NABOKV-L post 0006973, Sun, 27 Oct 2002 13:18:12 -0800

Subject
Reply to Jane Morrison. Pale Fire's "glass presses"
Date
Body
reply to Jane Morrison.
----- Original Message -----
From: Carolyn Kunin
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Sunday, October 27, 2002 12:52 PM
Subject: reply to Jane Morrison.


Dear Jane Morrison,

I think you may very well be correct about the glazed fronts. I was confused by that, but not knowing what glass presses looked like, thought the glass presses were being refered to in that excerpt. There are glass presses in that room. Here is the passage where they are mentioned as being in the same room as the mirror:

At the farther end, a flight of stairs mounted to a door covered with red baize; and through this, Mr Utterson was at last received into the doctor's cabinet. It was a large room, fitted round with glass presses, furnished, among other things, with a cheval-glass and a business table, and looking out upon the court by three dusty windows barred with iron.

So I am not sure what kind of presses are the ones reflected in the mirror, but the glass presses are certainly in the same room. I tried to find out about glass presses, but other than that they press molded glass into shapes, was not very successful.

Interestingly, Stevenson does use the metaphor of glass's crystalline and malleable nature in describing the Jekyll/Hyde transformations:

The powders were neatly enough made up, but not with the nicety of the dispensing chemist; so that it was plain they were of Jekyll's private manufacture; and when I opened one of the wrappers, I found what seemed to me a simple crystalline salt of a white colour. ... He [Hyde] thanked me and with a smiling nod, measured out a few minims of the red tincture and added one of the powders [cf mirror-image red wop]. The mixture which was at first of a reddish hue, began, in proportion as the crystals melted, to brighten in colour, to effervesce audibly, and to throw off small fumes of vapour. Suddenly, and at the same moment, the ebullition ceased, and the compound changed to a dark purple, which faded again more slowly to a watery green. My visitor, who had watched these metamorphoses with a keen eye, smiled, set down the glass upon the table, and then turned and looked upon me with an air of scrutiny.

Of course when Hyde drinks the potion he begins the horrible transformation: the features seemed to melt and alter.... as glass would if heated.

The coincidence of the colors red and green and the persistent reference to glass and crystals do of course have echoes in Pale Fire.

Carolyn Kunin