Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026318, Sun, 26 Jul 2015 17:09:04 -0700

Dear List

On the assumption that there is little in PF is without some purpose, I have been digging a little into the reference to Thormodus Torfaeus ("TT") in the Note to line 80 of PF to see what I could unearth.

In doing so, I have come across a couple of coincidences, which I haven't seen mentioned anywhere else, and which I think are worth passing on.

TT's work on the history of the Orkneys etc. (originally written in Latin) was first published in an English translation in 1866 (publisher: Peter Reid, Wick and others) but the actual translation is older. The translator was the Rev. Alexander Pope, minister of Reay, Caithness.

A copy of the translation is available online in pdf form. The copy is in the Harvard Library and appears to have been there for some considerable time.

See https://ia700402.us.archive.org/7/items/ancienthistoryo00torfgoog/ancienthistoryo00torfgoog.pdf

There are frequent mentions in that work of "Earle Rounald" and there appears to be a single mention (on page 120) of "Count Ottar" (both of whom, with some differences of name and/or spelling, appear in the note to line 71 of PF - "Lord Ronald's Coronach" and "Count Otar" ).

But there is the further coincidence that the Rev. Alexander Pope appears to have been both a contemporary and a relative of the Alexander Pope (i.e. John Shade's Alexander Pope).

See Vol 2, pp 19-22 of the Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland:


I can't believe that these coincidences are purely accidental, but whether this is just a delightful blind alley inserted by VN in the manner of an elegant but fruitless line of analysis in a chess problem, or something of greater significance, I leave to others to ponder.

And while I'm on Note 80, the "A R Wallace" named as the other spirit with whom Queen Blenda communicated is presumably the naturalist and contemporary of Darwin's, who (as it happens) believed in spiritualism. He first captured and identified the butterfly Ornithoptera croesus - commonly called Wallace's Golden Birdwing.

Barrie Akin

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