La Guida di Bragia - Lewis Carroll


9 pages


La Guida di Bragia

Lewis Carroll | ca. 1850 | Croft-on-Tees, Great Britain
Genre (as defined by the author)
A ballad opera for the marionette theatre
Mr B. Webster, Mooney, Spooney, Orlando, Sophonisba, Kaffir, Mrs Muddle, Lost, Bradshaw, Mr Flexmore, Cook
Number of acts

La Guida di Bragia is a puppet play written by Lewis Carroll in his teenage years to entertain his family. The puppets were likely animated with strings, or rods and strings.

The play manuscript was (re)discovered in 1929, when family archives were sold at Sotheby’s. It is the only play written by Carroll that has come down to us. The first known public staging of the play was by Denis and Mary Crutch; it was performed in 1972 in the facilities of the Lewis Caroll Society. A private performance also took place at the Lewis Carroll Society of North America’s Spring 2009 meeting in Santa Fe, directed by David Olson.

La Guida di Bragia
is a "burletta," - a comic play that switches between dialogues and songs. The title of the play and the plot are a reference to Bradshaw's Guides, which listed railway timetables.

Plot summary

Two fools become stationmasters

Two friends, Mooney and Spooney, meet. They had pulled a bad prank on the king and were fired for it. Thus, they decide to become stationmasters.

Orlando has to take a train to Birmingham, which saddens his wife, Sophonisba. He reassures her by saying he will be home for dinner. They agree to eat mutton.

Mooney and Spooney, now stationmasters, start singing instead of talking, as was required by Bradshaw. They meet Kaffir, a mysterious character who does not speak their language. According to Mooney, Kaffir wants to be a train driver. Mooney gives him the position.

Mrs. Muddle reaches the platform. She wants to take the train to Birmingham and send a telegram from there. A two-legged Bradshaw’s Guide appears in front of Mooney and asks him in a loud voice why he is not singing. He adds that Spooney sings out of tune and that both of them must stop singing.

Orlando, now at the train station, refuses to pay for his train ticket but is forced to do so by the stationmasters. He puts his luggage on the train and leaves to fetch the money. When he comes back an hour later, he learns that the train left with his luggage before the time given by the Bradshaw’s Guide.

When the train heading to Birmingham pulls into the station, Spooney and Mooney go warn Mrs. Muddle, but she wants to take an omnibus over the train. She leaves, accusing them of wanting to trick her. When she comes back to pick up her things, she learns that the train left with them.

Meanwhile, Sophonisba worries about her husband being late. Their cook, ruined the meal and offers to make an Irish stew instead. Orlando comes home and curses the Bradshaw because the trains do not leave according to the guide’s timetables.

Bradshaw comes into play. He states that he took revenge and changed the train schedules because his order of singing was not respected.

Composition date
ca. 1850

First performance

Croft-on-Tees, Great Britain

Publications and translations


Lewis Carroll, La Guida di Bragia, New York : The Lewis Carroll Society of North America, 1999.

Peter l. Heath
Literary tones
Comical, Humorous, Farcical
Young audiences
Public domain


Theatrical techniques


Written by

Cécile Decaix