Gerald Emerald = bad Bob?

Submitted by MARYROSS on Sun, 03/03/2019 - 17:46

I am wondering if it has been noted anywhere that Gerald Emerald must be “bad Bob,” Kinbote’s erstwhile roomer? It seems so obvious to me now, but there is nothing in the listserve archives - perhaps somewhere else?

 

The convincing clue for me is in the index under Kinbote: “His participation in a Common Room discussion of his resemblance to the King, and his final rupture with E. (not in the Index)” (my emphasis)

 

These are the words of a spurned lover. “Final rupture” means there had been a bond (real or hallucinated) and a separation. Writing about “bad Bob,” Kinbote says, “I returned to find he had been entertaining a fiery-haired whore from Exton who had left her combings and reek in all three bathrooms. Naturally we separated at once…”

 

This explains all the antipathy for Emerald and why Izumrudov, his Zemblan counterpart, is “one of the greater shadows.” What could be more hurtful and oppressive (aside from Death) than unrequited love? Izumrudov does not merit a listing in the index either, and it explains why “one hates such men!”

 

Further in the same index entry:  “his loathing for a person who makes advances, and then betrays a noble and naïve heart, telling foul stories about his victim and pursuing him with brutal practical jokes, 741.” That particular commentary is only about Gradus and Izumrudov - not Emerald, and not Kinbote. As a “shadow” you might say Izumrudov was betraying the King, but not making “advances.” This is clearly a conflation of Emerald/Izumrudov/bad Bob. Kinbote feels not just harassed, but betrayed by Emerald. 

 

In my Jungian paradigm for Pale Fire, Emerald is the “Trickster” archetype. The Trickster is a “practical joker.” It is no doubt Gerald Emerald that Kinbote is referring to when he says, “Well did I know that among certain youthful instructors whose advances I had rejected there was at least one evil practical joker.”

 

Elves and leprechauns are typical trickster figures– hence the name “Emerald” and the green jacket. As King Charles escapes over the mountains, he is beset by “alfear,” fear of elves.

Kinbote’s erstwhile roomer, bad Bob brings to mind E. A. Poe's story The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq. (1850). At the beginning of his story Poe mentions Shakespeare:

 

I am now growing in years, and – since I understand that Shakespeare and Mr. Emmons are deceased – it is not impossible that I may even die.

 

In Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives of Windsor (Act 5, scene 5) Anne mentions "emerald tufts:"

 

And nightly, meadow-fairies, look you sing,
Like to the Garter's compass, in a ring:
The expressure that it bears, green let it be,
More fertile-fresh than all the field to see;
And 'Honi soit qui mal y pense' write
In emerald tufts, flowers purple, blue and white;
Like sapphire, pearl, and rich embroidery,
Buckled below fair knighthood's bending knee.

 

In Canto Four of his poem Shade calls his poem “transparent thingum” and asks Shakespeare to help him find a title for it:

 

Dim Gulf was my first book (free verse); Night Rote
Came next; then Hebe's Cup, my final float
in that damp carnival, for now I term
Everything "Poems," and no longer squirm.
(But this transparent thingum does require
Some moondrop title. Help me, Will!
Pale Fire.) (ll. 957-952)

 

In his poem To One in Paradise (1843) E. A. Poe compares the Past to a dim gulf:

 

Ah, dream too bright to last!

Ah, starry Hope! that didst arise

But to be overcast!

A voice from out the Future cries,

“On! on!”—but o’er the Past

(Dim gulf!) my spirit hovering lies

Mute, motionless, aghast!

 

According to Thingum Bob, Esq., his father was a merchant-barber:

 

My father, Thomas Bob, Esq., stood for many years at the summit of his profession, which was that of a merchant-barber, in the city of Smug.

