NABOKV-L post 0022999, Sat, 30 Jun 2012 18:25:16 -0400

Subject
Pale Fire's "Harfar Baron of Shalksbore"
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Mike Marcus writes:


I'm new here.
It's known that VN took an interest in the contested authorship of
Shakespeare. Pale Fire tells us that Harfar's nickname was Curdy Buff,
i.e. coeur de boeuf, ox heart, which sound like an allusion to the Earl
of Oxford, Edward de Vere, whose name has been touted for almost a
century as the "real" Shakespeare, who was known casually amongst his
circle as "Ox" (this came out in some hearings when he was accused of
just about everything under the sun in the early 1580s). Not only that
but the name Shalksbore seems to allude to the earl's family crest,
which was a blue boar. I note that some people gloss Harfar as being a
reversal of a Norwegian nickname, Fairhair, but it also sounds (a bit)
like a rather slurred version of Edward, which was Vere's first name
(Vere was a lush). Baron for Earl, and it's a fairly full house, Harfar
Baron Shalksbore / Edward Earl Shakespeare. Nabokov's mention of Curdy's
"admirers" might refer to those promoting him as "Shakespeare", and the
previ!
ous sentence claiming that Shalksbore is "the most probable derivation
of 'Shakespeare'" somewhat emphasizes this. Curdy has this entourage of
acrobats -- de Vere brought a young boy back with him from his Italian
jaunt in the mid-1570s who was described as an acrobat, though he was
principally a singer; what else Vere got up to with him is an open
question, though the earl seems to have been bisexual. I wonder whether
bareback had the same connotation for Nabokov in 1962 as it does today
(unprotected homosexual sex); almost certainly not. Pale Fire tells us
that Disa threw in the towel and her husband imported "sweet-voiced
minions" from England -- precisely the de Vere situation, except his
imports were from Italy.
I suggested this to Professor Boyd a few weeks ago and he thought it
measured up.

Of course there's a mention of coeur de boeuf in Ada too. Greg told Van
with distaste about "an ugly engine, surgically circumcised,
terrifically oversized and high-colored, with such a phenomenal cœur de
bœuf; nor had either of the fascinated, fastidious boys ever witnessed
the like of its sustained, strongly arched, practically everlasting
stream". This seems to refer to Percy de Prey, whom I'm assuming is also
Edward de Vere (preying on youth?). "Everlasting" has a pun on the guy's
name -- E. Ver, as it was sometimes spelled. There appear to be many
other allusions to this man in Ada. For example, chapter 21 has a
Philippe Verger and a Miss Vertograd; the first syllable of their
respective surnames isn't coincidence. I suspect that when VN writes of
"thousands if not millions of Vergers and Vertograds crackled and howled
bound by enthusiasts to stakes erected in the public squares of Spain
and other fire-loving countries", and compares the victims to lepers, he
is invok!
ing the treatment by the establishment of those that question the
Shakespeare authorship.

Certainly the Shakespeare period looms large in Ada. Philip Rack is
perhaps a reference to Philip II of Spain (Spain again; rack = Spanish
inquisition; yes, I know, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition), whose
godson was Philip Sidney, lifelong rival of Vere. There is also a Ben
Wright, possibly Ben Jonson, Ben [Play]wright. There is a great deal
more in this vein.

Vere was pronounced like the word for green in French. Green features
very prominently in Ada, though because color is ubiquitous in VN I may
be kidding myself on that.

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