NABOKV-L post 0005624, Mon, 18 Dec 2000 10:20:14 -0800

Query: John Ray, JR.
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From: "Jennifer Parsons" <>
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I wonder if someone can help me out, here.

While looking through the notes in my Penguin edition of Tristram Shandy
I note the following explanation in the note to Sterne's reference to a
certain John Ray (Vol. IX - Chapter VIII). Is this the same person,
the "first John Ray" Appel talks about - the Naturalist discussed in
note to the introduction to his Annotated Lolita, which John Ray, he
says, was clearly intended to be alluded to in VN's 'John Ray, Jr?'" -
VN being a lepidopterist?

The Tristram Shandy note: "All womankind, continued Trim, (commenting
upon his story) from the highest to the lowest, an' please your honour,
love jokes; the difficulty is to know how they chuse to have them cut;
and there is no knowing that, but by trying as we do with our artillery
in the field, by raising or letting down their breeches, til we hit the
mark." - All womankind ... mark: Somewhere behind Trim's humour lurks a
couplet recorded by John Ray, A Collection of English Proverbs (1678):
'He that woes a maid must fain, lie and flatter: / But he that woes a
widow, must down with his breeches and at her.'"

Is this "John Ray," writer of the above ribald couplet concerning a
widow, a different John Ray than the "English naturalist famous for his
systems of natural classifcation" whom Appel and others say VN
definitely does allude to with "John Ray, Jr." HH's oleaginous editor?
If not, surely this is either a coincidence of nabokovian proportions,
or else perhaps another John Ray was alluded to, also.

The John Ray of the Proverbs recorded the couplet in 1678. The
Naturalist John Ray was born in 1627 and died in 1705 - so certainly it
seems possible they are indeed one and the same. (That John Ray, Jr
signs off from "Widworth, Mass" would also seem to connect him to the
John Ray of the ribald couplet about widows.)