 

Describing the torments of poor mad Aqua (Marina's twin sister), Van Veen (the narrator and main character in VN's novel Ada, 1969) mentions Bob Bean, the hospital barber:

 

Then the anguish increased to unendurable massivity and nightmare dimensions, making her scream and vomit. She wanted (and was allowed, bless the hospital barber, Bob Bean) to have her dark curls shaved to an aquamarine prickle, because they grew into her porous skull and curled inside. Jigsaw pieces of sky or wall came apart, no matter how delicately put together, but a careless jolt or a nurse’s elbow can disturb so easily those lightweight fragments which became incomprehensible blancs of anonymous objects, or the blank backs of ‘Scrabble’ counters, which she could not turn over sunny side up, because her hands had been tied by a male nurse with Demon’s black eyes. But presently panic and pain, like a pair of children in a boisterous game, emitted one last shriek of laughter and ran away to manipulate each other behind a bush as in Count Tolstoy’s Anna Karenin, a novel, and again, for a while, a little while, all was quiet in the house, and their mother had the same first name as hers had. (1.3)

 

At the family dinner in "Ardis the Second" Demon Veen (Van's and Ada's father) considers Marina’s pretentious ciel-étoilé (starry sky) hairdress:

 

The alcohol his vigorous system had already imbibed was instrumental, as usual, in reopening what he gallicistically called condemned doors, and now as he gaped involuntarily as all men do while spreading a napkin, he considered Marina’s pretentious ciel-étoilé hairdress and tried to realize (in the rare full sense of the word), tried to possess the reality of a fact by forcing it into the sensuous center, that here was a woman whom he had intolerably loved, who had loved him hysterically and skittishly, who insisted they make love on rugs and cushions laid on the floor (‘as respectable people do in the Tigris-Euphrates valley’), who would woosh down fluffy slopes on a bobsleigh a fortnight after parturition, or arrive by the Orient Express with five trunks, Dack’s grandsire, and a maid, to Dr Stella Ospenko’s ospedale where he was recovering from a scratch received in a sword duel (and still visible as a white weal under his eighth rib after a lapse of nearly seventeen years). (1.38)

 

There is Bob in "bobsleigh" and "bad" in Sindbad (a character in A Thousand and One Nights). In the epilogue of Ada Van mentions the Film Festival in Sindbad:

 

How horribly and gratuitously it might hurt her, he foreglimpsed one day in 1926 or ‘27 when he caught the look of proud despair she cast on nothing in particular before walking away to the car that was to take her on a trip in which, at the last moment, he had declined to join her. He had declined — and had simulated the grimace and the limp of podagra — because he had just realized, what she, too, had realized — that the beautiful native girl smoking on the back porch would offer her mangoes to Master as soon as Master’s housekeeper had left for the Film Festival in Sindbad. The chauffeur had already opened the car door, when, with a great bellow, Van overtook Ada and they rode off together, tearful, voluble, joking about his foolishness. (5.3)

 

E. A. Poe is the author of The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade (1845), with an old saying for epigraph: “truth is stranger than fiction.” The tale depicts the eighth and final voyage of Sinbad the Sailor, along with the various mysteries Sinbad and his crew encounter; the anomalies are then described as footnotes to the story. While the King is uncertain — except in the case of the elephants carrying the world on the back of the turtle — that these mysteries are real, they are actual modern events that occurred in various places during, or before, Poe's lifetime. The story ends with the king in such disgust at the outlandish tales Scheherazade has just woven, that he has her executed the next day.

 

Describing his and Ada’s visits to their little Caliph Island, Van makes a pun on Scheherazade:

 

One day he brought his shaving kit along and helped her to get rid of all three patches of body hair:

‘Now I’m Scheher,’ he said, ‘and you are his Ada, and that’s your green prayer carpet. (1.35)

 

Scheher is a play on Scherer (German for "barber"). In Tolstoy’s Voyna i mir (“War and Peace,” 1869) the action begins in July 1805 in St. Petersburg, at a soirée given by Anna Pavlovna Scherer (a lady-in-waiting). The characters in Tolstoy’s novel include Napoleon. In Eugene Onegin (Two: XIV: 5) Pushkin says that we all expect to be Napoleons:

 

Но дружбы нет и той меж нами.
Все предрассудки истребя,

Мы почитаем всех нулями,
А единицами – себя.

