NABOKV-L post 0005874, Thu, 29 Mar 2001 19:20:13 -0800

[Re: Pale Fire and Dr. Johnson's cat "Hodge"]

more from Ken Tapscott,

Hodge does not reappear in the book, so far as I am aware. On a very
attenuated (and increasingly paranoid) note, Dr. Johnson _did_ receive
unasked-for recommendation from Pope, on the basis of "London", seeking
roundabout recommendation for an honorary master's degree through "Dean
Swift" from the Univ. of Dublin - the purpose of which was to acquire
Johnson a sinecure of 60 pounds a year from some post or another for
which a
master's degree was required: the Earl who passed on Pope's appeal to
another Irish nobleman apologized for wasting the man's time if the
seemed impossible, and begged him to burn the letter in the fire, which
immediately reminded me of Charlotte's request to Humbert in _Lolita_.
seems clear just from the epigraph that Nabokov was fully familiar with
biography, and Pope, of course, is important to _Pale Fire_. And _Pale
is obviously reflective of Nabokov's monstrously (and hilariously)
translation and annotation of _Eugene Onegin_. Still, I wonder about
cat Hodge, and the place of that story at the head of this novel. We all
know Nabokov didn't put it there just because he thought it was a funny


>From: "D. Barton Johnson" <>
>Reply-To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>
>Subject: : Re: Pale Fire and Dr. Johnson's cat]]
>Date: Thu, 29 Mar 2001 11:57:45 -0800
> Well, I'm sure the purpose of the Boswell epigraph is quite obscure and
>clever, but right off the top my head I would suggest that the themes of
>self-delusion and the uncertain machinations of fate has something to do
>with it. After all in "Pale Fire" Shade addresses these themes
>intentionally (as in the fountain/mountain fiasco) and unintentionally
>the famous passage at the end of the poem where Shade declares that he
>confident that he will wake the following day, when, of course, he is
>to shot dead by Gradus/Grey/Sudarg.) So I would imagine that the use as
>epigraph of Johnson's confident, but unfounded, assertion that "Hodge
>be shot" by the mysterious (or shadowy or grey) figure who is going
>London shooting cats is a foreglimpse of some of the novels important
>- indeed, two of VN's constant themes. It's been some time since I read
>Boswell, but I'm curious: Did Hodge get shot?
>EDITOR's NOTE. No, Hodge does not get shot. Boyd points out that
>Boswell's constant urging Dr. J. to visit B's native Scotland (way to
>the North) may be echoed by Dr. K.'s urging the ZEMBLA theme on Shade.
>Does anyone know why Dr. J. named his cat "Hodge"?

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