Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004878, Fri, 10 Mar 2000 08:38:41 -0800

Re: VN & Sterne (fwd)
NABOKV-L thanks B. Widiss for his very nice exposition of the Sterne
From: bwidiss@socrates.berkeley.edu
DBJ's recollection is spot-on.

Sterne's narrator, Yorick, is travelling in France without a passport, and
treats glibly the prospect of being thrown in the Bastille as a
punishment, figuring that he'll be fed and housed and will get some
writing done while in, and that he'll be let out within 6 weeks.

While reflecting so, he hears a voice which he takes (perhaps
significantly) "to be of a child" complaining "I can't get out--I can't
get out." The voice turns out to be the starling's, having been trained
the phrase by an English lad who later left him with the French innkeeper.

The bird's suffering leads Yorick to abandon his rosy image of captivity,
and he manages both to avoid the Bastille and to bring the bird back to
England with him. But there the starling ends up being passed from one
admiring Lord to another, all fascinated by his story and his speech, and
Yorick loses track of him (this later itinerary Y narrates at the time of
his first encounter; Sterne's book ends, midway through another adventure,
with Yorick still heading southward). Yorick adds to his crest of his
arms, however, an image of the starling, uncaged.

Humbert's lines--"Where are you hiding, Dolores Haze? / _Why_ are you
hiding, darling? / (I talk in a daze, I walk in a maze, / I cannot get
out, said the starling)"--seem to partake of a good bit of self-pity even
as they acknowledge Lolita's long captivity.

On Thu, 9 Mar 2000, Donald Barton Johnson wrote:

> From: mary krimmel <mkrimmel@sciti.com>
> At 09:53 AM 03/08/2000 -0800, you wrote:
> >
> >2) Sterne also features of course in LOLITA, Part 2 Chapter 25, Humbert's
> >poem, in the line: "I cannot get out, said the starling."
> It's not "of course" to me! Would you explain what the Sterne connection is?
> Mary Krimmel
> -----------------------------
> EDITOR's RESPONSE. My vague recollection is that Humbert alludes to a
> passage in Sterne's _Sentimental Journey_ about a caged starling, drawing
> a parallel with LO. Perhaps someone can provide a mor detailed and
> accurate answer.