Мы все глядим в Наполеоны;
Двуногих тварей миллионы
Для нас орудие одно;

Нам чувство дико и смешно.
Сноснее многих был Евгений;
Хоть он людей, конечно, знал
И вообще их презирал, —
Но (правил нет без исключений)
Иных он очень отличал
И вчуже чувство уважал.

 

But in our midst there’s even no such friendship:

Having destroyed all the prejudices,

We deem all people naughts

And ourselves units.

We all expect to be Napoleons;

the millions of two-legged creatures

for us are only tools;

feeling to us is weird and ludicrous.

More tolerant than many was Eugene,

though he, of course, knew men

and on the whole despised them;

but no rules are without exceptions:

some people he distinguished greatly

and, though estranged from it, respected feeling.

 

According to Pushkin, the millions of two-legged creatures for us are orudie odno (only tools). Neutral of odin (one), odno = Odon = Nodo (Odon’s epileptic half-brother, a cardsharp and despicable traitor). At the end of his Commentary Kinbote mentions Odon (the world-famous actor and Zemblan patriot who helps the King to escape from Zembla) and a million of photographers:

 

God will help me, I trust, to rid myself of any desire to follow the example of the other two characters in this work. I shall continue to exist. I may assume other disguises, other forms, but I shall try to exist. I may turn up yet, on another campus, as an old, happy, health heterosexual Russian, a writer in exile, sans fame, sans future, sans audience, sans anything but his art. I may join forces with Odon in a new motion picture: Escape from Zembla (ball in the palace, bomb in the palace square). I may pander to the simple tastes of theatrical critics and cook up a stage play, an old-fashioned melodrama with three principles: a lunatic who intends to kill an imaginary king, another lunatic who imagines himself to be that king, and a distinguished old poet who stumbles by chance into the line of fire, and perishes in the clash between the two figments. Oh, I may do many things! History permitting, I may sail back to my recovered kingdom, and with a great sob greet the gray coastline and the gleam of a roof in the rain. I may huddle and groan in a madhouse. But whatever happens, wherever the scene is laid, somebody, somewhere, will quietly set out--somebody has already set out, somebody still rather far away is buying a ticket, is boarding a bus, a ship, a plane, has landed, is walking toward a million photographers, and presently he will ring at my door--a bigger, more respectable, more competent Gradus. (note to Line 1000)

 

At the end of his famous monologue in Shakespeare’s As You Like It (Act 2, Scene 7) Jaques repeats the word “sans” four times:

 

All the world’s a stage,

And all the men and women merely players;

They have their exits and their entrances,

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages. At first, the infant,

Mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms.

Then the whining schoolboy, with his satchel

And shining morning face, creeping like snail

Unwillingly to school. And then the lover,

Sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad

Made to his mistress’ eyebrow. Then a soldier,

Full of strange oaths and bearded like the pard,

Jealous in honor, sudden and quick in quarrel,

Seeking the bubble reputation

Even in the cannon’s mouth. And then the justice,

In fair round belly with good capon lined,

With eyes severe and beard of formal cut,

Full of wise saws and modern instances;

And so he plays his part. The sixth age shifts

Into the lean and slippered pantaloon,

With spectacles on nose and pouch on side;

His youthful hose, well saved, a world too wide

For his shrunk shank, and his big manly voice,

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes

And whistles in his sound. Last scene of all,

That ends this strange eventful history,

Is second childishness and mere oblivion,

Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.

