Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002472, Wed, 15 Oct 1997 10:38:18 -0700

Esmeralda query (fwd)
EDITOR's NOTE. Robert Pyle, one of the leading figures in American
lepidoptery, is the author of _Wintergreen_, winner of the John Burroughs
Medal for best natural history book of 1987, of _The Audubon Society Field
Guide to North American Butterflies_, and the _Handbook for Butterfly
Watchers_. As he notes below he is currently co-editing (with Brian Boyd &
Dmitri Nabokov) a volume of VN's writings on butterflies.

From: Robert M. Pyle, Gray's River, Washington
Re: VN's Esmeralda

D. Barton Johnson wrote:
>In his 1953 poem "Lines Written in Oregon," the opening and closing lines
>invoke "Esmeralda." The only off-hand association I can make with the
>name is the gypsy dancing girl in *The Hunchback of Notre Dame* but this
>doesn't seem to lead anywhere. Any ideas out there?

I am not a member of this listserve, but Brian Boyd kindly forwarded
Mr. Johnson's query about "Esmeralda." By way of introduction, I am
co-compiling a book on Nabokov's Butterflies with Dr. Boyd and Dmitri
Nabokov for Beacon Press of Boston.
I have looked into "Lines Written in Oregon" extensively from a
Lepidoptera standpoint. Besides the "peacock moth" mentioned, I believe the
Esmeraldas of the poem relate to at least two lepidopterans bearing the name
as their species. (The candidates are named in Dieter Zimmer's fine "Les
Papillons de Nabokov.")
The connotation involves some pesky history of nomenclature in the
groups involved, with which VN would have been au fait; as well as certain
moments in his own collecting history, and a slant reference to another
writer. I am in the process of rewriting the introductory essay in which
this information will appear. Rather than give specifics here, I will ask
Mr. Johnson's patience and post a summary in a little while. I do not
believe that the name here pertains to Hugo's/Quasimodo's dancing girl, but
who knows? There are already at least two or three layers of reference.
Of course, I welcome any other ideas on the matter, by direct e-mail
or via Brian Boyd through this listserve.

Thank you.

R. M. Pyle