NABOKV-L post 0018354, Thu, 28 May 2009 13:45:33 -0300

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Re: [NABOKOV-L] Castor, lightining... a Query
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Jerry Friedman [When did Hazel spend the night with mama and papa in the unburnt-barn?]
The first sentence of note 347 says this happened in October, 1956 [...] a young couple took advantage of the unwatched barn and saw the will-o-the-wisp [...] Hazel investigated then, and "the authorities" demolished the barn on Shade's instigation not too long after that [...]By the way, the usual spelling now is "St. Elmo's fire"[...]you recently asked about Charles's and Kinbote's beard [...] He may have in mind that he stopped shaving on his escape from the Royal Palace, which he dates to mid August, 1958.

JM: Thanks, Jerry ( I was hoping you'd answer and bring in the time-line, also because of Hentzner's grounds, Drive-in movie and Dulwich forest with its various butterfly-enticing plants at different heights). The will-o-the-wisp (the ghostly light denies that identification!) or "igni fatuus" is a product of organic decomposition, common in swamps, related to "phosphorescence". "St.Elmo's fire" is an electric phenomenon, as is the "globe of light".
Related to light, another chance find that might be unrelated to VN's lyric mood ( "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins"), but fits in with his sophisticated allusive web connected with Slavic folklore. I found it in Freud (written in collaboration with Czech scholar David E.Oppenheim, only published in 1957, cf. SE vol XII,p.179) under "The Light of Life" (Anthropophyteia,4 [1907],255,n.10) The original example travels from Belgrade to Kragujevac.
Variations are found to stem from Sarajevo, Mostar and the Ukraine (Kryptadia,5,15),but "the story is extraordinarily widespread in Europe." The "light of life" stems from a collection of heavenly oil-lamps and each corresponded to the life-time allotted to a person. A man was taken on a tour by St.Peter and, while Peter was away on another errand, he dipped his finger in the oil reservatory of his wife's lamp (her lamp carried more fuel than his): "the man awoke after getting a box in the ears from his wife, whom he had awakened by fumbling around her pudenda." Instead of a lamp hanging from a tree, there are references to "glasses with oil" and also to candles, of various thicknesses, licked by a husband to lengthen his life.

Carolyn Kunin called my attention to the light Hazel chose to carry on her second visit, alone, to the barn. It was a "bull's eye".
Wiki and google sources:The bull's-eye lantern,with one or more sides of bulging glass,was in popular use from the early 18th century, similar devices having been made at least as early as the 13th century. Dark until it was suddenly switched on by opening its door, it focused its light to some extent and served the purpose of the modern flashlight [...] As the Bullseye Lantern progressed, it became standard issue for Police in London, eventually made without oil and operated by battery and a light bulb. In literature, "a lantern, with a thick glass lens on one side for concentrating the light on any object; also, the lens itself. --Dickens"; "Raffles, the gentleman burglar, and his counterpart, Mr. Sherlock Holmes, both regular users of the police bullseye lantern, also known as the dark lantern. For the Victorian policeman this oil lantern was a very vital piece of equipment. Not only did it serve as a source of light, but also as a personal heater in the winter and stove for his "cuppa" tea year-round .. occasionally, it also seconded as a defensive weapon and might also be used as a signaling device!"



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