 

The characters in Ada include Kim Beauharnais, the kitchen boy and photographer at Ardis. Kinbote's favorite photograph of Shade was taken by bad Bob:

 

I have one favorite photograph of him. In this color snapshot taken by a onetime friend of mine, on a brilliant spring day, Shade is seen leaning on a sturdy cane that had belonged to his aunt Maud (see line 86). I am wearing a white windbreaker acquired in a local sports shop and a pair of lilac slacks hailing from Cannes. My left hand is half raised--not to pat Shade on the shoulder as seems to be the intention, but to remove my sunglasses which, however, it never reached in that life, the life of the picture; and the library book under my right arm is a treatise on certain Zemblan calisthenics in which I proposed to interest that young roomer of mine who snapped the picture. A week later he was to betray my trust by taking sordid advantage of my absence on a trip to Washington whence I returned to find that he had been entertaining a fiery-haired whore from Exton who had left her combings and reek in all three bathrooms. Naturally, we separated at once, and through a chink in the window curtains I saw bad Bob standing rather pathetically, with his crewcut, and shabby valise, and the skis I had given him, all forlorn on the roadside, waiting for a fellow student to drive him away forever. I can forgive everything save treason. (Foreword)

 

On Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earth's twin planet on which Ada is set) Josephine Beauharnais (Napoleon's first wife) is known as Queen Josephine:

 

Price, the mournful old footman who brought the cream for the strawberries, resembled Van’s teacher of history, ‘Jeejee’ Jones.

‘He resembles my teacher of history,’ said Van when the man had gone.

‘I used to love history,’ said Marina, ‘I loved to identify myself with famous women. There’s a ladybird on your plate, Ivan. Especially with famous beauties — Lincoln’s second wife or Queen Josephine.’

‘Yes, I’ve noticed — it’s beautifully done. We’ve got a similar set at home.’

‘Slivok (some cream)? I hope you speak Russian?’ Marina asked Van, as she poured him a cup of tea.

‘Neohotno no sovershenno svobodno (reluctantly but quite fluently),’ replied Van, slegka ulïbnuvshis’ (with a slight smile). ‘Yes, lots of cream and three lumps of sugar.’

‘Ada and I share your extravagant tastes. Dostoevski liked it with raspberry syrup.’

‘Pah,’ uttered Ada. (1.5)

 

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): with a slight smile: a pet formula of Tolstoy’s denoting cool superiority, if not smugness, in a character’s manner of speech.

 

A ladybird on Van’s plate brings to mind a floweret prettily depicted on an Eckercrown plate (served for another meal at Ardis):

 

Van: ‘That yellow thingum’ (pointing at a floweret prettily depicted on an Eckercrown plate) ‘— is it a buttercup?’

Ada: ‘No. That yellow flower is the common Marsh Marigold, Caltha palustris. In this country, peasants miscall it "Cowslip," though of course the true Cowslip, Primula veris, is a different plant altogether.’

‘I see,’ said Van.

‘Yes, indeed,’ began Marina, ‘when I was playing Ophelia, the fact that I had once collected flowers —’

‘Helped, no doubt,’ said Ada. ‘Now the Russian word for marsh marigold is Kuroslep (which muzhiks in Tartary misapply, poor slaves, to the buttercup) or else Kaluzhnitsa, as used quite properly in Kaluga, U.S.A.’ (1.10)

 

As pointed out by Rachel Ronning, an acorn and a crown (cf. an Eckercrown plate) were used by the pottery house of Hammersley & Co. as their mark. They also created a china pattern line titled "The Flowers of Shakespeare's Day."

 

According to Van, Marina has her own set of a Thousand-and-One Best Plays in her boudoir:

 

Ada showed her shy guest the great library on the second floor, the pride of Ardis and her favorite ‘browse,’ which her mother never entered (having her own set of a Thousand-and-One Best Plays in her boudoir), and which Red Veen, a sentimentalist and a poltroon, shunned, not caring to run into the ghost of his father who had died there of a stroke, and also because he found nothing so depressing as the collected works of unrecollected authors, although he did not mind an occasional visitor’s admiring the place’s tall bookcases and short cabinets, its dark pictures and pale busts, its ten chairs of carved walnut, and two noble tables inlaid with ebony. In a slant of scholarly sunlight a botanical atlas upon a reading desk lay open on a colored plate of orchids. A kind of divan or daybed covered in black velvet, with two yellow cushions, was placed in a recess, below a plate-glass window which offered a generous view of the banal park and the man-made lake. A pair of candlesticks, mere phantoms of metal and tallow, stood, or seemed to stand, on the broad window ledge. (1.6)

