Book Excerpt

(Carroll, Lewis).


New Castle and London: Oak Knoll Press and the British Library, 2008. 8.5 x 11 inches. hardcover, dust jacket. 274 pages. First edition. Byron Sewell and Clare Imholtz have compiled a comprehensive international bibliography of over 1000 entries listing all known editions of Lewis Carroll's Sylvie & Bruno books, their translations into foreign languages, excerpts from them, the appearance of their poems in anthologies, critical articles and studies, parodies, and much more. This book establishes..... READ MORE

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The first bibliography of the works of Lewis Carroll, which was compiled by his nephew and biographer Stuart Dodgson Collingwood, devotes only six lines to its entry on Sylvie & Bruno and seven lines to Sylvie & Bruno Concluded. That is not too surprising because the Collingwood bibliography in the appendix to his 1899 biography of his famous uncle deliberately contains only the briefest of listings for each of Carroll's individual works, e.g., the 1865 Alice is discussed in only ten lines even though since the appearance of Collingwood's volume numerous articles and even whole monographs have been written just on that one rare work. The first real bibliography to attempt to provide full descriptions of Carroll's publications was of course A Bibliography of the Writings of Lewis Carroll, published by Sidney Herbert Williams in 1924. In that work Williams spends a little more than a page on the first edition of Sylvie & Bruno and a page and a half on Sylvie & Bruno Concluded. Williams's work formed the basis of the successive editions of the bibliographic bible for the Lewis Carroll collector, The Lewis Carroll Handbook, which in its most recent edition, edited and revised by Denis Crutch in 1979, allots about four pages to Sylvie & Bruno (p. 163-166) and a little more than three to Sylvie & Bruno Concluded (p. 184-186). And now Byron Sewell and Clare Imholtz have compiled an international Sylvie & Bruno bibliography of over 270 pages listing most, if not all, editions of the Sylvie books, their translations into foreign languages, excerpts from them, the appearance of their poems in anthologies, critical articles and studies, and much more.

Does not the popular misconception of the Sylvie & Bruno books as justifiably neglected works seem to be controverted by the very large number of printings and secondary works cited in the present bibliography? Perhaps some would say the Sylvie books are like those stories for which Sherlock Holmes tells Dr. Watson the world is not yet prepared ("The Adventure of the Sussex Vampire"). The evidence, however, is that the world has been and continues to be prepared for the Sylvie books in spite of some of their very real limitations, among which Bruno's cloying baby talk and Carroll's unwonted preaching figure prominently.

This bibliography began its life, rather like Collingwood's bibliography, as a supplement to a larger work. In its first form it was an appendix to an unpublished fictional parody of Sylvie & Bruno written by Byron Sewell (later published as Bruno and Uggug Cursed or Sylvie and Bruno sans Baby Talk, Hurricane, WV: Force Five Press, 2004). When I was asked to make some comments on that draft manuscript several years ago, I offered a few additions and suggestions for the bibliographic appendix which then amounted to about 13 pages. My wife, Clare, happened to see what I was doing, quickly realized the entries were woefully incomplete, and took over the task of adding a few more entries. Byron and Clare between them, for by that time I had largely relinquished my role not out of lack of interest but rather because they were doing so much more than I could, then began exchanging hundreds of e-mail messages based on their independent and joint research as each expanded draft of the text of the bibliography was followed by yet further expanded and corrected drafts until the final version of the bibliography has in its own right become the substantial work that you have before you.

The title of the work identifies it as an international bibliography and it is international in several senses. Firstly, it covers translations of the Sylvie & Bruno books into many foreign languages and includes critical articles and reviews from a wide variety of foreign journals. Secondly, the thoroughness of the bibliography is in no small part due to the wonderful cooperation the bibliographers received from Carroll collectors and scholars in Great Britain, Japan, Russia, Finland, France, and throughout the United States and other countries.

If Bruno were to be transported from the outer reaches of Outland into this world - a thought admittedly too terrible to entertain for very long - and came upon this bibliography, he would probably say with his innocent candor "How much are it wurf?" One might answer the little fellow by pointing out the book establishes for the first time the full bibliographic record of these neglected works by Carroll. He probably would not care very much about that, but the fact that the bibliography may introduce more readers to the important techniques of the novels with their multiple and shifting levels of reality, the delightful nonsense of the Mad Gardener's song and other poems in the book would definitely be of some considerable worth and might even mollify him a bit. The fact that his "Bruno's Revenge" figures first in the bibliography certainly ought to appeal to him.

The method followed by Byron Sewell and Clare Imholtz in compiling their bibliography may have begun as a variation of the "Scientific Method" described at the beginning of Chapter XVIII of Sylvie & Bruno: "First accumulate a mass of Editions, and then construct a Bibliography." They accumulated a great many different volumes and documented, as thoroughly as possible, editions in libraries and private collections around the world. Earlier bibliographers have worked in similar ways with the Lewis Carroll canon in whole or in part. Forty years ago Roger Lancelyn Green concluded his article on his role in revising the Lewis Carroll Handbook, "Bibliographer in Wonderland" (published in The Private Library, Vol. 4, no. 4, Oct. 1962), with the following statement, firmly grounded in his experience, that "Truly many Adventures in Wonderland still await the Lewis Carroll collector and bibliographer." Byron Sewell and Clare Imholtz have chronicled here some of the adventures to be found in the bibliographic outlands of the Sylvie & Bruno books. I hope you will enjoy their Ipwergis-Pudding of a bibliography.

August A. Imholtz, Jr.