NABOKV-L post 0021287, Sat, 5 Feb 2011 09:51:44 -0500

on George Cloyne
George Cloyne of course wrote the strongly negative review of Pale Fire run by NYT when PF was first published. In fact

In an Elaborate Spoof, Nabokov Takes Us to the Never-Never Land of Zembla
Sunday, May 27, 1962
He likes mockery for its own sake. He likes submitting to the intoxication of rhetoric, so that tropes and fancies mingle with wonderfully precise pieces of observation. Trained lepidopterist as he is, the smaller the object under his microscope the better he sees it, the more lovingly he describes its rarity. He uses English—to him only one of several possible languages and not the best—as a child demonstrates a toy railway. Look, the trains go backward
and forward; they dash through toy tunnels; they stop at toy stations; sometimes it is rather fun to set the points so that they fall off the rails at a corner. Then they lie on their backs and the wheels whiz uselessly in the air.
And then the poem. It is not a bad poem at all. Cast in heroic couplets, it reads like a decorous exercise of the Nineteen Twenties:

Out of his lakeside shack
A watchman, Father Time, all gray and bent,
Emerged with his uneasy dog and went
Along the reedy bank. He came too late.

John Shade’s poem also comes too late. It is about on a level with the work of Alfred Austin, Tennyson’s successor as Poet Laureate, who also had a bent for conversational verse: not bad, but also not good, not, in the strict sense, a poem at all. The reader, having plowed through it with mild interest, is likely to be afflicted by the disproportion between its merit and the apparatus that surrounds it. For the author has to keep up a pretense that Shade was a great man, and the poem a great poem. Yet it is also part of the joke that he does not believe this for a moment. He is carefully building a farce, assuming the mask of pedantry in order to point a grimace at his readers.
Even his prose sounds insecure. “She took to sleeping in a small antechamber next to his bachelor bedroom, a splendid circular apartment at the top of the high and massive South West Tower. This had been his father’s retreat and was still connected by a jolly chute in the wall with a round swimming pool in the hall below, so that the young Prince could start the day by slipping open a panel beside his army cot and rolling into the shaft whence he whizzed down straight into bright water.” “Jolly,” “whizzed”: neither word has the right ring to it, if the author is trying to keep within the assumed character of Charles Kinbote.

He is described at the bottom of the review as: An English critic with extensive background in contemporary literature, Mr. Cloyne is a frequent contributor to The London Times.

In fact Cloyne(=clone+y?) is a pseudonym for Alan Pryce Jones (1908–2000).

from: Alan Pryce-Jones Papers. Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University.


Heralded as one of the most promising writers of his generation in the early 1930s, Alan Pryce-Jones made his mark on twentieth century literature as an editor and critic, most significantly as editor of the Times Literary Supplement in the 1950s. A member of both the social and the intellectual elite in Britain, Europe and America, he lived his life on a large scale, finding success in what pleased him most: literature, music, travel, and society.
Pryce-Jones used several pseudonyms in his career. ... He used the pseudonym George Cloyne beginning in the late 1950s and chiefly during his tenure at the Ford Foundation, which forbade its advisors to publish their own writings.

From an obit in the Guardian 9 February 2000:

Postwar, Pryce-Jones was proposed by the TLS editor, Stanley Morison, as his successor. Morison, having turned the magazine into something tough and intellectual, handed it over to a serious, hardworking man...

On retiring from the TLS in 1959, he was the 0bserver's theatre critic for a year. Then he accepted an invitation to become a Ford Foundation adviser in New York. Once, visiting London, he explained that so many million dollars were left in the year's kitty, and they had to be spent before the year's end. How was that solved? "Well, we've commissioned 11 operas. They'll all be very bad."

a couple thoughts:

It's kind of humorous(ironic?) to think on Cloyne's comments on Shade' poetry: here is the criticism of a fictitious poet by a fictitious critic!

I seem to remember that VN responded to the criticism of his use of the words whizzed, and jolly, in particular, if I recall correctly; but I can't recall the exact interview. I did some word searches on some copies of his interviews I've obtained from confidential Russian sources, but turned up nothing. Are these false memories? Am I getting old and making things up? any help? (on checking out the references of course!)


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