 

Kinbote believes that, to be completed, Shade’s almost finished poem needs but one line (Line 1000, identical to Line 1: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain”). But it seems that, like some sonnets, Shade’s poem also needs a coda (Line 1001: “By its own double in the windowpane”). Dvoynik ("The Double") is a short novel (1846) by Dostoevski and a poem (1909) by Alexander Blok. In his diary (the entry of Aug. 30, 1918) Blok mentions his dvoyniki (doppelgangers), drugoe ya (alter ego) and Botkinskiy period (the Botkin period) of his life:

 

К ноябрю началось явное моё колдовство, ибо я вызвал двойников  ("Зарево белое...", "Ты - другая, немая...").

Любовь Дмитриевна ходила на уроки к М. М. Читау, я же ждал ее выхода, следил за ней и иногда провожал ее до Забалканского с Гагаринской - Литейной (конец ноября, начало декабря). Чаще, чем со мной, она встречалась с кем-то - кого не видела и о котором я знал.

Появился мороз, "мятель", "неотвязный" и царица, звенящая дверь, два старца, "отрава" (непосланных цветов), свершающий и пользующийся плодами свершений ("другое я"), кто-то "смеющийся и нежный". Так кончился 1901 год.

Тут - Боткинский период.

 

In his poem Ya – Gamlet. Kholodeet krov’… (“I’m Hamlet. Freezes blood…” 1914) Blok identifies himself with Hamlet and compares his wife to Ophelia:

 

Я — Гамлет. Холодеет кровь,
Когда плетёт коварство сети,
И в сердце — первая любовь
Жива — к единственной на свете.

Тебя, Офелию мою,
Увел далёко жизни холод,
И гибну, принц, в родном краю
Клинком отравленным заколот.

 

According to G. Ivanov, to his question “does a sonnet need a coda” Blok replied that he did not know what a coda is:

 

— Александр Александрович, нужна ли кода к сонету? — спросил я как-то. К моему изумлению, Блок, знаменитый «мэтр», вообще не знал, что такое кода…

 

In his poem Ravenna from the cycle Ital'yanskie stikhi ("Italian Verses," 1909) Blok mentions med' torzhestvennoy latyni (the copper of solemn Latin) that sings on tombstones, like a trumpet:

 

А виноградные пустыни,
Дома и люди - всё гроба.
Лишь медь торжественной латыни
Поёт на плитах, как труба.

 

The author of "Divine Comedy," Dante spent the last years of his life and died in Ravenna. At the end of "Ravenna" Blok mentions Dante's shade with aquiline profile that sing to him of the New Life:

 

Лишь по ночам, склонясь к долинам,
Ведя векам грядущим счёт,
Тень Данта с профилем орлиным
О Новой Жизни мне поёт.

 

At the end of his poem Solntse (“The Sun,” 1923) translated by DN as Provence VN says that it is a bliss to be a Russian poet lost among cicadas trilling with a Latin lisp:

 

Как хорошо в звенящем мире этом

скользить плечом вдоль меловых оград,

быть русским заблудившимся поэтом

средь лепета латинского цикад!

 

What bliss it is, in this world full of song,

to brush against the chalk of walls, what bliss

to be a Russian poet lost among

cicadas trilling with a Latin lisp!

