Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0015798, Fri, 7 Dec 2007 15:42:48 -0600

Re: THOUGHTS: Ella Wheeler Wilcox in SM and PF (?)
Very interesting. I have long thought that Pale Fire's IPH was an echo
of "Theosophist" and that a critique of Theosophy and Spiritualism is
implicit in much of VNs writings. It is clear that Wilcox and her
husband were very interested in Theosophy and for those who suspect that
VNs control extends beyond the grave into the metatextual world of
Wikipedia, here is an entry found under Ella Wheeler Wilcox:

Cordula's Web---features illustrated poems by Ella Wheeler Wilcox



From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum [mailto:NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU] On
Behalf Of Matthew Roth
Sent: Friday, December 07, 2007 10:14 AM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] THOUGHTS: Ella Wheeler Wilcox in SM and PF (?)

Maureen Johnston's query about "miserable concoction" caused me to read
more closely section 5 of Ch. 11 of SM. I was surprised to find there a
reference to Ella Wheeler Wilcox. VN says that as a youth he was
subjected to "lots of stuff by Ella Wheeler Wilcox." This surprised me
because, just two days prior, I spent a bit of time trying to figure out
if VN ever read or even knew of Ella Wheeler Wilcox. In particular, I'd
been reading the last section of Wilcox's memoir The Worlds and I
(1918), in which Wheeler talks about her attempts to contact the spirit
of her late husband. The view and language seemed similar to old John
Shade, or so it seemed to me. So...now that I see that VN did indeed
know of her work (her poems, at least), I will venture the possibility
that Mrs. Wilcox does indeed make a cameo appearance in Shade's poem.

Three parallels:

Shade: "For as we know from dreams it is so hard / To speak of our dear
dead!" (589-590)

Wilcox: "The effort to obtain communication with our dear dead should
begin with prayer and supplication..." (408)

Shade: "I'm reasonably sure that we survive / And that somewhere my
darling is alive..." (977-78)

Wilcox: "Somewhere beyond all this I believed my Robert was living..."

Shade: "A medium smuggled in / Pale jellies and a floating mandolin."

Wilcox: Here is a picture of Wilcox with her beloved mandolin:

Of these parallels, I think the last is most definitive, unless of
course there is another good reason to have a mandolin there.


Matt Roth

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