Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0015188, Fri, 27 Apr 2007 15:41:22 -0400

THOUGHTS: An Allusion to Sir Walter Scott's The Pirate in PF
In C.71 Kinbote says "My tutor, a Scotsman, used to call any old tumble-down
building a 'hurley-house.'" The Scotsman, of course, is Walter Campbell,
who taught his pupils to recite "Lord Ronald's Coronach," by Sir Walter
Scott. It makes sense, then, that Scott may also be the source of
"hurley-house." In one scene from Scott's The Pirate, Clement Cleveland is
moping around in an old Orkney ruin. (He was pale, and had lost both the
fire of his eye and the vivacity of his step). A stranger then comes to talk
to him:

"I am glad you spoke first," answered the stranger, carelessly; "I was
determined to know whether you were Clement Cleveland, or Clement's ghost,
and they say ghosts never take the first word, so I now set it down for
yourself in life and limb; and here is a fine old hurly-house you have found
out for an owl to hide himself in at mid-day, or a ghost to revisit the pale
glimpses of the moon, as the divine Shakespeare says."

The allusion is from Hamlet 1.4.53, where Hamlet asks his father's ghost
what it means that he "Revisits thus the glimpses of the moon, Making night
hideous, and we fools of nature...." This exchange leads to the
conversation which ends in "gins to pale his ineffectual fire." Moreover,
the imagery of the passage resonates with the Timon passage from which "Pale
Fire" gets its name.

Matt Roth

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