 

In Canto Two of his poem Shade mentions an empty emerald case (left by a cicada):

 

                               Espied on a pine's bark
As we were walking home the day she died,
An empty emerald case, squat and frog-eyed,
Hugging the trunk; and its companion piece,
A gum-logged ant. That Englishman in Nice
A proud and happy linguist: je nourris
Les pauvres cigales--meaning that he
Fed the poor sea gulls!
                                      Lafontaine was wrong;
Dead is the mandible, alive the song. (ll. 236-244)

 

Describing their trip onboard Admiral Tobakoff, Van mentions Lucette's emerald-studded emerald case:

 

Simultaneously, a tall splendid creature with trim ankles and repulsively fleshy thighs, stalked past the Veens, all but treading on Lucette's emerald-studded cigarette case. Except for a golden ribbon and a bleached mane, her long, ripply, beige back was bare all the way down to the tops of her slowly and lusciously rolling buttocks, which divulged, in alternate motion, their nether bulges from under the lamé loincloth. Just before disappearing behind a rounded white corner, the Titianesque Titaness half-turned her brown face and greeted Van with a loud 'hullo!'
Lucette wanted to know: kto siya pava? (who's that stately dame?)
'I thought she addressed you,' answered Van, 'I did not distinguish her face and do not remember that bottom.'
'She gave you a big jungle smile,' said Lucette, readjusting her green helmet, with touchingly graceful movements of her raised wings, and touchingly flashing the russet feathering of her armpits. (3.5)

 

The Jungle Book (1894) is a collection of stories by Kipling. In his old age Conmal (the King's uncle who translated the entire works of Shakespeare into Zemblan) translated Kipling:

 

English was not taught in Zembla before Mr. Campbell's time. Conmal mastered it all by himself (mainly by learning a lexicon by heart) as a young man, around 1880, when not the verbal inferno but a quiet military career seemed to open before him, and his first work (the translation of Shakespeare's Sonnets) was the outcome of a bet with a fellow officer. He exchanged his frogged uniform for a scholar's dressing gown and tackled The Tempest. A slow worker, he needed half a century to translate the works of him whom he called "dze Bart," in their entirety. After this, in 1930, he went on to Milton and other poets, steadily drilling through the ages, and had just completed Kipling's "The Rhyme of the Three Sealers" ("Now this is the Law of the Muscovite that he proved with shot and steel") when he fell ill and soon expired under his splendid painted bed ceil with its reproductions of Altamira animals, his last words in his last delirium being "Comment dit-on 'mourir' en anglais?"--a beautiful and touching end. (note to Line 961)

 

In Pushkin's Skazka o tsare Saltane ("The Fairy Tale about Tsar Saltan, 1831) the Swan Princess' walk is compared to that of pava (a peahen):

 

А сама-то величава,
Выступает, будто пава;
А как речь-то говорит,
Словно реченька журчит.

 

In the golden nuts that the squirrel cracks in the island of Buyan (where Prince Gvidon, Sultan's son, lives and rules) the kernels are chistyi izumrud (of pure emerald):

 

Белка песенки поёт
Да орешки всё грызёт,
А орешки не простые,
Всё скорлупки золотые,
Ядра - чистый изумруд.

 

In his poem Podrazhanie arabskomu ("Imitation of the Arabic," 1835) Pushkin addresses otrok (a lad) and compares himself and the lad to dvoynoy oreshek
pod edinoy skorlupoy ("the twin kernel under a single shell"):

 

Отрок милый, отрок нежный,
Не стыдись, навек ты мой;
Тот же в нас огонь мятежный,
Жизнью мы живём одной.

Не боюся я насмешек:
Мы сдвоились меж собой,
Мы точь в точь двойной орешек
Под единой скорлупой.

 

Sweet lad, tender lad,
Have no shame, you're mine for good;
We share a sole insurgent fire,
We live in boundless brotherhood.

I do not fear the gibes of men;
One being split in two we dwell,
The kernel of a double nut
Embedded in a single shell.

 

Like Shade and Kinbote, Gerald Emerald and bad Bob seem to be "the kernel of a double nut."

Alexey, sorry to be so late in responding to your comment. I want to thank you for the Poe "Thingum Bob" tip - it turns out to be very helpful for a paper I am writing on Gerald Emerald.

Mary

Hi Mary,

 

Just weighing in to note that Bob is described as a "young roomer" who's ultimately picked up by a "fellow student," i.e. he's a student himself. Also, he doesn't seem to have a car, whereas Gerald Emerald does.

 

Alain