NABOKV-L post 0005885, Sun, 1 Apr 2001 17:30:43 -0700

Subject
[Fwd: The Epigram, via Shade (w/ apologies to VN)]
Date
Body
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I started another re-reading of "Pale Fire" the day before this thread
came up on the list. I, too, found the epigram a curious reference.
However, after a couple of postings and a bit more thought, I figured
that
if I played with the original a bit, a meaning might magically appear.

The original epigram from Boswell's Life Of Johnson: "This reminds me
of
the ludicrous account that he gave Mr. Langton, of the despicable state
of a
young gentleman of good family. "Sir, when I heard of him last, he was
running about town shooting cats." And then in a sort of kindly
reverie, he
bethought himself of his own favorite cat, and said, "But Hodge shan't
be
shot: no, no Hodge shall not be shot."


As it may have been spoken by John Shade to a friend during a faculty
function in early July,1959: "This reminds me of the absurd situation
of
which he told Professor C., of the immoral state of a degenerate teacher
of
"royal blood." "You know, when I heard of him last, he was running his
mouth off about knowing the real meaning of everybody elses' poetry."
And
then with a nod to his transient neighbor, he bethought himself of his
own
favorite work, and said, "But my 'Pale Fire' shan't be mangled: no, no
my
work shall not be mangled."

Although I don't know whether Johnson's beloved Hodge was shot, we do
know
that Shade's "Pale Fire" -at least- was murdered by Kinbote. (Well,
that's
if it was really Shade who wrote it and Kinbote who, well, you know the
rest
...)
Perhaps in his use of the epigram VN is being as ironically hopeful
about
his "cat" as Johnson was about his. I like that image of VN, intently
peering out from behind his typewriter, waiting and watching, for
eternity,
for the shots to ring out.
Have they?

David Hirschberg