Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0015670, Sat, 10 Nov 2007 23:52:19 -0500

Re: QUERY on Edsel Ford
[EDNOTE. Thanks to Jim Twiggs for this additional information on Edsel
Ford. Note Matt Roth's recent citation of a letter from EF to the NYHT
about PF in his papers at the University of Arkansas. -- SES]

As a student at the University of Arkansas in the
1950s, I often heard mention of Edsel Ford the local
poet. I can’t recall now whether I read any of his
work or not. A few years later, as a grad student at
Cornell, I remembered him well enough to inform my
friends that the Edsel Ford mentioned in PALE FIRE was
real in two senses--he was a real person not related
to the automotive scion of the same name; he was also
(as R.S. Gwynn puts it) a “real” poet as well (and not
just a "poet"). My friends were, I think, amused by
this information but hardly amazed. A fine Nabokovian
joke, no doubt, but of no great interest.

In the 1980s I returned to Arkansas, took an MFA
degree there, and, later on, worked at the University
of Arkansas Press. By that time, among poets and at
the Press, one was much more apt to hear the name of
Sam Gwynn than of Edsel Ford--Sam being a fine poet in
his own right.

In connection with the recent posts by Gwynn and Matt
Roth, some members of the List may be interested in
the following quotation from an excellent reference

"Throughout his life Edsel Ford was mistaken for the
Edsel Ford of automobile fame. The doctor who
delivered Ford suggested the name to Mrs. Ford, who
thought the name would ‘in a wistful sort of way tie
the two families together.’ As his fame grew, his name
attracted requests for money, which he did not have.
Far from being angry, Ford met the challenge with
characteristic humor.

"He died at the age of forty-two in the Veteran’s
Hospital in Little Rock. He was buried in Rogers,
Arkansas, and saddled with the inscription on his
tombstone, ‘Edsel Ford, Poet Immortal.’ He would not
have approved of the ‘immortal’ part, but perhaps it
rings true."

--Marcus Clyde Woodward, entry for Edsel Ford,
ed. Nancy A. Williams with the assistance of Jeannie
Whayne (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press,

I suspect thot not only Matt Roth but Nabokov himself
would get a kick out of these paragraphs. Perhaps
Jerry Friedman will be inspired to look up the entire
entry, which is well worth reading, and include parts
of it in his Wikipedia article.

I’m reasonably certain that another publication by the
University of Arkansas Press--ARKANSAS, ARKANSAS:
1541-1969--must contain a good selection of Ford’s
poems. I wish I had the book on my shelf, but I don’t.

Ford's papers are available in the University of
Arkansas library. A quick check of the contents would
reveal whether he ever corresponded with a Nabokov, a
Botkin, or a Kinbote.

Jim Twiggs

P.S. If this quotation has already been posted or
referred to, I apologize for the duplication.

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