up to date as of January 22, 2010

From Wikisource

Sylvie and Bruno
by Lewis Carroll
Sylvie and Bruno, first published in 1889, and its 1893 second volume, Sylvie and Bruno Concluded, form the last novel by Lewis Carroll published during his lifetime. Both volumes were illustrated by Harry Furniss. The novel has two main plots; one set in the real world at the time the book was published (the Victorian era), the other in the fictional world of Fairyland. While the latter plot is a fairytale with many nonsense elements and poems, similar to Carroll's most famous children's book Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the story set in Victorian Britain is a social novel, with its characters discussing various concepts and aspects of religion, society, philosophy and morality.— Excerpted from Sylvie and Bruno on Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


PD-icon.svg This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.


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