Re: Pedantic points
A few more points of pleasant, trivial pedantry:
(1) Judging by the dates of publication, VN might well have included the
following studies in his copious reading:
The Language of Natural Description in Eighteenth-Century Poetry
University of Michigan, 1949.
Dryden's Aeneid, and its Seventeenth Century Predecessors
Manchester University Press, Manchester, 1960.
(2) Four years ago (August 12, 2003)
It is a regrettable fact that at certain aberrant moments when I write four
I mean three.
(3) The same applies to my spelling of insignificance as insignifance. I
must have been distracted by what lay about me in my infancy.
(4) No doubt AS would be happy to make a similar point in connection with
his letter to: Dear Stan Kelly-Bottle.
(5) As I’d suspected, Wright’s Dictionary of Obsolete & Provincial English,
1858, contains not the slightest hint of the “common cant sense” referred to
by Ingram & Redpath, and that they must have been talking through some joint
private orifice of their own. Well, it stands to reason that no-one in 1858
would even venture to mention such a sense. The dictionary was re-issued in
1886 and 1904, but it is unlikely that it had been revised or expanded in the
direction of increased salacity for those editions.
(6) Alexander Pope was, of course, unoozily following in the confident
footsteps of Dryden. It occurs to me that the name Shade contains more than an
echo of Shadwell. Everyone will be familiar with Dryden’s merciless demolition
of Shadwell, pseudonymously addressed as Og in Absalom & Achitophel, and
every schoolboy can quote:
He never was a poet of God's making;
The midwife laid her hand on his thick skull,
With this prophetic blessing-- Be thou dull ;
Although, perhaps, less conversant with
……. do anything but write:
I see, I see, 'tis counsel given in vain,
For treason botch'd in rhyme will be thy bane;
Rhyme is the rock on which thou art to wreck,
'Tis fatal to thy fame and to thy neck
(7) The more I think about it the more I grow certain that VN had most
thoroughly digested Carroll’s “Poeta fit non nascitur”, and that he had become
highly conscious of the undeniable truth of that well-known aphorism, in
reverse. I’ll change my mind if contrary evidence is offered; but, as Dr Johnson
once pompously remarked, when opposed on some point in discussion: I can find
you an argument, but I cannot find you an understanding.
(8) Since VN seems to have approved of Coleridge, I’m prompted to comment on
STC’s celebrated definition of poetry: “I wish our clever young poets
would remember my homely definitions of prose and poetry; that is, prose,—words
in their best order; poetry,—the best words in their best order.” This has
always struck me as a singularly useless definition. What does Coleridge mean
by “best”? Brian Boyd, in VNAY, p.418, says: “Nabokov has written of Pope’s
genius for placing the best possible words in the best possible order”. The
marriage of Pope with Coleridge seems curious to me, but I don’t know where
or in what context VN made this remark. BB also remarks, p 354, on “Nabokov’s
detested eighteenth century”, and I take it that somewhere VN expresses this
detestation, as well as his appreciation of Pope’s genius.
Apologies for two postings on the same day.
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