That practised on a fife:
He looked again, and found it was
A letter from his wife.
'At length I realize,' he said,
'The bitterness of Life!'
One of the lesser-known works of Lewis Carroll, Sylvie and Bruno runs two parallel plots, one in something like the real world and one in Elf-land, both accessed by the First-Person Peripheral Narrator. The Elf-land plot involves the King standing down, for obscure reasons, in favour of his Most Definitely Not a Villain brother and "Sub-Warden", and his chancellor, leaving his two kids, the titular Sylvie and Bruno, as Heart Warming Orphans. The sort-of-real world plot involves a romance slightly complicated by a third party and oddly unaffected by the presence of a visitor from another planet/plane called Mein Herr, who is for some reason German-accented.
This work contains examples of:
- Airport Novel: Lady Muriel discusses the Victorian equivalent: "the little thrilling romances, where the Murder comes at page fifteen, and the Wedding at page forty".
- Character Filibuster: Most of the dialogue, especially involving Arther or Mein Herr, is a veiled discourse on some social or moral issue.
- Divided for Publication: Carroll originally intended the story to be published as a single novel, but due to its length it was decided that it should be published in two volumes.
- Evil Chancellor: Somewhat unusually, he is only The Dragon to Sibimet.
- Evil Is Petty: Tabikat is most gratified to find that Sibimet has entirely removed "Item: We shall be kind to the poor" from the text of the agreement he made with the King.Why, of course, my dear! We shan't bother with those wretches!
- Gossip Evolution:"And what reasons have you heard of for breaking off the engagement?"
"A good many," Arthur replied, and proceeded to count them on his fingers. "First, it was found that she was dying of—something; so he broke it off. Then it was found that he was dying of—some other thing; so she broke it off. Then the Major turned out to be a confirmed gamester; so the Earl broke it off. Then the Earl insulted him; so the Major broke it off. It got a good deal broken off, all things considered!"
"You have all this on the very best authority, of course?"
"Oh, certainly! And communicated in the strictest confidence! Whatever defects Elveston society suffers from, want of information isn't one of them!"
- Hollywood Atheist: Played straight with Eric Lyndon. He's an agnostic at first, but is converted, or near to, at the end after Arthur is revealed to be alive.
- Humans Are Morons: Mein Herr and the fairies both tend to agree on this.
- Informed Kindness: In long poem "Peter and Paul", the rich Paul agrees to lend his poorer friend Peter some money, never actually gives it to him, then starves him by calling in the loan. Paul is referred to as "noble", "kind" and "honest" throughout.
- Ludicrous Precision: Bruno, asked how many sheep there are in a field, answers "About a thousand and four." On further examination, it turns out the four are near enough for him to count; the thousand, he's not quite so sure about.
- Malaproper: Bruno, e.g. "disadvantages" becomes "lizard bandages".
- Promotion to Parent: Sylvie is in charge of Bruno — particularly his lessons.
- Punny Name: Tabikat.
- Reports of My Death Were Greatly Exaggerated: The Vice-Warden arranges for a false report of his brother's death.
- Schrödinger's Butterfly:"So, either I've been dreaming about Sylvie," I said to myself, "and this is the reality. Or else I've really been with Sylvie, and this is a dream! Is Life itself a dream, I wonder?"
- Set Right What Once Went Wrong: Subverted. The narrator uses the Outlandish Watch to prevent an accident he witnesses, but the changes snap back when he returns to the present.
- Significant Name: Sibimet is Latin for "to them themselves", fittingly for a character who is concerned only for himself and his Unholy Matrimony partner - he doesn't even seem to like his own child much.
- Spoiled Brat and Royal Brat: Uggug, who also serves as a Spear Counterpart of an ugly step-sister.
- Take That!: Sibimet the Sub-Warden is believed to be based on Dean Liddell, father of Alice, whom he had by this point effectively cut Carroll off from seeing.
- Time Machine: The Outlandish Watch is an early literary example, allowing the user to travel up to a month into their past and return to the present. It also allows its user to experience events backwards for an hour.
- Torches and Pitchforks: Memorably parodied by the fake demonstrators organized by Sibimet and the Chancellor, who can't remember whether their slogan is "More Bread, Less Taxes", or vice versa.
- Unholy Matrimony: Villain couple Sibimet and Tabikat, complete with cutesy couple names for each other (Sibby and Tabby), and a Spoiled Brat child (Uggug). Albeit Tabby is significantly less bright than Sibby, who is also not deluded about Uggug's unpleasantness.