NABOKV-L post 0006966, Fri, 25 Oct 2002 16:03:37 -0700

Fw: ==- On Hazel's Death -== Bolt Response to Guerin

----- Original Message -----
From: Thomas Bolt -- b0sh0tmalt
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Friday, October 25, 2002 2:37 PM
Subject: ==- On Hazel's Death -== Response to Guerin

I have to agree with C Guerin's
comments on how Hazel may have
died -- here is yet another point
in PALE FIRE where a reader must
admit to uncertainty. Even John
Shade does not definitely endorse
the view that Hazel killed herself--
he says "some say."
As any recent rereader of Dante
will tell you, losing one's way
while negotiating difficult terrain
is one of our oldest metaphors.

There are many opportunities in
PALE FIRE for a reader to lose her
or his way.

One signpost refers the crackling,
gulping swamp at Lochan Neck to
another fictional swamp, noted for
accidental deaths and lepidoptery:
The Great Grimpen Mire from the
Sherlock Holmes adventure THE
T. S. Eliot adopts and uses the word
in East Coker ii. 10, a passage that
echoes Dante:

In a dark wood, in a bramble,
On the edge of a grimpen, where is no secure foothold.

According to W. S. Baring-Gould's
Annotated Sherlock Holmes II. xxxvi.
47 (1968) "As is well known, Watson's
"Great Grimpen Mire" is Grimspound
Bog, three miles to the north and
west of Widecombe-in-the-Moor."

The note on "grimpen" from my
1993 poem DARK ICE is quoted

----- Original Message -----
From: CGuerin@aol.comSent: Wednesday, October 23, 2002 5:00 PMSubject: Re: Fw: ==- On Hazel's Suicide -==
This entire post is compelling. VN, within the limits of poem, does build a sufficient case for Hazel's suicide. I felt, nonetheless, on recent rereading, that, even if this is the case, Hazel's suicide/death is too pat and too melodramatic to be intentional. Such intention is not VN's natural approach. Clearly, she might actually have attempted to cross frozen waters without the expectation of disaster. I prefer to think that Hazel, lost, confused, depressed by her recent dissappointment, inadvertently put herself into a fatal position. This is entirely more affecting and natural an interpretation, and is consonant with VN's sympathy toward her character.

402 grimpen

See the poem Pale Fire, line 368.
Hazel Shade is reading one of the
British poet T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets
("East Coker"), in which Eliot uses
the word grimpen. His source is
Arthur Conan Doyle. In Chapter
Seven of The Hound of the Baskervilles,
Mr. Stapleton of Merripit House, a
naturalist carrying a butterfly net
and specimen box, addresses Dr.
Watson with a laugh: "'That is the
great Grimpen Mire,' said he. 'A
false step yonder means death to
man or beast. Only yesterday I saw
one of the moor ponies wander
into it. He never came out. I saw
his head for quite a long time
craning out of the bog-hole, but
it sucked him down at last. Even
in dry seasons it is a danger to
cross it, but after these autumn
rains it is an awful place. And yet I
can find my way to the very heart
of it and return alive.'"

Stapleton turns out to be the villain
of the story. As Watson reports in
Chapter 12, "All my unspoken
instincts, my vague suspicions,
suddenly took shape and centred
upon the naturalist. In that impassive,
colourless man, with his straw hat
and his butterfly net, I seemed to
see something terrible--a creature
of infinite patience and craft, with
a smiling face and a murderous heart."

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