Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025340, Thu, 24 Apr 2014 17:14:06 -0500

Birthday Tribute
This is rather tangential, but I wanted to send a little piece of dissertation marginalia as a small tribute to VN on his 115th birthday (especially since Edmund Wilson was mentioned in R.S. Gwynn's lovely contribution):

In 1917, Private First Class Edmund Wilson Jr., then working at Base Hospital No. 36 with the American Expeditionary Forces in France, wrote a poem about his time at Princeton: he remembered how he would "wear out the night with Plato in my room / To meet the morning with a chrystal mind.” In 1965, by then the foremost literary critic in America, Wilson described how he had bought his own Liddell and Scott, the great Greek lexicon. He wrote that, while riding his new English bike from the University Store, he had thrown himself off balance swinging the huge tome with one hand. Just as everyone else, Wilson had personal relations with his dictionaries, but the heftiness of Liddell and Scott made a special impact on him and affected his memory physically. In 1965, the same year he published his memoir of dictionaries and grammars, Wilson a bit too excitedly joined the public fray around Vladimir Nabokov's translation of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin and among other things questioned Nabokov's scholarship. Nabokov was compelled to respond. Scholarship, he wrote, reflected the compiler's honesty or dishonesty, skill or sloppiness, and so, "if told I am a bad poet, I smile; but if told I am a poor scholar, I reach for my heaviest dictionary." Wilson's 25-year friendship with Nabokov was effectively over after that, but Liddell and Scott would stay with him till the end and be remembered fondly as the book Browning, Arnold, Pater, Wilde, and Thomas Hardy had used.
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